Employees

Back to School Time Off Tips | North Carolina Benefit Advisors

The coals from the Labor Day barbecues have cooled, the beach chairs have been returned to their sheds, the ice cream shops have scaled back their hours, and the white shoes have been set aside for the next nine months. Whatever the end of summer means to you, for millions of families, it signals the return to school for children in preschool through college.

This means your employees will likely need to take a few hours out of their workday occasionally to participate in their children’s education. Parents’ fall calendars are often packed with school events, parent-teacher conferences, and/or parent meetings – some of which will inevitably occur during their usual working hours – and any flexibility you give them to attend these events, or even volunteer in the classroom or chaperone a field trip, will be greatly appreciated.

Where it’s the law

Nine states and the District of Columbia have passed laws protecting parents’ rights to take small increments of time away from work to attend to school matters. They vary widely in their specifics regarding eligibility for leave, whether the time is paid or unpaid, and the amount of time available for use. (ThinkHR customers can get details about each state’s provisions by clicking the act titles listed below after logging into to your ThinkHR account.)

Even if it’s not the law

It’s a best practice to offer flexibility to all employees so that they can meet the obligations of daily life while still performing at their peak at work. It goes a long way toward making an employee feel good about where they work when they can see their child perform in a school play, take their dog to the vet, or accept an appliance delivery without worrying about missing a couple hours of work or needing to take a full day off.

The beginning of fall is a great time to review your established time off policies to see how you can accommodate parents and guardians who need to meet school obligations as well as giving all employees the flexibility to attend to the other small necessities of life.

In many cases, your established policies may not need to change. Depending on the needs of your workplace, your state laws, and the employee’s position, this could mean allowing employees to make up a few hours of work, take an extended lunch period, shift their schedule to start earlier or later to still get a full day in, or use personal, vacation, or PTO time in small increments.

Originally published by www.thinkhr.com

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New Federal Contract Compliance Directives | North Carolina Employee Benefits

On August 24, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced the following three directives:

  • Guidance for Contractor Compensation PracticesDirective 2018-05 clarifies the OFCCP’s approach to conducting compensation evaluations, supports compliance and compensation self-analyses by contractors, and improves compensation analysis consistency and efficiency during compliance evaluations.
  • Contractor Recognition Programs: Directive 2018-06 establishes a contractor recognition program with awards that highlight best practices, a contractor mentoring program, and other initiatives that provide opportunities for contractors to collaborate or provide feedback to OFCCP.
  • Affirmative Action Program Verification Initiative: Federal contractors are legally required to take steps to ensure equal opportunity in their employment processes, including developing a written affirmative action program within 120 days of when the contract begins. Directive 2018-07 establishes a program for verifying compliance with these and other affirmative action obligations.

The OFCCP enforces federal laws that prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran. In addition, contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees because they inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or that of others, subject to certain limitations.

Originally published www.thinkhr.com

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DOL Updates the Employer CHIP Notice | North Carolina Employee Benefits

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has updated the model notice for employers to use to inform employees about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). All employers with group health plans are required to distribute a CHIP notice at least once a year to employees living in certain states. There is no need to send another notice to workers who received the prior version in the past year, but employers should use the updated notice going forward. This also is a good time for employers to review their procedures for distributing CHIP notices.

The following are the most frequently asked questions we receive from employers about CHIP notices.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the CHIP notice?
The CHIP notice informs benefits-eligible employees that their state’s CHIP or Medicaid program may offer premium assistance to help them pay for group health coverage at work. Many states offer some form of premium assistance to residents based on their family income. The updated notice includes contact information for each participating state (currently 37 states) and explains that persons approved for premium assistance have a special 60-day enrollment period to join their employer’s group plan without having to wait for the employer’s next annual enrollment period.

Does the CHIP notice requirement affect all employers?
All employers that offer a group health plan providing medical benefits, whether insured or self-funded, must consider the CHIP notice requirement. Each employer then will determine if it must distribute the notice depending on whether any of its employees live in one of the states listed in the notice.

Further, all group health (medical) plans must offer a special 60-day enrollment period when an employee becomes eligible for premium assistance (for the employee or a family member) from a state’s CHIP or Medicaid program.

Is the notice required for all employees or just for those enrolled in our group health plan?
The notice must be given to all employees living in any one of the listed states and eligible for the employer’s group health plan, whether or not currently enrolled. That is the minimum requirement. Many employers, however, choose to distribute the notice to all employees, regardless of benefits eligibility or location, to avoid the need for separate distributions when an employee’s status or location changes.

How do we prepare and distribute the notice? How often?
The DOL provides a model notice that employers can copy and distribute. Although employers have the option of creating their own notice to list only the states where their employees are located, most employers simply use the DOL model notice as it is. The model notice also is available in Spanish.

The notice must be distributed when employees initially become eligible for the employer’s health plan and then at least once a year thereafter. For convenience, most employers provide the notice at the same time as they distribute new hire materials and annual enrollment materials.

When combined with other materials, the CHIP notice must appear “separately and in a manner which ensures that an employee who may be eligible for premium assistance could reasonably be expected to appreciate its significance.” For instance, the notice may be a loose item in the same envelope with other material. If the notice is stapled inside other material, however, there should be a note on the top page or cover alerting the reader to the placement of the CHIP notice and its importance.

Do we have to mail out paper copies or can we distribute the notice electronically?
The notice may be sent by first-class mail. Alternatively, it can be distributed electronically if the employer follows the DOL’s guidelines for electronic delivery of group health plan materials. That means that the employer first must determine whether the intended recipient has regular access to the electronic media system (e.g., email) as an integral part of his or her job. If so, the notice can be sent electronically provided the employer takes steps to ensure actual receipt, along with notifying the employee of the material’s significance and that a paper copy is available at no cost.

For persons who do not have regular access to the electronic media system, the notice cannot be sent electronically unless the intended recipient provides affirmative consent in advance. The guidelines for obtaining advance consent are fairly cumbersome, so employers are advised to distribute paper copies in these cases.

Summary

Employers offering group health plans are encouraged to review their procedures for distributing CHIP notices. At a minimum, the notice must be given annually to all employees eligible for the employer’s health plan who live in any of the states listed in the notice. Many employers choose to distribute the notice to all workers in an abundance of caution. The DOL provides model notices in English and Spanish that do not need any customization, so employers can simply copy and distribute one or both versions as needed.

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Fitness Incentive Program Ideas

Corporate fitness programs not only build camaraderie and morale, they can improve company bottom lines considerably. Improved worker health results in lower absenteeism, improved productivity, decreased health care costs and fewer lawsuits, according to the Wellness Council of America. Incentives and contests can help your company increase employee participation in wellness programs.

Benefits

A corporate fitness program improves employee health in several ways. Workers lose weight, reduce stress, lower blood pressure and sleep better. All of these can reduce sick days, doctor visit and workplace injuries. For example, lower-back injuries cause employees to miss 100 million work days annually, according to the Wellness Council of America. The DuPont corporation decreased disability days at its Tennessee plant by 14 percent after instituting a wellness program, saving almost $120,000 annually.

Motivation

While employee education is an important part of any corporate wellness program, a fitness incentive program motivates employees to participate. Holding a team competition or offering cash or other prizes can create a buzz throughout your workplace and get more employees participating.

Team Competitions

One way to increase fitness program participation is to create a team contest. You can draw names at random to create teams, pit management against staff, place workers from different departments on teams to create more interaction or have different offices face off against each other.

Weight-loss Challenge

Weight loss is one aspect of fitness that concerns or interests many people. Create a weight-loss challenge as either an individual contest or team competition. You can award a prize or prizes based on total number of pounds lost or percentage of individual or team weight lost.

Fitness Challenge

If you don't want to focus on weight loss only, have a broader fitness competition. Track total number of verifiable hours participants exercised during the competition period, how much each person or team lowered their cholesterol or a fitness challenge, with participants or teams competing in tests such as number of sit-ups and push-ups, minutes on a treadmill or jumping rope, timed laps swum or other measurements. Work with a fitness professional and your insurance company to create a test that is safe for all participants.

Incentives

You can use a variety of incentives to motivate employees to participate in a fitness program. You can award cash prizes, trips, gift certificates, extra vacation days or other tangible rewards. You can add prestige with winners names on plaques displayed at headquarters, a mention in the company newsletter and press releases sent to local papers. With team events, the winning team might get to name the charity that receives a donation from the company. Whenever you award prizes, make sure the rules are clear, the judging criteria are objective and that all employees are eligible -- if you set up a contest for one department or employees with more than one year's service, you may create ill will among other employees.

Originally published by www.livestrong.com

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The Perks of Holiday Parties: How They’re Still an Asset to Your Company

The end of the year is upon us and a majority of companies celebrate with an end-of-year/holiday party.  Although the trend of holiday parties has diminished in recent years, it’s still a good idea to commemorate the year with an office perk like a fun, festive party. 

BENEFITS OF A YEAR-END CELEBRATION

  • Holiday staff parties are a perfect way to thank your employees for a great year. All employees want to feel appreciated and valued.  What better way to serve this purpose, than with an end of the year office celebration. Hosting a night out to honor your employees during a festive time of year boosts morale. And if done right, your party can jump start the new year with refreshed, productive employees.
  • End-of-year celebrations allow employees to come together outside of their own team.  The average American will spend 90,000 hours (45 years) of their life at work. Unless you have a very small office, most employees only engage in relationships within their department. When employees have a chance to mingle outside of their regular 9 to 5 day, they’ll build and cultivate relationships across different teams within the organization; creating a more loyal, cohesive and motivated culture.
  • Seasonal parties can provide employers insight on those who work for them. Spending the evening with your employees in a more casual and relaxed atmosphere may reveal talents and ideas you may not have otherwise seen during traditional work hours.

CREATING THE RIGHT FIT

Regardless of office size, if planned right, employers can make a holiday party pop, no matter your budget. Whether this is your first go at an end-of-year celebration for your employees, or you host one every year, keep a few things in mind:

  • Plan early. Establish a steering committee to generate ideas for your holiday party. Allow the committee to involve all employees early on in the process. Utilize voting tools like Survey Monkey or Outlook to compile employee votes. This engages not only your entire workforce, but serves you as well when tailoring your party to fit your culture.
  • Create set activities. Engaging employees in some type of organized activity not only eases any social anxiety for them and their guests, it cultivates memories and allows colleagues to get to know each other.  Consider a “Casino Night”, a photo booth (or two if your company can justify to size), an escape room outing—anything that will kick the night off with ease.
  • Incorporate entertainment during the dinner. Have team leads or management members come up with fun awards that emphasize character traits, strengths, and talents others may not know of. This is a great way to create cohesiveness, build relationships, and have your employees enjoy a good laugh at dinner. 
  • Offer fun door prizes every 15 minutes or so. Prizes don’t have to be expensive to have an impact on employees, just relevant to them. However, with the right planning you may be able to throw in a raffle of larger gift items as well. Just keep in the specific tax rules when it relates to gift-giving. Gift cards associated with a specific dollar amount available to use at any establishment, and larger ticket items, can be subject to your employees having to claim income on them and pay the tax.
  • Make the dress code inclusive of everyone. Employees should not feel a financial pinch to attend a holiday office party. Establish a dress code that fits your culture, not the other way around.

 TAKE AWAY TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL HOLIDAY PARTY

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, statistics show in recent years only 65% of employers have offered holiday parties—down from 72% five years ago. Consider the following tips when hosting your next year-end celebration.

  • Keep it light.  Eliminate itineraries and board-room like structure. Choose to separate productivity/award celebrations and upcoming year projections from your holiday party. 
  • Invite spouses and significant others to attend the party.  Employees spend a majority of their week with their colleagues. Giving employees this option is a great way to show you value who they spend their time with outside of work.
  • Allow employees to leave early on a work day to give them time to get ready and pick up who is attending the party with them. 
  • Mingle.  Show how you value your employees by chatting with them and meeting their guests.
  • Provide comfortable seating areas where employees can rest, eat and talk.  Position these in main action areas so no one feels anti-social for taking a seat somewhere.
  • Consider tying in employees that work in different locations.  Have a slideshow running throughout the night on what events other office locations have done throughout the year.
  • Create low-key conversation starters and get people to chat it up.  This is valuable especially for those that are new to the company and guests of your employees. Incorporate trivia questions into the décor and table settings. Get them to engage by tying in a prize.
  • Keep the tastes and comfort level of your employees in mind. Include a variety of menu items that fit dietary restrictions.  Not all employees drink alcohol and not all employees eat meat.
  • Limit alcohol to a 2 ticket system per guest.  Opt for a cash bar after that to reduce liability.
  • Provide access to accommodations or coordinate transportation like Uber or Lyft to get your employees somewhere safely after the party if they choose to drink.

Ultimately, holiday parties can still be a value-add for your employees if done the right way. Feel free to change it up from year to year so these parties don’t get stale and continue to fit to your company’s culture. Contemplate new venues, ideas and activities and change up your steering committee to keep these parties fresh. Employees are more likely to enjoy themselves at an event that fits with their lifestyle, so don’t be afraid to get creative!

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