Hot Topics in Total Rewards

  • 29 Jul 2020 3:27 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    BY JARED LINDZON | 07-23-20

    With no kitchens to stock or in-person classes to offer, some employers are rethinking what perks they offer employees.

    Before Teampay was forced to close its Manhattan offices in early March, the company had a lot of the features you’d expect to find at a startup: a healthy snack bar and a much more popular unhealthy snack bar, coffee machines, and comfortable hangout areas where staff would gather for informal conversations.

    Each week the distributed spend management software company invited a guest speaker to host a lunch-and-learn. Every other week they hosted a demos-and-drinks night where the engineering team would show off its latest development over beer and cocktails, and each quarter the team would venture off for a surprise team outing.

    So when the coronavirus forced the company to send its staff home, CEO Andrew Hoag says he wanted to do what he could to continue offering a similar work experience from home. “We continued the lunch-and-learn and the demos-and-drinks,” he says. “For example, instead of us bringing a catered lunch into the office, we used our product to give every employee a $20-a-week delivery stipend so they could order lunch.”

    Teampay also offered staff a $500 stipend to put toward their home office setup and a more flexible work schedule so they could work around family responsibilities.

    Since COVID-19 forced many workers out of their offices, employers have had to choose between delivering traditional perks to employees’ homes, abolishing the in-person parts of their benefits programs, or reconsidering their approach to employee benefits altogether. As the world of employee perks evolves to meet the needs of a rapidly changing workplace arrangement, many of these changes are expected to become yet another part of the “new normal.”


    In a recent study by talent mobility platform Topia, the majority of respondents indicated that empowerment and trust were the most important factors that contribute to a “great employee experience,” followed by job training opportunities and technology. Only 16% of employees indicated that a “cool” office space, including perks such as free food and games, were a priority.

    “The pandemic has highlighted an extreme shift in what we are all looking for from a work experience,” says Jacky Cohen, Topia’s vice president of people and culture. “It’s an opportunity to rethink the term ‘benefits’ in general and really think about what companies offer to their employees in the new world of the distributed workforce.”

    In recent months employers and HR departments have also been turning their attention toward the perks that employees are more likely to need to get through this turbulent period, says Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist for employee engagement platform Achievers. “It’s definitely forcing organizations to ask the question ‘What’s most important? Where do we put our dollars? And what’s most valuable to our employees?'” she says. “The things that fundamentally support our well-being need to come first.”

    Those perks, according to Baumgartner, include mental health resources, flexibility, and monetary incentives.


    “[Employers and HR departments] are changing their behaviors,” says Baumgartner. “What direction they’re changing depends on the financial viability of their company, the strategic direction—do we need to be literally together moving forward—and just their value system, which drives a lot of these decisions.”

    Baumgartner adds that in the midst of an economic crisis many companies have had to tighten their belts and eliminate some of the benefits that they previously offered. For example, many are reducing benefits related to continuing education and employee training in the face of an uncertain economic future. “It was something that was offered by organizations as a massive perk—getting a higher education, going to business school. In many cases that’s gone by the wayside,” she says. “It’s something organizations simply can’t justify in this state of financial unpredictability.”


    While employees are seeking more meaningful perks such as mental health resources and greater flexibility, there is still a demand for traditional perks that can offer consistency and comfort in uncertain times.

    Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, New York-based Stadium provided a service that allowed office workers at a company to order food from several different restaurants on the same order, meaning colleagues didn’t have to agree on a lunch spot. Since the outbreak, cofounder and CEO Shaunak Amin has launched another business, SnackMagic, that allows remote staff to receive personalized snack boxes at their home office anywhere in the country.

    According to Amin, the custom snack delivery company has doubled every two weeks since its launch just over two months ago. “There aren’t many tools or services that are built for the remote setting,” he says. “Based on the initial interest we’ve seen, I think it’s here to stay.”

    While Amin admits that snacking isn’t a top priority for most companies in the midst of a global pandemic, the cost of a few treats is minimal compared to what they would otherwise spend on stocking office kitchens, and the gesture goes a long way. “It makes the employee feel like the employer cares, not just for me but also for my family, because often the kids are picking the snacks,” he says.


    Another major shift in the delivery of workplace benefits is the intended recipient. Prior to the pandemic, perks were primarily targeted toward employees, with family members occasionally added as a secondary recipient to health plans and other benefits.

    “The biggest change we’re seeing with COVID is this understanding that no employee operates in isolation,” says Daniel Freedman, the cofounder and co-CEO of BurnAlong, a digital corporate wellness platform. “That’s the biggest shift that we’ve seen; families are central.” 

    BurnAlong offers a digital platform that allows users to receive one-on-one or group training sessions with hundreds of health and wellness providers, with classes ranging from traditional fitness to mindfulness and meditation to rehabilitation for medical conditions. Freedman says that the platform has doubled its client list since last year, with more than a quarter of all classes now dedicated to emotional support.

    “That’s everything from parenting classes, arthritis, diabetes, adaptive workouts for people with disabilities, sleep, anxiety—and this mirrors what you’re seeing with a heightened focus on mental health and loneliness,” he says.

    Some of the most popular options are also geared toward nonworking members of the household, such as virtual summer camp programs for kids. “If your spouse, your partner, your parent, your kids are struggling, that affects your productivity. So when it comes to health and wellness, every company is looking at how to deliver programming and support for families as well,” he says. “We even have pet workouts—workouts that people can do with their dogs. It’s all about meeting people wherever they are and with whoever their loved ones are.”

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    Source: Fast Company

  • 29 Jul 2020 3:18 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    IRS Increases Premium Tax Credit Eligibility and Affordability Cap ...


    The IRS updated indexing adjustments for certain provisions under IRC Section 36B in Revenue Procedure 2020-36. See RP 2020-36. In particular, the initial and final premium percentages listed in the “Applicable Percentage” Table in Internal Revenue Code Section 36B(b)(3)(A)(i) were adjusted for the 2021 calendar year as follows.

    Household income percentage of Federal poverty line: Initial percentage Final percentage
    Less than 133% 2.07% 2.07%
    At least 133% but less than 150% 3.10% 4.14%
    At least 150% but less than 200% 4.14% 6.52%
    At least 200% but less than 250% 6.52% 8.33%
    At least 250% but less than 300% 8.33% 9.83%
    At least 300% but not more than 400% 9.83% 9.83%

    This Applicable Percentage Table provides a sliding scale range of percentages within an applicable tier of household income to calculate an individual’s premium tax credit.

    The Revenue Procedure also adjusts the percentage for plan years beginning 2021 to 9.83%. This is the percentage under IRC Section 36B(c)(2)(C)(i)(II) that is determinative of “affordability” to comply with the ACA Employer Mandate. Under this Mandate, if an employer fails to offer “Affordable” coverage to employees, the employer risks being subject to penalties under IRC Section 4980H.

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    Source:  The ACA Times

  • 28 Jul 2020 9:46 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Colleagues using tablet PC in textile factory

    Yolanda Lau - Forbes Councils Member | Jul 27, 2020,08:10am EDT

    The future of work is the liquid workforce, and as such, the role of human resources must evolve to meet today’s challenges. Yet, many HR leaders are only engaged in areas related to their full-time workforce and aren’t involved in the planning and management of the liquid workforce. 

    Here are some things to keep in mind as you rethink your HR role.

    Automation Is The Future Of Work

    A recent McKinsey report predicts that automation will result in many occupations — such as administrative assistants and bookkeepers — shrinking through attrition and reduced hiring. Millions of Americans will need to be retrained and redeployed during the coming automation age. 

    HR will need to take the lead in helping to develop a digitally ready workforce that can adapt to the changing needs of each company. But this workforce will also look very different from today’s — companies are migrating toward a blended workforce that includes full-time workers and liquid workers. HR leaders need to reconsider how they develop and retain the best talent. To do this, they need to fully understand the direction of their companies and the types of talent and skills needed to support that direction. 

    Digitalization Is The Future of Work

    As HR leaders shift from managing full-time employees to managing talent, they will need to embrace digitalization. For HR, Gartner noted that digitalization is changing everything. With a blended workforce, your talent acquisition processes and systems must evolve to encompass traditional hiring and on-demand skills sourcing. 

    In many companies, HR leaders are not involved in overseeing the contingent or liquid workforce. Often the procurement or purchasing department takes the lead, resulting in an emphasis on cost over talent sourcing or management. 

    HR leaders need to develop a talent network that encompasses internal and external talent and focuses on identifying, matching and developing the skills that the company needs at any given time. As part of developing that talent network, HR must build relationships with global online talent marketplaces.

    Shifting To A Talent-Based Workforce

    As HR leaders rethink their workforce strategy, they need to assess where using the liquid workforce makes sense. What skills does the company have within its full-time workforce? What skills will it need in the near future? Are these long-term or short-term needs? Will the demand for these skills vary over time? HR leaders should assess these factors to determine where the liquid workforce should be integrated into their strategic workforce plan. 

    As the blended workforce grows, HR needs to reconsider not only how and where talent is sourced, but how to manage that talent. Organizations must have rigorous contracting and onboarding processes in place for their liquid workers. These processes protect the company, aid in meeting compliance requirements, and enable the rapid on-ramp of liquid workers. Also, a consistent onboarding process helps liquid workers instantly feel like part of the team and hit the ground running on projects.

    Managing Performance With A Liquid Workforce

    The skills required to engage with and manage a liquid worker are similar in many ways to those required with full-time employees. However, the “how” and “what” of using those skills are very different since liquid workers are entrepreneurs who are working in partnership with an organization. People managers will need support and training from HR to adapt their styles to partner most effectively with their liquid workers. HR leaders should encourage the sharing of best practices for working with liquid talent across the organization.

    Performance management also needs to be rethought with a blended workforce. Having a performance management system with your liquid workers is essential. Every engagement with a liquid worker should be evaluated and assessed against performance metrics and goals. Evaluations should be maintained in your talent database. 

    Similarly, retention strategies need to be redeveloped for a blended workforce. Consider how to reward high-performing liquid talent. For example, some organizations offer performance bonuses, equity or back-end profit participation.

    Modern companies are shifting to a more blended workforce where liquid workers represent a greater and greater share of the workforce. HR needs to take the lead on the workforce strategy and plan not only for full-time workers, but also for liquid workers. Liquid workers are human resources and, as such, should be part of the strategic remit of HR leaders rather than co-mingled and lost among vendor spending. It’s time for the role of HR to evolve and truly encompass all human resources.

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    Source: Forbes

  • 23 Jul 2020 8:58 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    MARKIAN HAWRYLUK  |  July 22, 20201:00 PM ET

    Izzy Benasso was playing a casual game of tennis with her father on a summer Saturday when she felt her knee pop. She had torn a meniscus, one of the friction-reducing pads in the knee, locking it in place at a 45-degree angle.

    Although she suspected she had torn something, the 21-year-old senior at the University of Colorado Boulder had to endure an anxious weekend in July 2019 until she could get an MRI that Monday.

    "It was kind of emotional for her," said her father, Steve Benasso. "Just sitting there thinking about all the things she wasn't going to be able to do."

    At the UCHealth Steadman Hawkins Clinic Denver, the MRI confirmed the tear, and she was scheduled for surgery on Thursday. Her father, who works in human resources, told her exactly what to ask the clinic regarding her insurance coverage.

    Steve had double-checked that the hospital; the surgeon, Dr. James Genuario; and Genuario's clinic were all within her Cigna health plan's network.

    "We were pretty conscious going into it," he said.

    Isabel met with Genuario's physician assistant on Wednesday, and the following day underwent a successful meniscus repair operation.

    "I had already gotten a ski pass at that point," Isabel said. "So that was depressing." But she was heartened to hear that with time and rehab she would get back to her active lifestyle.

    Then a letter arrived that portended bills to come.

    The patient: Izzy Benasso, a 21-year-old college student covered by her mother's Cigna health plan.

    The total bill: $96,377 for the surgery was billed by the hospital, Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colo., part of HealthONE, a division of the for-profit hospital chain HCA. It accepted a $3,216.60 payment from the insurance company, as well as $357.40 from the Benassos, as payment in full. The surgical assistant billed separately for $1,167.

    Service provider: Eric Griffith, a surgical assistant who works as an independent contractor.

    Medical service: Outpatient arthroscopic knee surgery to repair the meniscus.

    What gives: The Benassos had stumbled into a growing trend in health care: third-party surgical assistants who aren't part of a hospital staff or a surgeon's practice. They tend to stay out-of-network with health plans, either accepting what a health plan will pay them or billing the patient directly. That, in turn, is leading to many surprise bills.

    Even before any other medical bills showed up, Izzy received a notice from someone whose name she didn't recognize.

    "I'm writing this letter as a courtesy to remind you of my presence during your surgery," the letter read.

    It came from Eric Griffith, a Denver-based surgical assistant. He went on to write that he had submitted a claim to her health plan requesting payment for his services, but that it was too early to know whether the plan would cover his fee. It didn't talk dollars and cents.

    Steve Benasso said he was perplexed by the letter's meaning, adding: "We had never read or heard of anything like that before."

    Surgical assistants are not medical doctors, but serve as an extra set of hands for surgeons, allowing them to concentrate on the technical aspects of the surgery. Oftentimes other surgeons or physician assistants — or, in teaching hospitals, medical residents or surgical fellows — fill that role at no extra charge. But some doctors rely on certified surgical assistants, who generally have an undergraduate science degree, complete a 12- to 24-month training program and then pass a certification exam.

    Surgeons generally decide when they need surgical assistants, although the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services maintains lists of procedures for which a surgical assistant can and cannot bill. Meniscus repair is on the list of allowed procedures.

    A Sky Ridge spokesperson said that it is the responsibility of the surgeon to pre-authorize the use and payment of a surgical assistant during outpatient surgery, and that HealthOne hospitals do not hire surgical assistants. Neither the assistant nor the surgeon works directly for the hospital. UC School of Medicine, the surgeon's employer, declined requests for comment from Genuario.

    Karen Ludwig, executive director of the Association of Surgical Assistants, estimates that 75% of certified surgical assistants are employed by hospitals, while the rest are independent contractors or work for surgical assistant groups.

    "We're seeing more of the third parties," said Dr. Karan Chhabra, a surgeon and health policy researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School. "This is an emerging area of business."

    And it can be lucrative: Some of the larger surgical assistant companies are backed by private equity investment. Private equity firms often target segments of the health care system where patients have little choice in who provides their care. Indeed, under anesthesia for surgery, patients are often unaware the assistants are in the operating room. The private equity business models include keeping such helpers out-of-network so they can bill patients for larger amounts than they could negotiate from insurance companies.

    Surgical assistants counter that many insurance plans are unwilling to contract with them.

    "They're not interested," said Luis Aragon, a Chicago-area surgical assistant and managing director of American Surgical Professionals, a private equity-backed group in Houston.

    Chhabra and his colleagues at the University of Michigan recently found that 1 in 5 privately insured patients undergoing surgery by in-network doctors at in-network facilities still receive a surprise out-of-network bill. Of those, 37% are from surgical assistants — tied with anesthesiologists as the most frequent offenders. The researchers found 13% of arthroscopic meniscal repairs resulted in surprise bills, at an average of $1,591 per bill.

    Colorado has surprise billing protections for consumers like the Benassos who have state-regulated health plans. But state protections don't apply to the 61% of American workers who have self-funded employer plans. Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, which helps consumers dispute surprise bills, has seen a lot of cases involving surgical assistants, said Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement.

    Resolution: Initially, the Benassos ignored the missive. Izzy didn't recall meeting Griffith or being told a surgical assistant would be involved in her case.

    But a month and a half later, when Steve logged on to check his daughter's explanation of benefits, he saw that Griffith had billed the plan for $1,167. Cigna had not paid any of it.

    Realizing then that the assistant was likely out-of-network, Steve sent him a letter saying "we had no intention of paying."

    Griffith declined to comment on the specifics of the Benasso case but said he sends letters to every patient so no one is surprised when he submits a claim.

    "With all the different people talking to you in preop, and the stress of surgery, even if we do meet, they may forget who I was or that I was even there," he said. "So the intention of the letter is just to say, 'Hey, I was part of your surgery.' "

    After KHN inquired, Cigna officials reviewed the case and Genuario's operative report, determined that the services of an assistant surgeon were appropriate for the procedure and approved Griffith's claim. Because Griffith was an out-of-network provider, Cigna applied his fee to Benasso's $2,000 outpatient deductible. The Benassos have not received a bill for that fee.

    Griffith says insurers often require more information before determining whether to pay for a surgical assistant's services. If the plan pays anything, he accepts that as payment in full. If the plan pays nothing, Griffith usually bills the patient.

    The takeaway: As hospitals across the country restart elective surgeries, patients should be aware of this common pitfall — and realize it's a fee they may have no recourse but to pay if their state doesn't have protections against surprise billing.

    Chhabra said he's hearing more anecdotal reports about insurance plans simply not paying for surgical assistants, which leaves the patient stuck with the bill.

    Chhabra said patients should ask their surgeons before surgery whether an assistant will be involved and whether that assistant is in-network.

    "There are definitely situations where you need another set of hands to make sure the patient gets the best care possible," he said. But "having a third party that is intentionally out-of-network or having a colleague who's a surgeon who's out-of-network — those are the situations that don't really make a lot of financial or ethical sense."

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    Source: NPR 

  • 23 Jul 2020 8:01 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)


    Jun 22, 2020, 07:00 ET

    NEW YORK, June 22, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Namely, the leading HR platform for mid-sized companies, having recently analyzed aggregated data from its popular time and attendance management functionality, today released its findings regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on "paid time off" (PTO) requests. In January and February 2020, PTO requests stayed almost exactly the same as they did in 2019. As stay-at-home orders became mainstream in March 2020, Namely's platform saw a year-over-year decline in PTO requests (36 percent of employees requested off in March 2019 versus only 27 percent in March 2020); yet, the average length of requests was longer. In April 2020, employees requesting PTO plunged to 18 percent on average versus 38 percent during the same month in 2019. By May 2020, as restrictions started to lift, PTO requests were on the rise again, although still significantly lower (24 percent of employees requesting off) than in May 2019 (38 percent of employees requesting off).

    According to a 2019 study by WorldatWork, 37 percent of employees do not use their allotted paid time off each year. To encourage utilization of this critical benefit, some organizations have established a "use or lose" policy. With so much uncertainty in today's workplace, a clearly stated vacation policy with an automated approval process helps employees feel empowered to take the time they've earned.

    Industry analyst Madeline Laurano, Founder of Aptitude Research, commented, "COVID-19 has disrupted almost every aspect of work-life balance, from work-from-home to homeschooling. While it might feel like taking paid time off doesn't make sense right now, unplugging during the summer months can help employees manage the burnout of these pandemic times. In fact, it can actually result in improved productivity and employee engagement."

    Namely's CEO Larry Dunivan added, "With travel restrictions in place, it might seem counterintuitive to take time off; however, taking a break from work can be restorative. Giving managers visibility into schedules in advance and communicating the ground rules to everyone ensures employees can leverage their PTO benefits. In helping employees achieve some of those restorative benefits, Namely added two company holidays and offered summer hours in July and August to encourage employees towards this objective."

    Namely tracks PTO request data annually and compares the current year against the previous year. PTO – as in vacation requests – is tracked separately from longer-term leave requests. Data was normalized for fluctuations related to COVID-19.

    For more information about Namely's time and attendance software, including online time tracking, mobile/geo-fenced time tracking, scheduling and reporting, please visit

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    Source: Namely

  • 21 Jul 2020 9:01 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    AUTHOR: Jim Stinson | PUBLISHED - July 16, 2020

    Dive Brief:

    • J.B. Hunt agreed to settle a February 2019 lawsuit alleging California drivers were misclassified as independent contractors (Duy Nam Ly, et al. v. J.B. Hunt Transport Inc. No. 2:19-cv-01334 (C.D. Calif. July 6, 2020)). The drivers' filing seeks approval for the settlement, which would award 312 drivers an average of $20,000. The total value of the settlement was pegged at $6.5 million by law firm Marlin & Saltzman.
    • In the most significant claim, J.B. Hunt allegedly failed "to reimburse for necessary business expenses" under California labor law, but the drivers also alleged failure to give breaks and failure to meet minimum pay levels. The claims came after J.B. Hunt allegedly put the drivers under Intermodal Independent Contractor Operating Agreements (ICOA), which asserted drivers were responsible for paying their expenses.
    • The case hinged on the drivers' claim that J.B. Hunt misclassified them, a huge labor policy issue in California. The lawsuit turned into a mediation and ended as attorneys for both sides agreed they did not want the case to drag on for years, according to the filing.

    Dive Insight:

    The J.B. Hunt case could have turned into a major application of the California Supreme Court's decision, Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, an April 30, 2018, ruling. The decision rocked California employers, who were thus instructed to classify persons as independent contractors only if they met three criteria.

    Those criteria became known as the "ABC test." California companies, from trucking firms to hair salons, could classify workers as independent contractors if: 

    (A) The worker is free from the hirer's control and direction in connection with the performance of the work while under the contract for the performance of such work.

    (B) The worker performs a job that is outside the usual scope of the hiring entity’s business.

    (C) The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

    The drivers claimed they did not qualify to be listed as independent contractors, yet were denied meal and rest breaks, as well as minimum pay. The alleged expenses claimed exceeded $17 million, according to the filing.

    It was not the first time J.B. Hunt has disputed California labor policy. In February 2018, J.B. Hunt asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the state's meal-and-break law. Under California law, employees must get a 30-minute food break if they work more than five hours a day. Employees who work more than 10 hours a day must receive a second 30-minute food break, according to Shouse California Law Group.

    J.B. Hunt said California could not override federal law, which does not require meal or break periods. And on this point, California labor law has been hotly disputed by the California Trucking Association (CTA), which has sued to nullify AB5's effect on trucking.

    In May, 13 industry groups and trucking firms signed on to four amicus briefs in support of the CTA in the AB5 lawsuit. Proceedings are ongoing in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The main argument against AB5 by trucking officials is that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 prevents states from legislating policy "related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier … with respect to the transportation of property."

    J.B. Hunt officials did not immediately return a request for comment. The drivers will go to court on Aug. 17 in a Los Angeles federal court to seek approval of the agreement.

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    Source: HR Dive

  • 21 Jul 2020 8:47 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)


    Hailey Mensik


    July 17, 2020

    Dive Brief:

    • An estimated 48 million non-elderly people in the U.S. could be part of a household in which someone loses a job due to COVID-19 between April and December, according to an analysis from the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. As a result, more than 10 million people may lose employer-sponsored health insurance during that time.
    • Some 3.3 million people are expected to regain insurance by being added to another family member's policy while 2.8 million people will enroll in Medicaid.
    • Another 600,000 people are expected to enroll in the individual market through the Affordable Care Act's marketplace. Still, 3.5 million people are expected to become uninsured.

    Dive Insight:

    Despite some gains in June, the U.S. unemployment rate is hovering around 11%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This February, the U.S. unemployment rate was 3.5%.

    The latest findings predict ongoing pandemic-related job losses will lead to widespread loss of coverage, using projections on employment losses by industry, state, and demographic characteristics regularly published by the U.S. Department of Labor.

    Of the 48 million expected to lose a job during the period, about 34% of the workers and family members experiencing job loss within the family had insurance through another family member's job, while 27% were covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program prior to the pandemic. 

    Roughly a fifth of the group received insurance tied to the job they lost due to the pandemic. A smaller share were covered in plans through the non-group market, other public programs or were not insured. 

    Researchers also found that higher percentages of people will lose their coverage in states that did not expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. Some 13 states, including many that have seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, have yet to expand Medicaid, including Florida and Texas.

    The report estimates 34% of people losing employer coverage will become uninsured in Medicaid expansion states, and that number will hike to 55% in non-expansion states.

    "The economic disruption caused by COVID-19 is a test of the safety net health insurance programs created under the Affordable Care Act," the study said. Unemployed workers who lost their employer-sponsored coverage may become eligible for one of the two major subsidized coverage programs established by the ACA: the Medicaid expansion for people with low incomes, and the ACA marketplaces.

    It's the latest in myriad reports attempting to quantify the very real affects of the pandemic on the number of insured. 

    recent study from Families USA estimates 5.4 million Americans have lost coverage amid the pandemic between February and May, while Kaiser Family Foundation estimates 27 million Americans lost coverage between March and May.

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    Source: HR Dive

  • 21 Jul 2020 8:32 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)
    How Working Remotely Affects Productivity | Dave Rocker
    Mary Baker - Gartner
    July 14, 2020

    Now Organizations Must Manage a More Complex, Hybrid Workforce

    A Gartner, Inc. survey on June 5 of 127 company leaders, representing HR, Legal and Compliance, Finance and Real Estate, revealed 82% of respondents intend to permit remote working some of the time as employees return to the workplace. For many organizations with employees working both onsite and remotely, adapting to a new, more complex hybrid workforce is the challenge as how people work together to get their job done evolves.

    Nearly half (47%) said they intend to allow employees to work remotely full time going forward. For some organizations, flex time will be the new norm as 43% of survey respondents reported they will grant employees flex days, while 42% will provide flex hours (see Figure 1).

    “The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a huge experiment in widespread remote working,” said Elisabeth Joyce, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice. “As business leaders plan and execute reopening of their workplaces, they are evaluating more permanent remote working arrangements as a way to meet employee expectations and to build more resilient business operations.”

    Figure 1: Company leader intentions regarding flexible working after COVID-19

    Company leader intentions regarding flexible working after COVID-19

    Organizations that are welcoming employees back to the workplace are instituting a variety of safety measures. Respondents were nearly unanimous in planning to limit face-to-face meetings (94%) and providing protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer (91%). Eighty-three percent of respondents said they intend to limit or sequence employee attendance at the workplace.

    “The question now facing many organizations is not how to manage a remote workforce, but how to manage a more complex, hybrid workforce,” said Ms. Joyce. “While remote work isn’t new, the degree of remote work moving forward will change how people work together to get their job done.”

    As employers move toward a hybrid workforce, the productivity of remote employees is a frequent topic of conversation. However, just 13% of business leaders voiced concerns over sustaining productivity. While 61% of business leaders surveyed by Gartner have implemented more frequent manager-employee check-ins, 29% report not taking any measures to track productivity remotely.

    Among the challenges of managing a hybrid workforce, 30% of business leaders are most concerned with maintaining corporate culture. Thirteen percent of respondents reported concern over creating parity between the remote and in-office experience; 13% also are concerned about providing a seamless employee experience.

    “It is critical that employers get their corporate culture and employee experience right during this period of uncertainty,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “Both facets help ensure organizations achieve the financial, reputation and talent outcomes that will drive business outcomes and competitive advantage.

    Gartner for HR clients can learn more by viewing the webinar Return to the Workplace: Benchmarking Against Your Peers.

    CHROs and HR leaders can learn more about how to lead organizations through the disruption of coronavirus in the Gartner coronavirus resource center for HR, a collection of complimentary Gartner research and webinars to help organizations globally respond, manage and prepare for the next phase of COVID-19.

    About Gartner

    Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve their mission-critical priorities today and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.

    Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most. We are a trusted advisor and an objective resource for more than 15,000 enterprises in more than 100 countries — across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size.

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    Source: Gartner 

  • 14 Jul 2020 9:33 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    AUTHOR - Ryan Golden | PUBLISHED - July 9, 2020

    As the COVID-19 pandemic creeps into July, many employees are rescheduling, rethinking or outright canceling vacation and holiday plans. That's causing employers to question whether paid time off (PTO) policies are prepared to handle the fallout.

    The pandemic had already disrupted employee benefits plans, and not just due to the impact of furloughs, layoffs and other employment actions. Healthcare has seen a dramatic shift in care delivery with the rise of virtual care. And specialized employee benefits, like fertility treatment, have been affected by shutdowns.

    Yet state and local stay-at-home orders and other similar policies persist, and employees may find limited options to simply get away from work. Faced with that challenge, many are cutting back: a May survey of U.S. workers by Robert Half found more than one third planned to save vacation time for later in the year, and more than one quarter said they would take fewer days off compared to last summer.

    "Universally, we're hearing from employers that employees are taking less time off than they would have when the pandemic started," Rich Fuerstenberg, senior partner at HR consulting firm Mercer, said in an interview. Jamie Coakley, VP of people at New York-based information technology services firm Electric, concurred in an email statement: "Many employees have paused upcoming vacation plans, not only for fear of traveling and keeping their families safe — but in many cases, because they're anxious about job security as well."

    The trend has implications not only for employee well-being, but also for employers and their policies, even organizations that crafted leave policies to be flexible and prepared for any situation. "These plans got stress tested," Fuerstenberg said. Employers might have thought those policies were meeting employees' needs, but in light of the pandemic, he noted, "maybe it turns out they don't."

    How to handle accrual

    Accrual is likely to be the biggest issue in this space moving forward. Some companies employ use- it-or-lose-it rules that require workers to use the leave they've accrued before the end of the year, Fuerstenberg said. But it could be equally problematic for large numbers of workers to hold onto that leave at the end of the year, assuming travel restrictions ease up.

    "That's an issue that gets compounded when employers start to look forward to the second part of the year," he added. "You have employers saying that all hands are on deck, and that we need to make up for sales lost earlier in the year, but employees saying they have all this paid time off." Fuerstenberg said he thinks employers may be especially worried about the implications of deferred time off during the holiday season.

    Employers may decide to strategize around the problem in a variety of ways. One option is to change PTO rollover rules and extend the amount of time in which workers may take accrued leave, potentially after December. "While we've heard from many employers who have chosen to relax their 'use it or lose it' policies on vacations this year, it has definitely not happened across the board," Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, told HR Dive in an email. Managers at companies that have not relaxed such policies should ensure employees are aware so that they don't leave unused vacation days on the table, he added.

    Others have simply asked employees to take their accrued time sooner rather than later to avoid the problem of a "glut" of paid leave later in the year, Fuerstenburg said, even if there's nowhere for employees to go due to shutdowns. Employers might opt to close up shop entirely, he added, putting the entire organization on vacation.

    A broader call to action?

    Employers might also need to re-evaluate PTO policies on a more fundamental level, Fuerstenberg noted. Some of the clients he has spoken with are making more major tweaks, like moving to an unlimited PTO policy to preliminarily deal with accrual rates that are already building up.

    Recent research shows a fair amount of organizations are at least willing to have a conversation about the issue. An April survey of employers by Willis Towers Watson found that one-third of the 816 respondents planned to make changes to their PTO or vacation programs. And in the Robert Half survey, 25% of employees said their manager encouraged them to take time off.

    Regardless of the difficulties posed by travel restrictions, sources generally agreed on the need for employers to encourage workers to take time off during the pandemic. "If your employee is concerned about going on a trip, encourage a 'staycation' to at least take the planned time for themselves," Coakley said. "Everyone needs to reset at some point and that time will give room to come back with a fresh mind — ultimately allowing them to be more engaged and productive."

    At Robert Half, managers are reinforcing this message at "every touchpoint," McDonald said, indicating to workers their concern for employee well-being. "This pandemic has forced organizations to be more creative and innovative in the way they serve their clients and do their work, and actually getting some time away to reset will offer the even greater benefit of boosting creativity and helping with overall productivity and happiness."

    Sudden shifts to a remote work environment have brought, among other things, a sense of repetitiveness to the employee experience, Fuerstenburg said — he compared it to the movie "Groundhog Day" — and this can cause even more burnout and stress for employees than usual. But managers, executives and other organizational leaders must be willing to lead by example, he noted, so employees feel comfortable taking the time they need.

    "If that means your vacation spot is not a cruise, so be it," Fuerstenberg said. "Still, it's important to unplug and recharge and not be working all day every day."

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    Source: HR Dive

  • 14 Jul 2020 9:24 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Career Mapping Guide

    David Rice | 07/09/2020

    The fallout of COVID-19 has been significant for companies as HR teams scrambled to cope with the implications for their people and business models. As the dust has settled, life has needed to go on with the business facing new challenges, whether that is an increase in demand or figuring out new ways to keep things running.

    To do it, HR leaders are having to encourage their current workforces to adopt a different mindset, one centered on flexibility and what’s best for the business as well as themselves. COVID has created a great deal of uncertainty, but problems can be mitigated through encouraging an open mind and creating meaningful discourse around career mapping and reskilling.

    Reskilling or upskilling is something you hear a lot about these days. The focus for the current workforce typically falls into one of a few areas:  

    • Preparing people for the challenges of tomorrow
    • Making people more flexible to deal with the current situation
    • Helping employees create new paths forward

    Doing something that creates any one of these things as a result is a win-win for both people and the organization, but executing it is easier said than done. Rhonda Hall, VP of HR and Organizational Development for University Federal Credit Union reminds us, it’s important to keep in mind that effective reskilling and career mapping is a journey, not an exercise.

    “When HR folks are talking about reskilling employees, the main focus should be two-fold: what serves the employee best and what serves the business best,” Hall said. “It is the careful balance of these two things that will ultimately result in success for all. Skewed too heavily toward the business, and you end up with a disgruntled employee. Skewed too much toward the employee, and you end up with roles and people in roles that the business can’t support long term. When walking the reskilling balance beam, be up front that reskilling isn’t a “one and done” experience. It should be gradual, with levels in mind, and iterative.”

    The Keys to Career Mapping

    Patience is indeed a necessity in effective career mapping. The fact is, employees are dealing with a lot right now, from the uncertainty around the economy to the ongoing stress around health hazards and social issues. To keep them engaged in thinking about their future within the organization, the career mapping and reskilling conversation has to be personal and transparent.

    “Each reskilling event for each organization, for each position, is customized and could be any or all three of these (the bullets listed above), at any time,” Hall said. “If people think of this as a linear path, they will be frustrated. If thought of in a cyclical manner though, satisfaction is possible. For me, transparency is the key. An organization has to be willing to be transparent, to tell it like it is, help people understand what that means for them, and then together, through two-way dialogue design a path that works for that role and that employee, and they may be different for different roles and people.”

    HR professionals can likely guess the impact of not doing this. It’s likely that without some engagement and improvement to the employee experience in how they’re growth and path forward is discussed, HR teams are going to have to spend a lot of time on recruitment and talent acquisition when things to return to something resembling normal.

    “COVID has rocked our worlds,” Hall said. “Employees are being asked and given opportunities to flex their mental skills like never before. Shame on the company that doesn’t take the time to learn how that experience was for each employee.”

    The Conversation

    Hall suggests that companies should be looking forward to the individual dialogues that career mapping creates. The questions they should look for answers to include things like:

    • What did you like and not like about shifting to support another area?
    • Did you feel prepared to be successful at the beginning?
    • How did you learn the new role, processes and systems?
    • What about 30 days and 90 days into it, did you find that you did enjoy certain parts of the work? Which parts?
    • What fears did you have coming into that new/expanded role? What about now, what fears do you have now that you’ve been there for 4 months?
    • What else interests you? Where else would you like to learn more?

    An organization that takes the time to learn what that experience was like for their employee, how they handled the change, and where they see themselves now and in the future is an organization that will increase their employee engagement and in the end have more satisfied employees. But Hall warns, this process is not entirely down to HR.

    “The caution I have, is that this isn’t HR’s role, this is Leadership’s role,” Hall said. “Leadership should be skilled and trained by HR to be ready to have these conversations, and to be able to create a report out of what they learned to be consumed across the leadership team with HR at the table. It is in this manner that we as leaders grow to better understand our employees’ passion, strengths and opportunities.”

    Career mapping conversations aren’t always comfortable, requiring a patient and empathetic approach that puts the employee at the center to help them see the possibilities.

    “Enter into the conversation with a desire to understand what the experience has been like for that employee,” Hall said. “It’s the basic ‘seek first to understand’ approach that will make this conversation most effective. Approach with admiration, empathy and be inquisitive. Don’t judge their experience or their reaction to their experience, but hear it, honor it, and learn from it. If you listen deeply, beyond what is said, but also to what’s not said, you as an HR person will learn so much more and will be best poised to help that employee through this and future transitions.”

    Building Business Resilience

    For some businesses, coping with COVID-19 has meant re-evaluating their operational models. Supply chains have been disrupted and the budget to dip into the talent pool for a solution eroded. Even for those who have seen business boom or had little impact on what they do, it’s made clear the risk of not examining operational effectiveness and preparing for the unforeseeable.

    A report from McKinsey & Company has taken a closer look at the talent landscape following the impact of COVID-19 and relays a message of needing to reskill and upskill the workforce to deliver on post pandemic business models.

    For all the talk of automation, AI and remote work disrupting the workforce coming into 2020, it’s been a human factor (Coronavirus) that actually did change the way we do things and in the end it’s the human factors that are going deliver results in the future. Companies need to invest time into developing talent strategies which develop the digital capabilities of their people, along with their cognitive and soft skills to create a workforce that is adaptable and capable of rising to future challenges.

    “Developing a digitally ready workforce requires assessing your company’s current talent in terms of both hard and soft skills. You also need to understand their passion for learning and curiosity,” writes Yoland Lau for Forbes. “Support continuous, ongoing learning within your team, and help individuals develop the best personal learning pathway. Developing digitally ready talent isn’t a one-size-fits-all journey.”

    As of right now, there is something of a talent supply and demand imbalance. Gig economy workers, for example, may need to find work in related industries but under different conditions. Think of an Uber driver turning to something like Shipt or Amazon for example. More and more consumers are turning to e-commerce, meaning there may not be as much need in sectors such as retail or even hospitality and already we’ve seen stories of hospitality workers turning to things such as senior care as a new avenue of opportunity. That adjustment, however, takes a significant amount of reskilling and training for them to be effective.

    It’s possible that some jobs which were offshored in recent decades may be brought closer to the point of sale in an effort to increase the effectiveness of supply chains. The automotive and manufacturing industries have already been on an automation journey for some time, but developing a digitally capable workforce closer to home is needed in order to make that new business model work.

    The Learning Investment

    Businesses have been ramping up their investment in developing a learning ecosystem, an environment where a variety of learning tools help drive employee development. At this stage, budgets dedicated to learning should not only be protected, but further increased to sufficiently meet the needs associated with the development of new business models.

    As organizations identify the skills their new models rely on, they then have to tailor learning journeys that will help their people tackle the challenges the organization faces. Those critical skill gaps may not be easy to bridge, so, as the McKinsey report emphasized, be prepared to test different strategies and develop iterations.

    Amazon, for example, recently partnered with Merit America, a non-profit dedicated to helping middle skill workers chart a path toward skilled technology careers. It’s part of its Career Choice initiative which aims to help prepare hourly employees for career opportunities in tech fields. Amazon employees can now take advantage of Merit America's training programs, which pair job-focused online learning with career coaching and mentorship. 

    "The mass displacement of workers that has resulted from the pandemic represents an unprecedented opportunity -- and responsibility -- to reimagine training and hiring, and ensure that the most vulnerable Americans don't get left behind," said Rebecca Taber, Founder and co-CEO of Merit America. "This program reflects Amazon's commitment to investing in its people -- in ways that can not only close critical near-term skill gaps, but also create opportunities for their employees in the long term."

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    Source:  HR Exchange Network

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