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We’ve all heard the saying “A dog is a man’s best friend” and we know it’s true! Pets give us unconditional love, companionship, and joy. But, are we willing to pay the price when a hefty vet bill comes along? Pet insurance may help you stomach that unexpected emergency room charge due to Fluffy’s uncanny ability to eat anything within reach—even if it’s rotten!

In 2017, over $16.62B were spent on veterinarian bills in the United States. In that same year, Americans also spent over $1B on pet insurance. This begs the question “is pet insurance worth buying?” While this market continues to grow, 99% of pet owners report NOT having pet insurance. The number one reason? Cost. Premiums are at their lowest when you own a puppy or kitten and increase as the pet gets older. This results in the insured only keeping pet insurance for an average of 3 years. The cost of insurance can increase 5-fold between the puppy and adult years.

Pet insurance is one of the fastest growing markets in the US. This insurance can be purchased with increased levels of coverage. The most basic level may cover treatments for some common illnesses or accidental injury. The mid-range coverage could cover preventative care as well as immunizations. An example of premium coverage is surgical cost and liability for if the pet injured someone. Prices for these levels range from $15/ month to $45/month.

Pet insurance is now becoming a more commonplace employee benefit.  Contingencies.org says that 6500 employers in the US and Canada offer pet insurance to its employees. A report by SHRM says that of those offered pet insurance as an employee perk, only 6% of pet owners utilized that benefit in 2012. By 2017, that number rose to 9%. Employees say this is an important benefit because, for many, pets are considered part of a family and if you insure a human member of a family, why wouldn’t you also insure your pet?

If your company does not offer pet insurance, here are some tips on what you should look for when considering purchasing pet insurance:

  1. How much do my premiums increase as my pet ages?
  2. What is covered and not covered? Does the plan include pre-existing conditions?
  3. Can you purchase just accident coverage for if your pet injures someone?

With our pets being a vital part of our family, having pet insurance can give you peace of mind that you don’t have to shoulder the entire cost of an injury or illness of a pet. Not having to make decisions for their care based on money is a blessing to their families. For over 6,000 companies and their 80,000 employees this perk is worth every penny.

 It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

No, it’s not Christmas—it’s Open Enrollment!!

When the autumn leaves fall and the weather turns cooler, we know it’s time to start thinking of open enrollment hype and meetings and meetings and meetings. So how do you change normal and ordinary communication about employee benefits and change them into rockstar communication? We have some tips that may help!

 

COMMUNICATE EARLY

People need time to process all the information you share about their employee benefits. Once they have received the info, they typically need to ask questions, compare/contrast plans, and weigh decisions. By communicating with your employees early, you give them plenty of time to make their choices without feeling rushed by a short deadline.

 

COMMUNICATE CLEARLY

HSA, FSA, PPO, HMO, LTD? What? You can see how your employees can get confused with all the terms and plan names that get presented to them during open enrollment. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests creating a glossary of common terms for enrollment meetings. Another way to clearly communicate benefits is to think ahead to the common questions asked each year and make a FAQ sheet with the answers.

 

COMMUNICATE FREQUENTLY

Did you know that it takes 8 times to read something before you retain that information? Think of all the material that gets shared at open enrollment meetings. There is no way that an employee would be able to retain that info in one sitting. So, communicate about your benefit plans all year long. Do trivia contests with prizes in your company newsletter about different benefits topics. Use multiple channels to frequently communicate such as print, digital, and animated videos!

 

COMMUNICATE PERSONALLY

Share “real life” examples of a sample employee with specific health issues and how they can utilize their benefits. This helps your audience think of additional situations in which they could see themselves needing some of the insurance products offered in your meetings. Host small Q & A sessions after larger meetings to allow for more personalized attention. When you communicate personally, you are able to explain the value of the benefits to your employees better.

 

By focusing on these communication techniques, you will reap the rewards of a well-informed and connected employee when they are choosing benefits. Plan ahead, speak with a clear message, personalize example situations, and repeat, repeat, repeat. Here’s to a great open enrollment season!

Right now our national unemployment rate is 3.7%–edging towards a 50-year low. With this low rate, companies are actually finding it increasingly harder to hire and retain great talent. One way to combat this issue is by increasing employee engagement through volunteering.

In survey after survey, employees state that they want to work for companies who care for others.  In fact, “71% of employees surveyed say it’s very important to work where culture supports volunteering,” according to America’s Charities Snapshot. There are different types of volunteer options when looking to begin a volunteer program at a company. For example, entire companies can come together for a big “Day of Service” event.  Or perhaps there is an ongoing need in the community, like Meals on Wheels, and employees sign up to help when needed by the charity. Offering pro bono services to non-profit community groups or donating skills for specific projects are other ways to assist charities in your area.

The issue of time worked and pay typically comes up when talking about employer sponsored/encouraged volunteering. There are a couple different ways that companies structure this. One way is to simply pay employees for their usual time at the workplace even though they are not actually working on company business at the time of the volunteer project. This is typical of big “Day of Service” campaigns during the workweek. Another way is to encourage employees to donate their break or lunch time to complete volunteer service projects. Finally, and this is the emerging trend in employee benefits, is to give each employee Volunteer Time Off (VTO) hours as part of their benefits package.

The benefits of VTO are numerous. One of the biggest values of VTO is that of employee recruitment and retention.  PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a survey and the results were that “59% of Millennials gravitated towards companies with pronounced Corporate Social Responsibility programs.”  For retention, the value is even higher, “74% of employees say their job is more fulfilling when given the opportunity to make a positive impact at work.” Companies also see a benefit in camaraderie across departments and company hierarchy. Working together towards a common goal builds these interdepartmental relationships. Also, by playing towards strengths unseen in a regular office setting, employers have a chance to discover untapped leadership skills and completely unknown skill sets of employees. Finally, your company’s brand image is boosted by the view of its involvement in the community.

Whatever the benefit that your company assigns to a healthy VTO program, be it retention, image, or team building, the fact remains that there WILL BE a benefit. If you are looking to begin the search for the right fitting program, there are great resources available for you. Check out this quick read on Charities.org and also the great tips on SalesForce.com. Start the conversation today with your leadership and start making an impact in your community!

Volunteering Time Off, or VTO, has become a buzz topic for many companies as of late. It involves encouraging employees to take time off from their job to plug in to their community and the nonprofits that support it. Let’s delve in deeper to understand what VTO looks like.

  • Typical VTO policies allot for 8 hours of paid time off to volunteer each year.
  • Just like Paid Time Off (PTO), VTO usually requires advance notice to the employer and approval for time away from the business.
  • Studies have shown that VTO boosts employee engagement and retention.
  • Millennials state they are attracted to companies who offer VTO.
  • VTO builds loyalty and pride for a company with its employees.
  • A recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study states 20% of its respondents now offer volunteering benefits as part of their employee benefits package.

As you look for ways to engage with your employees through VTO, take a look at these resources:

  • VolunteerMatch.org—This website makes the business-to-nonprofit connection possible. Nonprofits post projects and jobs they need assistance with and then the company builds its team to help.
  • Volunteering Is CSR—An arm of Volunteer Match, this blog is for business leaders to educate themselves on best practices and case studies.
  • CatchAFire.org—This site connects professionals with nonprofits using their specific skill sets.
  • PointsofLight.org—Founded by President George H.W. Bush, this group offers toolkits to businesses and nonprofits to maximize volunteering efforts as well as offers products to maximize those efforts.

As an employer in California, what are my options in how I manage my employee’s vacation days?

First off, in California there is no legal requirement to provide paid or unpaid vacation time. But most companies do in order to recruit and retain employees. (Please note: While employers don’t have to offer vacation or PTO plans, they must comply with a number of paid leave related laws in California and various instrumentalities. This article solely addresses vacation policies.)

If you do chose to offer such a policy as the employer, earned vacation time is then considered wages and it is earned by employees as they work. In other words, vacation pay is considered a form of wages, which is given as it is earned. Please note, this also applies to Paid Time Off (PTO) earned days.

So in short, if your employee is not using vacation days, you could A) pay them off each year or B) set a cap in order to incentivize the employee to spend them. However, as the employer you CANNOT put in a “use it or lose it” policy.

A “use it or lose it” policy is when a company installs a forfeiture of vacation pay when it is not taken by a certain date, which is an illegal policy in California.

As opposed to a “use it or lose it” policy, a vacation policy that puts a “cap” or “ceiling” on the amount of vacation pay an employee can accrue is allowed. An illegal “use it or lose it” policy leads to a loss of accrued vacation pay for the employee. Meanwhile a “cap” puts a limit on how many vacation days can build up. That is to say, as soon as a set number of accrued vacation days is earned but not used, no additional vacation days accrue until the amount lowers back down below the set cap.

For example, if you set the cap at four weeks, or 160 hours, that an employee can accrue, then they will not be able to start accruing more vacation time until they have used some of their vacation hours and their hours fall below the maximum.

Even though “cap” policies are allowed, the employee must be able to take a vacation within a reasonable time frame. If a “cap” policy actually serves as a means to deny employees vacation pay or benefits, the policy would not be permissible in California. For example, a work policy of vacation days having to be taken in the year that it is earned or in a very constrained time period following when the vacation days were accrued is deemed unfair.

The employer can decide vacation pay responsibilities, such as managing when the employee can take a vacation and how long of a vacation they may take at a time. The employer can also pay the employee off at the end of the year for vacation that the employee earned and accrued that year, but ultimately did not take.

Summary:

In California, you cannot institute a “use or lose it” policy in which the employee has to use the vacation within a narrow timeframe or the same year or face loss of vacation days. You also must pay terminated employees their unused vacation days.

Employers can institute policies of cap/ceiling where there is a limit to the amount of vacation days they can accrue and must fall below that cap to get more; pay off unused vacation days for ones not used that year; and decide when and the amount of vacation days at a certain time.

Disclaimer: Any compliance related information in this blog is intended to be informational and does not constitute legal advice regarding any specific situation. Should you require further compliance assistance or legal advice, please consult a licensed attorney.

 

For more information, please visit the California Department of Industrial Relations.

Source: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_vacation.htm

By W. Bland
AEIS Advisors

While more and more perks — catered lunches, on-site gyms, immunizations programs — are about employee health, wellness, and happiness, they ultimately are also designed to keep workers at work. A recent article in Quartz at Work points out that more than anything, employees want more time off and out of the office. Unlimited time off, to be exact.

Once the perk of tech firms and startups, more companies are beginning to explore unlimited paid time off. And, though still rare at only one to two percent of companies, it’s a popular request in part because workforce demographics continue to shift. Nearly half of employees are Millennials, whose priorities are changing the benefits conversation. For this group, finding more balance and having more control of their time are key. In part, this may be because time off has fundamentally changed. Well and Good looks at the fact that, with near-constant connectedness, vacation days often still involve checking email and getting other notifications.

Add to that cultural and workplace expectations of accessibility and availability, and workers are at risk for burnout. One in four workers report feeling burned out all the time and almost half feel burned out sometimes. This burnout can cost employers in lost productivity, and employees in terms of health and happiness. Today, someone doesn’t need to psychically spend 90 hours a week at the office to be working 90 hours. With our always-on lives, restorative time off is rarer but still as important to prevent burnout.

That doesn’t mean every business is jumping on the unlimited time off bandwagon. Want other ideas? A writer for The Guardian suggests a middle ground, with more days off the longer an employee has worked at a company. And, while rollover sounds generous, it may make employees less likely to use it. Want to give it a try but concerned about misuse? Business Management Daily suggests it’s also more than reasonable to consider limits on unlimited and critical to set sound guidelines around pay as well as whether days off can be all in a row.

For many employees, unlimited time off offers the extra flexibility for life’s challenges and can aid satisfaction and retention. Before HR Departments worry the system will be abused, research shows that people take significantly less time off when it’s unlimited. In fact, what may be more impactful is a minimum number of days off may be required so as to ensure employees take advantage of a benefit meant to restore and replenish their energy, creativity, and engagement. To work, it needs to be modeled by managers and other higher-ups, as a CEO details in a Chicago Daily Herald article.

By Bill Olson

Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

When flu season hits, absenteeism skyrockets and productivity drops. In a recent article, Employee Benefit News points out that the first step is the “ounce of prevention,” the flu vaccine. Providing for vaccination can be a smart benefit to offer employees, and it requires navigating misinformation about the vaccine, motivating employees to act, and contending with supply issues. For employers who want to increase vaccination rates, experts suggest making the process more convenient or incentivizing getting a shot. On-site programs are more effective since they are not only more convenient but also allow employees to be motivated by seeing their coworkers getting the shot. Regardless of approach, careful planning – from scheduling to ordering to addressing employee concerns – can help an office place stay healthier.

Last year’s flu season was the worst on record, per the CDC. Shared spaces and devices make offices and workplaces perfect places for flu germs to spread. As an article in HR Dive shows, 40% of employees with the flu admit to coming to work and 10% attend a social gathering while sick. Should an employee contract the flu, employers need to have policies in place that empower and encourage workers to stay home when sick.

In “Threat of Another Nasty Flu Season Prompts Workplaces to Be Proactive,” Workforce echoes the importance of the flu shot and a no-tolerance policy toward sick employees coming to the office. Policies and a culture that encourage self care over powering through an illness can help foster calling in when needed. The article also reinforces other preventative behaviors like hand washing, staying home while feverish, and coughing into your elbow.

Read more:

HR’s recurring headache: Persuading employees to get a flu shot

40% of workers admit coming to work with the flu

Threat of Another Nasty Flu Season Prompts Workplaces to Be Proactive

 

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on UBAbenefits.com

As you look through enrollment options for 2019, remember to look back on 2018. Check out your spending on procedures and prescriptions, and which providers are in your network.

The guidelines for employers regarding who they can or cannot classify as a W-2 employee or a 1099 Contractor have seen some changes in past years, but the latest court ruling means some dramatic changes are going to be taking place as businesses come into compliance with the new standard.  On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court passed down a ruling regarding the classification of W-2 employees and 1099 contractors which alters it yet again.  So listen up, as this may impact your business!

Previously there was a lengthy multi-factor test that an employer would use to determine if they had classified all of their 1099 contractors correctly or if they needed to re-classify them as W-2 employees.  Now the California Supreme Court is stating that employers need to use the ABC test.

The test established by the Court in California reads as follows:

“The [new] ABC test presumptively considers all workers to be employees, and permits workers to be classified as independent contractors only if the hiring business demonstrates that the worker in question satisfies each of three conditions: (a) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact; and (b) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and (c) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.” – Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, No. S222732 (Cal. Sup. Ct. Apr. 30, 2018)

This new standard makes California’s policy regarding independent contractors one of the most restrictive in the United States.

Employers who traditionally hire employees for short periods to help them get through their busy season but pay them as 1099 contractors will no longer be able to do so.  If you hire someone to perform the same work that your company already performs, even if it is for a shorter period of time, they will need to be hired and paid as any other W-2 employee.

This will mean increased costs for employers in many areas including, but not limited to, increased taxes through FICA, workers comp premiums, and in some cases health benefit premiums if the employees meet the eligibility criteria.  However, even with the potential increase in costs, the penalty for non-compliance with the new 1099 employee test could be much higher.

By Elizabeth Kay

Learn how to save time AND money by enrolling in discount drug programs! Watch this video to learn more.

 

Dear Ron, Thank you so much for generously supporting [us] and our AIDS walk team this year. It was a lovely foggy Sunday morning in Golden Gate Park, with thousands of folks walking to fight AIDS. It has been a pleasure working with you over the years. You have saved us LOTS of money! I want you to know how much we appreciate all that you do!

- San Francisco, Non-profit organization

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