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Question: Our company offers group medical and dental plans for all employees. We also have an executive-only medical plan that covers out-of-pocket expenses that the regular group plan does not pay. Does COBRA apply to the executive-only plan? Do we have to include it in our summary plan description (SPD)?

Answer: The coverage continuation requirements of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) pertain to group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more workers (except certain church plans). This is referred to as federal COBRA, which is enforced and regulated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Labor (DOL).

Any employer-sponsored plan or program providing health benefits (medical, dental, vision, etc.) is a group health plan under COBRA. Briefly, if the employee’s access to the program or benefits is based on the person’s current or past relationship with an employer, it is a group plan. An executive-only medical plan is a group health plan – and subject to COBRA – since eligibility for the plan is connected to employment. (Reference: 26 CFR § 54.4980B-2 )

Next, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) imposes numerous reporting and disclosure requirements on employee benefits plans, including rules for plan documents and summary plan descriptions (SPDs). Plans sponsored by governmental employers and certain church plans are exempt from ERISA, but plans sponsored by private-sector employers must comply with ERISA’s plan document and SPD rules. There is an exception, however, for an executive plan that meets the following conditions:

  • The plan primarily provides welfare (e.g., health) benefits for a select group of management or highly-compensated employees; and
  • No part of the plan is funded through employee contributions or a trust.

The most common example is an executive-only medical insurance plan for which the employer pays 100 percent of premiums. In that case, an SPD is not required and Form 5500 reporting does not apply. A plan document is required but it does not have to be made available to employees. The plan document does have to be provided to the Department of Labor (DOL) if requested. (Reference: 29 CFR § 2520.104-24)

By Kathleen A. Berger

Originally posted on thinkhr.com

Every company wants to lead their industry, and doing so means remaining competitive.  With the rate of speed the world experiences change in this age that is a very difficult proposition.  For an HR professional, it is increasingly more difficult to stay ahead of the curve.

So, what are the critical pieces to the strategy?

  • Agility
  • Change Management
  • Culture

Knowing that, how do the three concepts tie to one another?

We start with agility.

When it comes to this part of the strategy, what HR professionals really want is to be able to adjust at a moment’s notice.  But it’s not enough to just be able to make the change.  The HR professional wants to effectively implement the change in the organization.

Of course, that change doesn’t just happen at the drop of the hat.  It requires leadership and even some maintenance.

That’s where change management comes into the mix.  HR Exchange Network contributor John Whitaker says:

“Change can and will come quickly. Change management is a helpful (and sometimes hopeful) way to plan the actions and responses needed during a change process. But you must take advantage of those times where you are thrown into a chaotic situation without the benefit of planning.”

Finally, that brings us to culture.

In addressing this concept, CultureIQ worked with Bloomberg to survey 300 senior executives about the Future of Work.  In that research, one of the first things they learned is work is becoming more complex.  How?  Consider first that companies are becoming more agile either by force or organically.  Executives know they have to do this in order to remain competitive.  Optimizing a talented workforce, predicting talent needs and keeping retention rates high are critical to sustaining your organization’s competitive advantage.

In fact, CEOs recognized that one of the most important factors in their organization’s performance for the next three years was ensuring their organization was agile.

CultureIQ says agility ranked higher than other attributes like collaboration, engagement, or innovation.

A company’s culture is imperative to its strategy especially when you consider this fact:  culture influences whether talent is attracted or not attracted to the company.  It’s also significant in the company’s ability to retain their best employees.

According to Gallup, 4 in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree their organization’s mission and purpose makes them feel their job is important.  Furthermore:

“By doubling that ratio to eight in 10 employees, organizations could realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism, a 33% improvement in quality, or in the case of healthcare, even a 50% drop in patient safety incidents.”

Gallup has studied organizational culture and leadership for years.  They find some organizations have difficulty in successfully establishing their “ideal” culture and attribute that to the fact that culture is constantly in flux and is not the same one moment to the next.

Earlier this year, researchers looked specifically at how HR leaders fit into the process of changing culture.

“Our analytics show that in the world’s highest performing organizations, HR leaders play a central role in creating and sustaining the culture their organization aspires to have. As the stewards and keepers of the culture, HR leaders are responsible for inspiring desired employee behaviors and beliefs — and in turn, realizing the performance gains of a thriving culture.

By owning their pivotal strategic and tactical roles in shaping work culture, HR leaders can cultivate exceptional performance and prove to senior leadership that they deserve a seat at the table.”

For HR, Gallup set forth three roles that explain how leaders influence culture.

  1. Champion – Executive leaders create the vision of the perfect culture, but HR leaders champion it. They are responsible for turning words into deeds.
  2. Coach – HR leaders, as coaches, make sure managers and employees are on the same page and help the two entities take ownership of the culture.
  3. Consultant – HR leaders here consistently check culture metrics such as employee engagement, customer outlines and performance indicators. In this way, HR leaders can make sure the culture strategy stays on track.

By Mason Stevenson

Originally posted on hrexchangenetwork.com

 

At AEIS, our tagline is “Insurance is just the beginning” because we know as benefits advisors that attracting and retaining employees doesn’t stop at offering great benefits–it extends to employers having the tools to be successful so they can have an “edge” in acquiring talent. Enter the alliance of Rippling and AEIS!

Rippling is a comprehensive Payroll, HR, IT and Benefits Administration system that integrates with hundreds of apps like Salesforce, Zoom, and Slack. It allows everything to be in one place making it easy for employees and employers. Having cutting edge technology OR having an experienced benefits advisor no longer has to be a choice.

Save Time: No more having to house employee data in multiple separate systems or manually double enter information. Manage everything within one platform. Onboard new hires in less than 90 seconds.

Save I.T. Headaches: Buy or lease equipment through Rippling for employees preloaded with all the apps and programs applicable to their role with a single sign-on and real-time threat detection software. If the equipment is lost or stolen, remotely deactivate and wipe it clean.

Save on BenAdmin: Get Rippling’s benefits administration included for no additional cost when working with both AEIS and Rippling.

Save Face: When new hires join your team, fair or not, the onboarding process is one of their first impressions of what it will be like to be an employee at your organization. Give them confidence and remove any doubt from their mind by providing an easy and seamless experience as they begin their journey with you.

Call us at 650-348-6162 , email Dillon@aeisadvisors.com or click here to learn more about how our collaboration can benefit your organization!

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

2019 has ushered in many new trends such as retro cartoon character timepieces, meatless hamburgers, and 5G networks to name a few. Not surprisingly, trend-watching doesn’t stop with pop culture, fashion, and technology. Your company’s human resources department should also take notice of the top changes in the marketplace, so they are poised to attract and retain the best talent. These top trends include a greater emphasis on soft skills, increased workforce flexibility, and salary transparency.

SOFT SKILLS

Gone are the days of hiring a candidate solely based on their hard skills—their education and technical background. While the proper education and training are important factors in getting the job completed, a well-rounded employee must have the soft skills needed to work with a team, problem solve, and communicate ideas and processes. According to Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP and president of HRU Technical Resources in Michigan, “Employers should be looking for soft skills more and training for hard skills, but we struggle with that.” While hard skills can be measured, soft skills are harder to quantify. However, soft skills facilitate human connections and are the one thing that machines cannot replace.  They are invaluable to the success of a company.

WORKFORCE FLEXIBILITY

As millennials begin to flood the workplace, the traditional view of the workweek has changed. Job seekers report they place a high importance on having the flexibility of when and where to work. The typical work day has evolved from a 9am – 5pm day to a flexible 24-hour work cycle that adjusts to the needs of the employee. Employers are able to offer greater flexibility about when the work is completed and where it takes place. This flexibility has so much importance that job seekers say remote work options and the freedom of an adaptable schedule have a higher priority to them over pay.

SALARY TRANSPARENCY

In the wake of the very public outing of the gender and race pay gaps, companies are opening up conversations about wages in the workplace. Once a hushed subject punishable by termination, salary information is now often being shared in the office. Employers have found that the more transparent and open that they are about the compensation levels in their organization, the more trustworthy they appear to their workforce. One way to stay educated on the welcome trend of pay equality is to visit the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’s website to review wage ranges across the nation. Another great resource is the Department of Labor’s free publication called “Employer’s Guide on Equal Pay.”

By watching the trends in the marketplace, employers can focus on what is important to their staff. Honest discussions about salary and compensation, when and where to work, and developing the employee as a whole, including soft skills, sets your company up for success. When you listen to what the market is saying, you show you are sensitive to what their priorities are—and this is always on trend.

Summer internships offer students opportunities to gain real-world experience and hands-on career development. Conversely, internship programs give employers access to highly motivated and educated young workers and give junior managers more experience training and supervising. There are benefits for everyone involved.

However, there are some people risks that many employers overlook. One of the largest issues is determining what interns should be paid – or not paid.

The Department of Labor issued new guidance on January 5, 2018, that gives employers more flexibility in deciding whether to pay interns. A seven-criteria test is now used to determine if an internship may be unpaid, but the biggest change is that not all factors need to be met – no single factor is decisive, and the determination is made on the unique circumstances of each case.

If the job training program primarily provides professional experience that furthers a student’s educational goals, a student may not be considered an employee entitled to compensation. However, if students are doing work usually done by employees and are not receiving training and close mentoring, they should be paid wages. If there is any doubt, the best approach is to pay the student.

4 Reasons to Pay Interns

However, while it’s now legally permissible to classify more interns as unpaid, there are still compelling reasons to pay interns even when the internship does meet the criteria for unpaid status.

Unpaid internships tend to exclude students from lower- and middle-income backgrounds, who cannot afford not to work at paid jobs during the summer. In addition, they may need to pay up to several thousand dollars for course credit, in addition to coming up with funds for housing, clothing, and transportation related to the internship. This can put internships out of reach for some of the students who can benefit from them the most.

Unpaid internships may devalue the work paid employees are doing. After all, interns are working alongside regular employees — often doing some of the same tasks — and not being compensated for that work. This may send the message to employees that their work, or time, is not valued.

Unpaid internships can create a negative impression of your company. Customers or the community may see you as taking advantage of these students, which is not the message you want to portray. It’s a good community relations move to offer youth paid opportunities.

The work the unpaid intern is doing may actually be work that should be compensable. Improperly classifying an internship and not paying the student could result in wage claims that include back pay, penalties, and fines. To mitigate those risks, once again, the best approach is to pay the student.

Hiring summer students is a great way to help youth learn what it takes to be successful in business while helping employers get special projects completed. Plan ahead and structure your program so that your summer internship program is a great experience for everyone.

 

by Rachel Sobel
Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

We are all drinking from a firehose of news and information — all day, every day. With this deluge of information, it can be difficult to determine what’s truly important to know. But being reactive is not acceptable. You need to know what’s coming, what affects you, and how it affects you.

Take, for example, legislative changes — 80 percent don’t require your attention, but the 20 percent you need to act on can easily get lost in the noise. It’s the 20 percent that expose your business to risk, but how do you know which 80 percent of information you can safely ignore?

Paying attention to the right information at the right time and setting the rest aside – knowing what you need to know – is essential to anticipating and understanding risk.

Where People Risk Management Comes In

People risk management starts with anticipating and understanding what presents risks to your business. It’s the idea you can look at something, understand it, digest it, and know if and how you need to act on this information. It’s a complicated sequence that no one has time to do, which is why you need a trusted and knowledgeable partner who:

  1. Knows what’s in the pipeline, such as newly-introduced bills that have the potential to become law.
  2. Keeps an eye on at what’s actually happening that may affect employers, such as when bills pass, agencies issue directives, or courts rule on cases.
  3. Determines what presents any type of risk to employers – such as litigation, noncompliance, or reduced employee engagement – and what doesn’t require action.
  4. Communicates promptly, consistently, and effectively, so you can use this knowledge to update your policies, stay on top of compliance requirements, and incorporate best practices in a way that reduces risk for your unique business.

Understanding People Risks: An Example

Often, when we think about risks to employers, we focus on insurable risks because they are well understood and easily quantifiable. It’s important to address these risks with solid prevention plans and insurance products, but it’s the uninsurable categories of risks, particularly people risks, that can catch us off guard and unprepared.

People risks can result not just in financial loss, but damage to employee engagement and company culture. They tend to be more subject to interpretation and can be very abstract.

Take, for example, the consequences of hiring the wrong employee or losing a valued employee. When this happens, you bear the cost of lost productivity and the time and money invested in recruiting, hiring, and onboarding. You also risk litigation if policies are not adequately documented, communicated, and followed should the employee claim discrimination, harassment, or disability accommodation is to blame for their separation from the company.

Hiring the wrong employee or losing a valued employee also carries the risk of negatively affecting employee engagement, which is a well-documented predictor of business outcomes. If it happens regularly, or there is even one instance handled poorly, your employment brand can be tarnished. For example, it could result in bad reviews on recruiting sites, chipping away at your recognition as an employer of choice.

Be in the Know

Whether it’s knowing how legislative changes affect your business or what risks are inherent in day-to-day employee management issues, people risk management starts with a solid knowledge base that evolves continuously to keep up with the latest employment trends, news, regulation, and information.

 

by Larry Dunivan, CEO of ThinkHR
Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

On Friday, February 15, 2019, five employees of a manufacturer in Aurora, Illinois, were killed by an employee they were about to terminate as they met in a conference room. Among the victims were the human resources director and a young HR intern at his first day on the job. This is just the latest incidence of gun violence at a workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that every year, nearly two million U.S. workers are victims of workplace violence. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Census, homicide accounted for 10 percent of all fatal workplace injuries in 2016. And an FBI study found that businesses were the setting for nearly half of 160 active-shooter incidents over a 13-year-period the agency examined.

Workplace violence takes many forms, including homicide, assault, stalking, threatening words, threatening conduct, and harassment. It results in a decline in employee morale, management inefficiencies, and decreased productivity. Employers also bear the burden of workplace violence because its consequences include significant costs in lost wages, employee absences, and increased benefit payments.

Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace and must prevent workplace violence to protect their employees and avoid liability.

How a Policy Can Help

A well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention policy — combined with engineering controls, administrative controls, and training — can reduce the incidence of workplace violence. This policy can stand on its own or be incorporated into an injury and illness prevention program, employee handbook, or operations manual.

The goals of any workplace violence prevention policy are two-fold:

  • Reduce the probability of threats or acts of violence in the workplace.
  • Ensure that any incident, complaint, or report of violence is immediately addressed and properly managed.

The primary components of a workplace violence prevention policy include clearly defined reporting and response procedures, a workplace security risk evaluation, prevention tools, mandatory training, and other necessary support services. Employers must inform employees of the requirements of applicable state and federal law, the risk factors in their workplace, and the location of the written workplace violence prevention program.

It’s important that all workers are informed of the policy and understand that management strives to keep all employees safe in the workplace and will take all concerns seriously.

 

by Rachel Sobel
Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

While it may feel like businesses are still reeling from adapting to the working millennial, the next generation is already knocking on the HR door. The Society for Human Resource Management went straight to a 16-year old source to see what is on the workplace horizon.

Here are a few trends and some potential takeaways for employers.

Gen Z is competitive, raised on more pervasive youth sports and regularly reminded just how hard it is to get into elite colleges. These go-getters are used to immediate feedback. HR departments will be wise to consider how to offer quality, actionable feedback to these employees. On the one hand, rigorous coaching and parent investment means Gen Z can take tips on how to improve and even handle tough criticism, something millennials are seen to struggle with. Even better, the competitive nature of Gen Z will make them want to work to succeed. To support these employees, meaningful, regular feedback will be necessary. Now is a good time to start creating the plans for the systems and processes that will offer performance reviews, project critiques, and more. Workers who appreciate structure and goals are great for business, but HR will also need to protect young workers from burnout as they attempt to succeed and even overachieve in their first years working.

As children of Gen Xers, Gen Z reflects their parents’ skepticism and individualism. This is a marked shift from the idealism and collaborative approach of millennials. The tight labor markets of recent times have meant concerted efforts to court millennials. Current trends toward open office plans, casual environments, and cross-discipline teams may need to be refined as these two generations being to mix around the water cooler. The group project mentality of millennials is more the one-person show of Gen Z. Neither worldview is inherently better, but helping the youngest workers work well with others will be important to integrating them into successful teams and preventing conflict. Offering mentoring opportunities, which provide meaning for experienced millennials and feedback to improvement-hungry Gen Z may be one idea. At the same time, ensuring there are ample opportunities to shine as individuals will tap into Gen Z’s potential and enthusiasm.

While they hope their jobs are engaging, this generation is seen as more pragmatic and fiscally conservative. They want to feel on solid financial footing even more than they want to feel good about their work. For the future of employee benefits and perks, it may be a dollars and cents approach which lures the most attractive young workers rather than bringing a dog to work or culture-building elements like foosball or ping pong.

Whether we’re ready or not, Gen Z is coming. Paying attention to generation shifts may leave employers eager but feeling overwhelmed to keep up. Not everything needs to change, and you may just find some changes are good for everyone. Find ways to adapt what’s already working for your company, adjust what can be adjusted to appeal to new workers, and be ready to implement new ideas that just may help your entire workforce, too.

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on UBABenefits.com

An article in the Harvard Business Review suggests that the traits that make someone become a leader aren’t always the ones that make someone an effective leader. Instead, efficacy can be traced to ethicality. Here are a few tips to be an ethical leader.


Humility tops charisma
A little charisma goes a long way. Too much and a leader risks being seen as self-absorbed. Instead, focus on the good of the group, not just sounding good.

Hold steady
Proving reliable and dependable matters. Showing that—yes—the boss follows the rules, too, earns the trust and respect of the people who work for you.

Don’t be the fun boss
It’s tempting to want to be well liked. But showing responsibility and professionalism is better for the health of the team—and your reputation.

Don’t forget to do
Analysis and careful consideration is always appreciated. But at the top you also have to make the call, and make sure it’s not just about the bottom line.

Keep it up!
Once you get comfortable in your leadership role, you may get too comfortable. Seek feedback and stay vigilant.

A company that highlights what happens when leaders aren’t the ones to champion ethics is presented in Human Resource Executive. Theranos had a very public rise and fall, and the author of the article cites the critical role compliance and ethics metrics might have played in pushing for better accountability. The article also makes the case for the powerful role of HR professionals in helping guide more impactful ethics conversations.

One high profile case study of a company recognizing that leadership needed to do more is Uber. Here, leadership realized that fast growth was leading to a crumbling culture. A piece in Yahoo! Sports shows how explosive growth can mean less time to mature as a company. Instead of focusing of partnerships with customers and drivers, Uber became myopically customer-and growth-focused. This led to frustrations for drivers and ultimately a class-action lawsuit. New initiatives, from tipping to phone support to a driver being able to select riders that will get them closer to home, have been rolled out in recent months. These changes have been welcome, but, as the leadership reflected, could have been more proactively implemented to everyone’s benefit. The mindset of bringing people along will also potentially help Uber maintain better ties with municipalities, which ultimately, is good for growth.

Harvard Business Review Don’t Try to Be the Fun Boss” — and Other Lessons in Ethical Leadership

Yahoo! Sports – How Uber is recovering from a ‘moral breaking point’

Human Resource Executive – An Ethics Lesson

by Bill Olson

Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

Thank you for putting the Plan Document together for us!  It is a big accomplishment knowing that we are in compliance!   Once again we are grateful and thankful for your continuing support and enjoy the relationship that we share.

- Office Manager, Food Distribution Company

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