Cyber Risks and Liabilities - Fourth Quarter 2019

3 Risks Associated With Removable Media Devices

Portable hard drives, USB flash drives, memory cards and other types of removable media are vital for the quick storage and transportation of data. For many businesses, removable media can be used as backup storage for critical digital files or even free up additional storage space for work computers.

While removable media is easy to use and has many business applications, it isn’t without its share of risks. The following are some considerations to keep in mind when using removable media at your organization:

  • Data security—Because removeable media devices are typically small and easy to transport, they can easily be lost or stolen. In fact, every time you allow an employee to use a USB flash drive or other small storage device, your organization’s critical or sensitive information could fall into the wrong hands. What’s more, even if you encrypt your removable storage devices, you will not be able to recover lost files once the USB flash drive or other device is lost.
  • Malware—Simply put, when employees use removable media devices, they can unknowingly spread malware between devices. This is because malicious software can easily be installed on USB flash drives and other storage devices. In addition, it just takes one infected device to infiltrate your company’s entire network.
  • Media failure—Despite its low cost and convenience, removable media is inherently risky. This is because many devices have short life spans and can fail without warning. As such, if a device fails and your organization doesn’t have the files backed up, you could lose key files and data.

Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate risks associated with removable media. To use these devices effectively while maintaining data security, consider doing the following:

  • Develop a policy for related to removable media use.
  • Install anti-virus software that scans removable media devices.
  • Ensure all removable media devices are encrypted. Passwords to these devices should never be shared.
  • Instruct employees to never use unapproved removable media in a computer.
  • Have employees keep personal and business data separate.
  • Establish a process for wiping all portable media devices when they are no longer needed.

Cloud Computing 101

There are many benefits to adopting cloud computing at your organization, such as reduced IT costs and increased scalability. However, it’s important to note that there are different cloud service and deployment models, each with their own benefits and risks. There is no single type of cloud computing that will work best for everyone, so it’s important to conduct research to determine the right fit for your organization.

Types of Cloud Computing Service Models

There are three distinct cloud computing service models: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

The SaaS distribution model provides you with an application that is managed by the service provider and accessible through the internet. As such, SaaS applications need not be installed or updated on individual computers.

The PaaS model allows organizations to safely develop, test and deploy applications without needing to manage the underlying infrastructure. This provides flexibility that allows deployments to scale quickly.

The IaaS model provides organizations with a specified amount of cloud storage space to do with whatever they want. This allows the greatest amount of flexibility, as the organization is responsible for accessing, monitoring and managing their data that is stored in the cloud. In this case, the service provider typically only manages hardware, storage and networking, though other services may be provided at additional costs.

Types of Cloud Deployment Models

Just like with service models, there are various different ways that a cloud can be deployed. This includes a public cloud, which is cost-effective and efficient but means that your data may be stored on the same server as others’. A private cloud, however, allows your organization greater control over infrastructure and computational resources by having them located on private networks.

Lastly, a hybrid cloud combines on-site infrastructure with a cloud environment. This allows organizations to utilize different types of service providers based on what is ideal for each business requirement.

Best Practices for Contracting With Managed Service Providers (MSPs)

While working with a managed service provider (MSP) can be efficient and cost-effective, it’s important to carefully consider the organization that you plan on working with and get a holistic view of its operations and security. Because an MSP has direct access to sensitive systems and information, working with one is not to be taken lightly. While doing so puts your IT infrastructure in the hands of experts, it also comes with its own risks. For example, MSPs may be a target for cyber criminals, as compromising one MSP potentially compromises every organization that it works with.

To help keep your organization’s digital information and resources secure, there are a number of best practices and security considerations to keep in mind when contracting with managed service providers:

  • Perform a detailed risk assessment and enforce associated mitigations before working with a managed service provider. Some considerations include:
    • How a cloud service (if used) is implemented and managed
    • Who has access to data and how it is secured
    • The intended purpose of engaging with the managed service provider
    • Potential challenges that may arise during incident detection and response, such as the managed service provider’s availability during off hours

  • Keep operating systems and software up to date.
  • Ensure that an MSP follows organizational security, privacy and legislative requirements.
  • Find out how closely the MSP adheres to an IT security management framework.
  • Use secure computers with multifactor authentication, strong passwords, few access privileges and encrypted network traffic to administer the cloud service.
  • Do not provide the MSP with account credentials or access to systems outside of their responsibility.
  • Use cryptographic controls to protect data in transit to and from the MSP.
  • Consider full data encryption for critical information while at rest and while maintaining control of encryption keys.
  • Employ full hard-drive encryption to ensure data at rest on storage media is not recoverable should the MSP replace or upgrade physical hard drives.

For more risk management strategies related to cyber exposures, contact Hierl Insurance Inc. today.

Portable hard drives, USB flash drives, memory cards and other types of removable media are vital for the quick storage and transportation of data.

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Why 24/7 Work Culture is Causing Workers to Burn Out

Burnout was recently classified by the World Health Organization as an "occupational phenomenon" that is characterized by chronic work stress. Workplace cultures that encourage employees to be available 24/7 may be causing burnout, according to Dr. Michael Klein. Read the following blog post to learn more.


Workplace culture that encourages employees to be available 24/7 may be causing burnout and other mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

That’s according to business psychologist and workplace adviser Dr. Michael Klein, who says companies that encourage employees to work anytime and anywhere is making it more likely that burnout will occur.

“The problem now is when you have the ability to work from wherever you want,” he says. “It’s so important for general wellness to make time to exercise, time for family and to not check work email.”

In May, the World Health Organization classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” that is characterized by chronic work stress that is not successfully managed. Research shows that continued stress at work can lead to more serious mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

As a result, Klein predicts the next few years will see an increased need for on-site mental healthcare which could be offered through employee assistance programs. Offering EAPs, flexible work options and family-friendly benefits like onsite childcare are just some of the ways employers can reduce stress for workers.

And HR may need to take the lead. Misty Guinn, director of benefits and wellness at Benefitfocus, says finding HR professionals that can handle difficult conversations around mental health may be key to addressing the problem. But many are not comfortable enough to have those kinds of conversations.

“Most have yet to achieve that level of comfort with conversations around mental health,” she says, noting that younger generations are often more comfortable talking about mental health issues. “We’ve got to enable people, especially within HR, benefits and management to have those conversations and be comfortable with them.”

Guinn also says that EAPs alone may not be enough to address mental health issues for workers because these programs are often scarcely utilized. Subsidizing mental health co-pays, work-life balance and PTO policies are benefit options employers to create a meaningful difference for workers mental health, she adds.

“Too often employers make the mistake of believing that offering an employee assistance program sufficiently checks off the mental health box in a complete benefits package,” she says. “In reality, these programs generally have low utilization because employees don’t have confidence in how confidential they are.”

Klein and Guinn agree that employers should consider more ways to support the total well-being of employees. Companies who prioritize their people will do better in the long term, Guinn adds.

“Employers need to take purposeful actions within their policies and programs to reinforce their support of total well-being for employees and their families,” she says.

SOURCE: Hroncich, Caroline. (June 10th, 2019) "Why 24/7 Work Culture is Causing Workers to Burn Out" (Web Blog Post) https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/24-7-work-culture-is-causing-workers-to-burn-out


6 voluntary benefits your employees want

Today’s workforce is no longer finding the run-of-the-mill benefits plans adequate. This is making voluntary benefits more important than ever in this age of the multigenerational workforce and a tight labor market. Read the following blog post for six voluntary benefits employees want.


In this age of the multigenerational workforce and a tight labor market, a one-size-fits-all group benefits model with medical, prescription, dental, vision and a retirement plan just doesn’t cut it. A workforce with Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, Millennials and Generation Z means that employees are going to find the run-of-the-mill benefits plan inadequate. Ditto for job seekers.

What follows is that voluntary benefits are more important than ever. Offering a range of voluntary benefits can help meet the needs of employees at all life stages.

Voluntary benefits add value to benefit plans and are typically easy to administer. They’re low-to-no-cost because employees pay for them, and maintenance is often handled through a payroll deduction. Many voluntary benefits also offer guaranteed acceptance at a lower rate than medical benefits, so even if a small group within your company chooses a particular benefit, they’ll be covered.

This landscape is changing quickly. Here are six trending voluntary benefits your employees want.

Student loan debt repayment assistance

Debt among college graduates has grown to nearly $1.6 trillion. It’s preventing the largest employee segment at most companies from buying houses or cars, saving for retirement, having kids and getting married. To help employees repay their student loan debt, some employers are helping employees pay down student loan debt through a direct payroll deduction.

Others are offering a new, IRS-allowable retirement plan match swap where an employer can opt to increase its defined contribution match, enabling employees to reduce their retirement match and contribute funds to repaying student loans instead.

Interest in this benefit continues to grow. Employers looking to offer student loan debt repayment should be aware that not all platforms are created equal. Look out for high per-employee, per-month fees.

Individual long-term care

A growing number of people are beginning to understand the value of long-term care insurance because they have taken care of or currently care for a friend or relative who needs round-the-clock care. Long-term care insurance covers home or institutional care if a person is no longer able to perform at least two activities of daily living--eating, bathing, dressing, moving from a bed to a chair or using a toilet.

Employees are interested in buying long-term care insurance through their employer because they can offer better rates for simplified issue plans. If you plan to offer long-term care as an employer-sponsored benefit, I recommended rolling it out with a strategic project plan and a benefit counselor or a technology platform capable of providing decision-making tools for a smooth application process.

Executive reimbursement plans

Employee retention — especially executive retention — is on the minds of many employers in the midst of this thriving economy. Filling gaps in medical and prescription coverage is one way to provide executive teams with premium benefits they may be looking for.

Executive reimbursement plans provide reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses, access to facilities and level of service not normally covered under most group health plans. Rather than simply increasing compensation to help cover out-of-pocket expenses, premiums for these plans are tax-deductible for the employer, and benefits are non-taxable for employees.

Executive individual disability insurance

Traditional employer-sponsored long-term disability (LTD) is likely not enough coverage for highly-compensated employees or some sales staff who depends heavily on commission and bonuses. Normally, LTD pays employees 50-70% of their salary up to a certain amount.

Employers can carve out additional coverage for employees based on their management level, performance or tenure. Individual disability insurance plans can protect employees until they turn 65; they can also protect job titles or levels until employees are well enough to return to work. Executive individual disability insurance, like executive reimbursement, can be offered as a form of compensation, or a form of financial asset protection for higher incomes.

Telemedicine

The rise of consumer-driven health plans has led to the need for telemedicine. Telemedicine provides a way for employees to see a physician or provider by video and get a diagnosis and/or prescription quickly. The success of telemedicine is leading some carriers to integrate it within their plan. However, standalones still exist and can provide employees with an easy way to get care faster and cheaper than before.

Pet Insurance

Pet parents spend nearly $70 billion on veterinarian costs for their pets, but just 10% of dogs and 5% of cats are covered by medical insurance. As pets begin to play a larger role in our lives, more employers are offering pet insurance to their employees to help defray the cost of unexpected medical expenses.

There are a number of plan options, and setting up a plan for employees’ pets is simple. However, it’s vital that employers do their research to ensure the veterinarian network includes the best vets.

As part of a voluntary benefit offering, be sure to develop a rollout strategy and communications plan so employees are thoroughly educated and you meet group minimums.

SOURCE: Park, N. (25 September 2019) "6 voluntary benefits your employees want" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/6-voluntary-benefits-your-employees-want


‘Eye’ spy a savings opportunity for health and vision benefits

Traditionally, vision benefits were offered as an elective, with coverage is focusing on vision tests or discounts for corrective eyewear, but this often can result in inadequate coverage for employees and their dependents. Read this blog post to learn more about vision benefits.


Sixty-one million adults are at high risk for serious vision loss, according to the National Eye Institute, but most U.S. employers don’t include eye care as part of their benefits package. Vision benefits have traditionally been offered as an elective, where coverage is focused on vision tests or discounts for corrective eyewear.

This often results in inadequate coverage for employees and dependents, which can result in unrecognized and untreated issues that impact employee health and productivity, as well as an employer’s bottom line.

Comprehensive eye exams are recommended for adults under the age of 65 at least every two years, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). These exams are the only way a doctor can detect signs and symptoms of serious conditions without cutting into or scanning body parts.

The total economic burden of eye disorders and vision loss in the U.S. was $139 billion in 2013, which includes $65 billion in direct medical costs strictly due to eye disorders and low vision. Loss of vision among workers results in $48 billion in lost productivity per year.

When it comes to benefit management priorities employers often focus more on chronic condition management. Yet, eye health is often linked to common chronic conditions including diabetes and hypertension. Without early detection of eye and vision health issues, employees cannot properly manage these conditions. Delaying medical treatment can lead to increased absenteeism and reduced productivity, eventually resulting in treatment that comes too late, and at a much higher price tag for employers, employees and family members.

About 68% of Americans with diabetes have been diagnosed with eye complications, many of which could have been prevented through a comprehensive eye exam. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among adults, according to the National Institutes of Health. Its prevalence is increasing as one in 10 people worldwide may be affected by 2040, according to research from the International Diabetes Federation.

Nearly half of Americans don’t know that diabetic eye diseases have visible symptoms, according to a 2018 AOA survey. More than one-third of respondents didn’t know a comprehensive eye exam is the only way to determine if a person’s diabetes will cause blindness. These exams, considered the gold standard in clinical vision care, should be covered under the employees’ medical benefits.

Three years ago the Midwest Business Group on Health began a collaboration with the AOA to better understand how employers think about and implement eye health and vision benefits. As part of this partnership, a no-cost eye care benefits toolkit was developed to support employers in evaluating their current eye health and vision care benefits to:

  • Understand the importance of early detection so that employees can effectively manage chronic and more serious conditions
  • Recognize how to integrate primary and preventive eye care into an overall medical benefit design
  • Educate employees on the importance of periodic eye examinations

It’s important that employers better understand the impact of vision care benefits, including lower costs, better employee health, improved job satisfaction, better employee quality of life, and work productivity.

SOURCE: Larson, C. (20 September 2019) "‘Eye’ spy a savings opportunity for health and vision benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/vision-loss-resulting-in-billions-in-lost-productivity


Simple Open-Enrollment Tips That Can Make a Big Difference

Thirty-three percent of employees stated their primary emotions when thinking about open enrollment season as annoyance and dread. Read this blog post from SHRM for a few simple tips that can make a big difference this open enrollment season.


Trepidation is what comes to mind for many employees when asked their feelings about open enrollment, the annual period when they select employer-provided benefits for the coming year.

According to a nationally representative sample of 1,000 employees polled earlier this year, 33 percent cited "annoyance" or "dread" as their primary emotions when they thought about open enrollment and just 10 percent of workers said they were "confident" in the benefits choices they made when the enrollment process was over, according to VSP Vision Care's annual Open Talk about Open Enrollment survey.

In another survey, HR software company Namely found that 31 percent of employees give their employer a "C" or lower when it comes to open enrollment.

Here are some tips from benefits experts that will help you raise your grade this open-enrollment season.

What to Do, and Not to Do

Jennifer Benz, national practice leader at benefits communications firm Segal Benz, shared three bad HR practices that undermine open enrollment and three best practices for doing open enrollment the right way.

  • Don't hide vital information from employees. Benz recalls how one company sent out its benefits materials but didn't include monthly costs. "A group of enterprising employees crunched the numbers and came up with estimates and circulated a rogue spreadsheet. Dealing with this communications fiasco took more work" than being upfront about costs, she noted.

Best practice: Be transparent and share the reasons you are making benefits changes. Break down the details and do the work for the employees. Provide scenarios so employees can better understand their options and cost breakdowns for different life situations.

  • Don't cram in every benefit at once. Some companies hand out pages and pages of text, jamming a year's worth of communications into a few weeks, and figure they have done what they need to do. "What they have done is confused their employees," Benz said.

Best practices: Communicate the technical details of your various benefits over time. "Don't assume employees will weed through all your materials to make sense of the benefits offered to them," Benz said. Also make full use of visual aids. "Photos, icons, infographics, memes, charts, graphics and more—they all help to attract, and more importantly hold, people's attention," noted Amber Riley, a communications consultant to Segal Benz. "Whether you're driving an open-enrollment campaign, creating a new benefits guide or promoting a wellness program, when you increase the visual pleasure of what you are communicating, your people are more likely to engage, learn, understand and ultimately take action."

  • Don't give employees too little time to process their open-enrollment choices. While many people wait until the last day to fill out the health care selection forms, they may have been considering their options with family members for weeks, so giving them just a few days to make decisions is not going to be enough.

Best practice: Build in a time frame that gives HR staff and employees the time they need. Benz recommended three weeks.

"People are always talking about learning from the best practices and success stories, but you can also learn a lot from other companies' mistakes," she noted. "When you prepare for enrollment in advance and anticipate issues—including those you and others have experienced in the past—you are better-equipped to avoid missteps. Your employees will notice and appreciate the extra effort."

Help Employees Ace Open Enrollment

"Open enrollment is often time-consuming and confusing for employees, but these choices can make a huge financial impact," said Julie Stich, CEBS, vice president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, an association of benefit plan sponsors. She suggested that HR share the following advice with employees to help prepare them for the upcoming enrollment season:

  • Take your time. Take time to really read through the enrollment materials you receive. If you are invited to a face-to-face meeting, make time to attend. It's possible you'll be offered different plan options and coverages this year. The better you understand the changes, the better decisions you'll make.
  • Look ahead. Consider what the next year will look like for you and your family. Are you planning to have a baby? Knee replacement surgery? A root canal? Does someone need braces? New glasses? Keep this in mind as you look at your coverage options.
  • Dive into the details. It's important to note whether the plans' provider networks have changed. Make sure your doctors are still in-network. Is your chiropractor also covered? Does the plan cover orthodontics? Is your spouse's daily prescription drug covered, and did the coverage change? Also consider areas of need like access to specialists, mental health care, therapies, complementary and alternative medicine, and chronic care. Look at the options offered in all plans, including health, dental, vision and disability.
  • Get out your calculator. Add up the amount you'll need to pay toward your health premium plus deductibles, co-payments (flat-dollar amounts) for prescriptions and doctor office visits, and co-insurance (a percentage of the cost you'll pay) for services. Understand what you'll be asked to pay if you seek care outside your network. This will give you a clearer picture of how much you're likely to spend. The plan that looks to be the cheapest option may not really be the cheapest for you.
  • Determine what's right for you. Consider your comfort level with risk. If you want your family to be covered for every eventuality, a more traditional plan, if one is offered, might be right for you. If you're comfortable taking on some upfront costs, a high-deductible plan with a lower premium ight be your plan of choice.
  • Take advantage of extras. Your employer may offer the option to reduce your health premiums in exchange for your participation in a wellness program or health-risk assessment. It may match some or all of the money you save in your 401(k) plan. It might let you set aside tax-deferred money into a health savings account or flexible spending account. Also, check with your employer to see if it offers voluntary insurance with a group discount and payroll deduction for premiums—like critical-illness, pet, auto and homeowners coverage. If these options work for your situation, sign up.
  • Ask questions. Don't be shy about asking your HR or benefits department to explain something if you're not sure. They're there to help and want you to make the best decisions for your situation.

"Taking the time upfront to carefully choose the best options will help employees better manage their finances throughout the year, alleviating stress and promoting productivity," Stich said.

SOURCE: Miller, S. (24 September 2019) "Simple Open-Enrollment Tips That Can Make a Big Difference" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/simple-open-enrollment-tips-make-a-big-difference.aspx


How to Save Your Business with Cyber Liability Insurance

In recent years, the risk of cyberattacks has become a common, high-level threat to organizations. This means that both time and money need to be invested in order to take precautionary measures and implement damage control before and after an attack happens. As a result, cyber liability insurance is now the recommended measure for risk management.

According to our expert, Cathleen C. Christenson, VP of Property & Casualty at Hierl Insurance, there are two main reasons why Cyber Liability Insurance is the best way to protect your company’s cyber assets: the all-in costs of a data breach and the protection of customers and employees. Since the world will never be free of cyber risks, the right thing to do is to protect your business with Cyber Liability Insurance.

Why Cyber Liability Insurance?

When cyberattacks occur, they often result in devastating damage to an organization’s important data. This results in business disruptions related to lost revenue, restorative actions and public relations. Not being able to accurately measure business costs of cyber risk means organizations are unable to make decisions about resource allocation, technology investments and threat prioritization. According to research published by Ponemon Institute, the cost of a data breach has increased to around $150 per document lost.

While the average breach involves around 25,000 files, this could round up to nearly $3.9 million dollars. It is important to remember no organization is immune to the impact of cybercrime. Insurance will help protect your organization’s information, facilitate timely recovery of business functions, and minimize loss of revenue, customers and data.

Coverage Options

If the worst should happen and your company suffers a data breach or similar attack, you should have a business continuity plan in place. Data is generally worth more than physical assets and keeping your data safe from cyber risks requires constant attention to ensure an attack never happens. Hierl Insurance has the resources and know-how to help you identify potential risks and keep your business running smoothly in the event of an attack. Cyber liability insurance policies are tailored to meet your company’s specific needs Benefits include data breach coverage, business interruption loss reimbursement, cyber extortion defense, forensic and legal support.

Why Hierl?

At Hierl Insurance, we love what we do, and this includes a partnership with you in mind. We understand the demands of each client are unique, so we craft your options to fit your business perfectly, creating a different story for each client. We stand by waiting to greet you with a warm welcome to devise a blueprint to turn your company’s dreams into reality. Supplementing your insurance with cyber coverage can provide peace of mind that your organization’s financial and reputational well-being is protected.

To speak with Cathleen, contact her today at 920.921.5921 or by email at cchristensen@hierl.com.


Addressing Marijuana Usage and Testing in the Workplace

With the legalization of cannabis around the country, many employers find themselves asking how they should address drug testing in the workplace. Read this blog post from UBA for more on addressing cannabis usage and testing in the workplace.


Recreational cannabis legalization is rolling out across the United States, and many employers are faced with a big, hazy question: how should they address drug testing in the workplace? Eleven states have legalized recreational marijuana and 33 others have legalized medical marijuana. It’s safe to say that in the next few months or years this topic will hit nearly every employer nationally.

Your leadership team may have questions as you unpack this issue. How is cannabis influencing safety and productivity on the job? Is your company at risk for a lawsuit if medical marijuana use doesn't align with the organization's zero-tolerance drug policy? How can you develop a defensible policy that is logical and effective?

It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by these questions, but it is important to know that you have options for ways to structure your company’s policy on cannabis usage outside of the work environment. We will weigh the pros and cons of pre-employment testing, random testing, selective testing, and not testing at all.

Pre-Employment Testing

Most corporations that rely on manual labor for profit, such as transportation or advanced manufacturing, require a drug screening prior to hire and then routinely afterward. Historically, testing positive for a drug in any category (amphetamines, opiates, narcotics, hallucinogens) has been grounds for termination or retraction of a job offer.

However, these zero-tolerance policies as a barrier to entry are becoming tricky. With the onset of cannabis legalization, many state and local jurisdictions are implementing anti-discrimination laws that protect employees who might test positive for marijuana in mandatory employer screenings. Under these laws, a person could file a hefty lawsuit resulting in expensive settlements for corporations that deny a job offer to a medicinal or recreational cannabis user. Because of this legal risk, many employers are slashing the upfront drug testing to attract and successfully onboard more people, and avoid lawsuits.

Random Testing

It is common sense that employees shouldn’t be impaired while on the job, especially in manual labor operations. However, it is nearly impossible to determine whether someone is high at work with a drug test, because cannabis can remain in the system for up to 30 days or more following even a single usage. The majority of court cases indicate that employers can’t fire someone for using marijuana when they aren’t on the clock. Because of this, more employers will need to use observation and performance review tactics to make termination decisions, and then be prepared to face any legal repercussions the employee may initiate.

For many employers, the risk of not testing is far greater than the implications of hazardous workplace accidents as a result of cannabis impairment. For example, Uber uses routine, random drug screenings to ensure the safety of its independent drivers and their passengers. It is up to each organization to weigh the risks involved in safety, legal, and productivity loss when determining if a random test initiative is the right fit.

No Testing/Selective Panel Testing

If your business or organization does not use manual labor to produce revenue, an option is to forgo testing entirely. For example, in offices and other professional environments, the risk of workplace accidents due to impairment is much lower.

Due to legalization and shifting cultural perceptions, many employer policies treat cannabis usage in an employee’s personal life as a non-issue, comparing it to alcohol. Many millennials say they prefer to smoke marijuana than to drink alcohol, and as that generation ages into corporate leadership roles, their attitudes will begin driving corporate policy.

If your team shares a relaxed perspective on cannabis, but is not quite ready to forgo drug testing entirely, a great option is a selective panel test. These do not test for THC (the active ingredient in cannabis), but can register other illegal substances. Selective panels are available to an employer in up to 14 criteria. This option can ensure workplace safety and productivity without getting into the stickiness of cannabis use.

SOURCE: Olson, B. (11 September 2019) "Addressing Marijuana Usage and Testing in the Workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/addressing-marijuana-usage-and-testing-in-the-workplace


4 pitfalls of paid leave and how clients can avoid them

In efforts to better attract and retain talent, employers are boosting their current benefit offerings by adding paid leave options. Read this blog post for 4 common pitfalls of paid leave and how employers can avoid them.


PaidLeave.5.2.19.pngSmart employers are boosting their benefits packages with paid family leave — the most coveted work perk among all generations. In today’s low unemployment environment, paid leave benefits can be a huge differentiator in attracting and retaining talent.

But some employers are getting themselves into trouble in the process, facing accusations of gender discrimination or improper use of leave.

Here are four potential pitfalls of paid leave, and how employers can avoid them.

1. Be careful what you call “maternity leave.”

Employers have long been granting leave for new moms in the form of disability coverage. In fact, the top cause of short term disability is pregnancy. Disability insurance usually grants new moms six to eight weeks of paid leave to recover from childbirth.

Because this coverage applies to the medical condition of recovering from childbirth, it shouldn’t be lumped in with bonding leave.

Guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says leave granted for new moms for bonding must also be extended to new dads, so separating disability leave from bonding leave is crucial to avoiding gender discrimination.

2. Don’t make gender assumptions.

The amount of bonding time for new parents after birth, adoption or fostering must be granted equally for men and women. Companies that don’t provide the same amount of paid leave for men and women may find themselves in a discrimination lawsuit.

It’s not just the time away from work that matters, but also the return-to-work support provided. If new moms are granted temporary or modified work schedules to ease the transition back to work, new dads must also have access to this.

Some companies may choose to differentiate the amount of leave and return-to-work support for primary or secondary caregivers. That’s compliant as long as assumptions aren’t made on which gender is the primary or secondary caregiver.

The best way to avoid potential gender discrimination pitfalls is to keep all parental bonding and related return-to-work policies gender neutral.

3. Avoid assuming the length of disability.

Be careful about assuming the length of time a new mom is disabled, or recovering medically, after birth. Typical coverage policies allot six to eight weeks of recovery for a normal pregnancy, so assuming a new mom may be out for 10 weeks might be overestimating the medical recovery time, and under-representing the bonding time, which must be gender neutral.

4. Keep up with federal, state and local laws.

Mandated leave laws are ever-evolving, so employers should consistently cross-check their policies with state and local laws. For instance, do local paid leave laws treat adoption the same as birth? Are multistate employers compliant? What if an employee lives in one state but works in another: Which state’s leave policies take precedence?

Partnering with a paid leave service provider can mitigate the risk of improperly administering leave. Paid leave experts can help answer questions, review guidelines and provide information regarding job-protecting medical or family leave.

They can also help flag potential pitfalls, ensuring leave requests from all areas of your company are managed uniformly and in accordance with state and federal laws, including the EEOC.

SOURCE: Bennett, A. (12 September 2019) "4 pitfalls of paid leave and how clients can avoid them" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/list/4-pitfalls-of-paid-leave-and-how-clients-can-avoid-them


Key elements to consider when researching financial wellness programs

Have you implemented a financial wellness program? With financial wellness programs becoming a staple employee benefit, organizations find themselves implementing programs that only offer a few tools or resources. Read the following blog post for key elements to consider when researching financial wellness programs.


Financial wellness programs are becoming a staple in the employee benefit universe. But what should a successful financial wellness program encompass? As a rapidly growing industry, we often lack a consistent definition for financial wellness. This leads to organizations believing they have implemented a financial wellness program, when they may only be offering a few tools like education or counseling.

I define financial wellness as the process by which an individual can efficiently and accurately assess their financial posture, identify personal goals, and be motivated to gain the necessary knowledge and resources to create behavioral change. Behavioral change will result in improved emotional and mental well-being, along with short- and long-term financial stability.

As the administrator of your company’s benefits, you are responsible for bringing the best possible solution to your employees. That’s a tough ask, given the growing number of service providers. So, what is the most efficient and effective way to assess financial wellness services to determine which solution best fits your organizational needs? Ask yourself these questions:

Does the platform offer a personal assessment of each employee’s current financial situation and help them identify their financial goals? If the answer is yes: Does the assessment return quantifiable and qualifiable data unique to each individual employee?

Does the platform address 100% of your employee base, including the least sophisticated employees at various levels of employment? Much of your ROI from a financial wellness program does not come from your top performers. It comes from creating behavioral changes within your employees who need the most financial guidance.

Does the platform integrate the various components to provide a personalized roadmap for each employee? It should connect program elements like personal assessments, educational resources, tools, feedback and solutions to ensure the employee is presented with a cohesive, comprehensive plan to attack and improve their financial situation.

Does the platform offer solutions for short-term financial challenges like cash flow issues, as well as long-term financial challenges associated with saving and planning? A major return on your investment comes from reduced employee stress, which is substantially driven by short-term needs versus long-term objectives. The program must help employees deal with current financial challenges before they can focus on their longer-term vision.

About 78% of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet, according to data from CareerBuilder.com. The need for financial wellness is clear, but there are consistent pillars that must be addressed in any successful financial wellness program to affect change: spend, save, borrow and plan. When evaluating financial wellness programs, it’s important that these dots all connect if you are truly going to motivate behavioral change and recognize the ROI of a comprehensive financial wellness program.

SOURCE: Kilby, D. (13 September 2019) "Key elements to consider when researching financial wellness programs" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/key-considerations-for-employee-financial-wellness-programs