The Modern Office & Managing the Risk

modern officeToday’s employers are placing a premium on employee wellness and engagement. And rightfully so, hard working employees deserve some love. But in addition to doing right by their people, businesses that provide comprehensive wellness plans and lifestyle perks for their employees are realizing huge benefits from it. But with more unconventional and physical activities going on in the office, there comes a whole new set of risks for employers.

Let’s talk about what employers are doing for their people, how it’s working, and how to manage the risks involved in the modern office.

A New Age of Employee Engagement

Now more than ever organizations in business are truly investing in their people. Employee perks and benefits are evolving to an all new level thanks to forward-thinking companies like Google with state of the art fitness facilities, fully stocked game rooms, free bicycles and more cool perks for employees. Who ever thought we’d see a rock climbing wall at the office?  Googles’ perks go so deep that past and current Google employees have gone online to list their favorite perks working for Google.

Here are Some Common Contemporary Employee Benefits, Perks and Activities

  • Fitness gyms
  • Yoga, Karate, Pilates studios
  • Basketball courts
  • Table games: Ping Pong, Foosball, Billiards, etc.
  • Video games
  • Reading rooms
  • Massage chairs
  • On Site Pet Care
  • And yes, even rock climbing

A New Age of Risk

Not to be a wet blanket, but you can get hurt playing Ping Pong, and the bottom line is: If you’re putting perks and activities in place that present the potential for an accident or injury, you have a responsibility to manage the risk and provide the safest environment possible for your employees. So, before you put up the basketball hoop, put some basic risk management measures in place.

Here are some simple things that you can do to manage the risks involved with lifestyle perks:

Liability Waivers: If you’re offering activities with any level of physicality or potential for injury, it’s a common best practice to get signed waivers from participants…even if it’s only Ping Pong.

Medical Clearance: Depending on the physical level of the activities you make available, you may consider requiring clearance from a doctor before employees may participate in any activities.

Restrict Access: To reduce employer risks, allow only employees of the company (and not friends and family) to take advantage of the amenities (Gym, Sports Court, etc).

Safety Programs: Institute a safety education program covering the equipment and activities, and post safety guidelines in game rooms, gyms, and on ball courts or playing fields.

Get Covered: If you’re thinking of providing any new perks or benefits for your employees, make sure that you have adequate liability and workers’ comp  insurance coverage in place (yes, even if it’s ping pong).

The modern office landscape is changing, and with this new era of employee engagement and all of the perks that go with it, a new set of risks arise. So, if you’re considering taking your benefits package to the next level, talk to us at Sinclair. We specialize in measuring your risk and covering your exposure. We’re also Liability and Workers’ Comp experts, so this is right up our alley.

Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director
shudspeth@srfm.com

Why your business needs a wellness program

Health Insurance and Large Groups — Understand How Your Premiums Are Calculated

?????????????????????????????????As an employer, one of the most valuable benefits you can offer to your employees is health insurance. For larger groups of 51 employees or more, you’ll likely have group health insurance coverage. This is a policy you’ll typically purchase from a broker (so you get the best deal) that you can then offer to all of your eligible employees. Around 98% of large employers (businesses with more than 200 employees) provide health coverage to some or all of their people.

These types of health insurance policies are great for your employees

Large group policies have several advantages over small group or individual health insurance plans:

  • The employer typically pays half or more of an employee’s premiums.
  • Premium only plans (POP) mean employees can pay premiums out of their pre-tax incomes.
  • This results in significantly subsidized premiums, meaning happier employees.
  • You get a healthier, better motivated workforce.

The health insurance cost is calculated slightly differently for large groups

The cost of large group policies is typically worked out when the employer decides to purchase, rather than being a fixed rate. The premiums, coverage, deductibles, and benefits are normally based on several factors:

  • The number of employees participating.
  • The type of coverage needed.
  • The amount of payments, deductibles, and benefits desired.
  • An employer’s prior claims history.

Individual employees don’t normally have to fill out health questionnaires, although employers may need to answer general questions on the health of their employees.

Other factors that can impact your health insurance premiums for large groups

Some insurers will also take the following into account:

  • The average age of the workforce.
  • Large claims that have been made by the employer previously.
  • The employer’s location — New York City is going to be more expensive than rural Wisconsin.
  • The gender makeup of the workforce.
  • The sector an employer works in — Premiums for constructions workers are going to be higher than for a retail shoe store.

All of these factors will feed into the calculations, coverage, benefits, and premiums.

Differences in health insurance premiums between small and large groups

If we look at a typical health insurance plan for a family, an employee will generally contribute:

  • In small groups — Around 35% of the premium.
  • In large groups — Around 25% of the premium.

There’s less of a burden on employees in large group health insurance plans.

If you’re a large employer, you must offer health insurance

The Affordable Care Act requires that employers of more than 50 people must offer affordable health plans to their ‘Full Time Equivalent” employees. The penalties for not providing this type of cover are:

  • Mandate Penalty — This comes into effect if an employer does not offer group health coverage. It’s calculated at $2,000 per employee, after the first 30 employees.
  • Qualification Penalty — This applies if an employer does not offer a “qualifying plan.” Qualifying plans must offer a certain minimum standard of coverage, and must be affordable to employees. The penalty is $3,000 per employee that does not get qualifying coverage and purchases a policy through the health insurance Marketplace.

The best way to make sure you get an affordable policy, and your employees get the coverage they need, is to use a specialist health insurance broker. They can help you navigate the complicated areas of health insurance and make sure you get the support you need to make the right choice.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

Keeping Up With the Evolving Workplace

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????With the age of Millennials gaining a stronghold in the workforce comes the dawn of the modern workplace. Times are changing surrounding how we hire and train, what we do to retain employees, and the dynamics within the office environment itself. Employees are seeing companies through different lenses these days, and employers have to rethink their employee strategies in order to attract and retain the best new talent.

Change is good, and if you want to keep up it’s time to let go of the past, embrace the present, and see into the future. The business landscape is evolving, and we’re going to discuss some things you can do to make sure you’re positioned to grow with it.

The Office in 2016

Increased technology, a path for growth, and a fresh view from management of workplace dynamics are what employees are expecting in today’s modern office. Millennials are vetting employers more deeply than ever and making choices on where they want to work based on culture, values, perks, and growth opportunities. Millennials want more than just a paycheck, and to attract the best up and coming talent, employers have to offer more. Let’s talk about what that means.

Keeping Up With The Times

One of the top criteria that Millennials use for deciding whether or not to sign on with a company is the quality of the management. Quality of management comes in many forms and is relevant on multiple levels. Here’s what I mean:

Technology: Does it seem like technology developments are moving faster and faster with each passing year? It seems that way, because it is that way. A company that doesn’t embrace and leverage new technology sends a message to employees (and potential employees) that you’re ok remaining stagnant and not so interested in embracing growth and change. This is a red flag for discerning Millennials who are ever-so-searching for upward growth.

Flexibility: As the workplace changes, so do our workdays. The traditional 9 to 5 is a thing of the past in many business settings, and employers are embracing more unconventional methods like implementing 4 day work weeks and allowing more telecommuting. This tells prospective employees that management takes a smart approach to cutting costs and streamlining operations which also allows for a more balanced work-life dynamic for the employee. It’s a winner with Millennial for sure.

Wellness: Employees expect more from the workplace in terms of personal development. They ask the question: If I spend 8 to 10 to 12 hours a day at my job, what am I getting out of it besides a sense of achievement and a paycheck? Wellness programs are an essential part of any companies’ employee strategy. An investment in the health and wellbeing of employees not only improves the quality of life for workers, it’s proven to increase productivity and it lowers insurance rates for the business.

What can a company do to keep up with the times?

Don’t be Fred Flintstone: Nothing is more frustrating for employees than outdated technology that slows down their day. Provide the right tools for your people and it goes a long way in improving their happiness and increasing their productivity. Assess and upgrade equipment as needed like; Phones, Computers, and Printers and if they say “Made in Bedrock” on the bottom, get an upgrade.

Limber Up: Consider some alternatives to the 8 hour workday if they make sense for your business model. Will a four day week work fly? Can some of your people telecommute part of the time? If the answer is yes, test out some of these options, they could save you money and increase productivity.

Take Care of Your People: If you don’t have a dedicated Wellness Program, get one started. A comprehensive wellness program is an attractive benefit for prospective employees and it will pay you back in spades, by way of:

  • Lowered health care costs.
  • Reduced absenteeism.
  • Higher employee productivity.
  • Reduced workers’ compensation and disability-related costs.
  • Reduced occurrences of injuries.
  • Improved employee morale and loyalty.

Step up Your Game: If you have a wellness program in place, great, you’re on the right track. Consistent growth and improvement of your wellness offerings tells employees that they mean something to the company and are worth the investment. Think about expanding your program and even throwing in some lifestyle benefits in the office like; Yoga classes, fitness areas, and even allowing pets in the office.

Millennials love to see that a company is invested in their personal and professional growth; I think we all like to see that. So, especially in this age of the evolving workplace it’s important for employers to stay up with the times, embrace the changes, and provide a culture that’s attractive to up and coming talent.

At Sinclair we’re dedicated to Employee Wellness. We look at an organization from every angle and we will customize a wellness program focused on developing a healthier and happier workforce in your business. Get in touch with us today to see what we can do for you.

Matt Bauer
President
mbauer@srfm.com

11 Smart Financial Moves You Have to Make

The Power of an Open Office Space: Good or Evil?

open office spaceForward thinking iconic Silicon Valley organizations like Google and Facebook started the wave that is known as the open office space. The open office space is an office layout that removes all of the physical barriers between employees-No walls, no cubicles, just desks and people.

Born from the spirit of collaboration (and a desire to maximize productivity per square foot) open office layouts have been adopted by businesses all over the country. But has it been an epic win or an epic fail?  It’s both. Let me explain.

If you type in a search engine query for “open office space”, it doesn’t look so good for the open floor plan. You’ll see results claiming that the open office space is oppressive an environment, a nightmare, and likens the trend to a viral outbreak decimating businesses all over the world (that’s taking it a little far, but that’s the gist of it).

Yet there are still some organizations that sing the praises of the open office space and talk about the tangible benefits they’ve seen in workforce and their profits as a result. It’s obviously a mixed bag and it’s tough to call this one, so let’s break it down.

Here are some pros and cons from both sides of the discussion.

Open Floor Plan Praise

  • It  fosters collaboration
  • Employees feel more comfortable in the space
  • By stripping down physical barriers, it promotes an openness in communication which sparks camaraderie and establishes a stronger sense of team
  • It allows management to have a more hands on “real world” view of the office dynamics
  • Increases productivity

Open Floor Plan Complaints

  • No privacy
  • Causes anxiety in employees due to the fact that everything an employee does is “under the microscope”
  • Hard to concentrate and focus
  • Employees can feel that the interaction with coworkers is “forced” and uncomfortable
  • It causes a divide between employees in the open space and managers in their offices
  • Decreases productivity

 There are valid arguments on both sides of the coin (and some conflicting ones). On one side, the big dot com organizations embrace the concept and are reporting an increase in morale and productivity with the open floor plan in place. In fact in 2015, Facebook moved to a new facility and created the largest open office floor plan in the world.

So, if it’s working for the big guys, Can it be that bad?

Will the Open Office Space work for my business?

From what Facebook says, employees can thrive in the environment and your business can reap the benefits of increased morale and productivity.

 However, employees are people, we’re all unique individuals and what works for one of us, may not work for another. Giving employees no choice but to be on display in front of all of their coworkers will ultimately present a problem for some individuals.

 Organizations like Facebook and Pixar attract employees with the personality for it. That is, professionals who apply for jobs at those organizations know going in that the open floor plan is part of the culture, and it’s something they’re content with. So if you’re a business looking to make a switch to an open office space, it’s not something employees signed up for, so it could meet with some resistance.

Balance is Key: The Hybrid Floor Plan

If you’re thinking about shifting to an open floor plan, consider a hybrid that combines elements of both traditional and open plans. This mix will encourage the collaboration, and create a level of comfort that an open office space is meant for, and at the same time will give the employees an option for more privacy. Sounds like it could be a winner.

Here are a couple simple things to try:

·         Create an open office space floor plan but include some privacy rooms where employees can break away and be on their own, make phone calls, and have some privacy.

·         If space is an issue, conversely you can keep the traditional floor plan in place and create some “open areas” in the office where employees can break out in small groups to collaborate.

The Verdict

The idea of the open office space is a good one, but taken to the extreme it can apparently be problematic and counter-productive. The goal is to create a comfortable space for employees – a “home away from home” helps employees to feel good about their day when they’re putting in long hours. You have to first know your employees and what makes them tick, then you can create an environment that strikes a balance and works for your unique team.

The professionals at Sinclair have a proven history of success in Human Resources. Our staff has the ability to become an integral part of your organization, understanding your products and services, your culture, and your processes. Feel free to get in touch with us anytime for a consultation.

Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director
Why your business needs a wellness program

Are you ready to comply with the new DOL Overtime Payment Rules?

On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule regarding overtime wage payment qualifications for the “white collar exemptions” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

How does this rule affect your business? The final rule increases the salary an employee must be paid in order to qualify for a white collar exemption. The required salary level is increased to $47,476 per year and will be automatically updated every three years. The final rule does not modify the duties test employees must meet to qualify for a white collar exemption.

Employers will need to comply with this rule by Dec. 1, 2016.

Overtime Rule Change

How can you prepare yourself to comply with the new rule? Follow these steps:

  • Become familiar with the new rule and identify which employees will be affected. Employers should reclassify employees as exempt or non-exempt, as necessary, by Dec. 1, 2016.
  • Consider communicating any work schedule changes to affected employees before the date mentioned above.
  • Evaluate whether implementing new timekeeping practices and training for managers and supervisors on the new requirements is necessary.

The White Collar Exemption

The white collar exemptions are minimum wage and overtime pay exemptions available to certain administrative, professional, outside sales, computer and highly compensated employees.

To qualify for the white collar exemption, an employee must meet a salary basis test, a salary level test and a duties test – the employee must meet all three tests in order to be exempt from FLSA minimum wage or overtime pay requirements.

The three tests are outlined below:

  • The salary basis test is used to make sure the employee is paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction due to variations in the quality or quantity of work.
  • The salary level test is used to ensure that the employee meets a minimum specified amount to qualify for the exemption. This salary threshold provides employers with an objective and efficient way to determine whether an employee qualifies for a white collar exemption.
  • The duties test requires that the employee’s job duties conform to executive, administrative or professional duties, as defined by law. This analysis requires a more thorough evaluation of whether an employee can be classified in one of these categories: administrative, professional, outside sales, computer and highly compensated employee.

Higher Salary Threshold Requirement

The final rule increases the minimum salary level of $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to $913 per week or $47,476 per year. The new salary level represents the 40th percentile of wages earned by workers in the lowest-wage census region in the United States (currently the South) for a full-year worker.

The final rule also increases the $100,000 salary level for highly compensated individuals to $134,004 per year—the 90th percentile of wages earned by full-time workers across the entire United States.

These higher salary levels will be updated every three years to maintain the salary level at their corresponding 40th or 90th percentiles. The first automatic rate update is expected by Jan. 1, 2020. The DOL will publish updated rates in the Federal Register and on the Wage and Hour Division’s website at least 150 days before their effective date.

Calculating Employee Wages

Administrative, Executive and Professional Employees

The final rule will allow, for the first time, non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to be used to satisfy up to 10 percent of an employee’s standard salary level. This may include the payment of non-discretionary incentive bonuses tied to productivity and profitability. Non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments may be used if they are paid on a quarterly basis, but more frequent payments are acceptable. However, the DOL will allow employers to make some “catch-up payments.”

The DOL will also allow employers to use significantly large bonuses toward 10 percent of the required salary amount.

Highly Compensated Employees

Under the final rule, highly compensated employees qualify for an overtime exception if they meet the new salary level of $134,004 per year. However these individuals must receive at least the full standard salary amount each pay period (i.e., $913 per week, $1,826 bi-weekly or $3,956.33 per month) on a salary or fee basis (not counting non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments).

The remainder of a highly compensated employee’s wages may be calculated by including the full amount of non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions).

Impact on Employers

Given the significant increase in the salary level requirement, employers will need to increase employee salaries, or re-classify certain employees as either exempt or non-exempt, solely based on their salary level. The DOL estimates that this final rule extends overtime protections to approximately 4.2 million workers who are currently exempt under the white collar rules and clarifies overtime compensation eligibility for another 5.7 million white collar workers and 3.2 million salaried blue collar workers whose entitlement to overtime pay will no longer rely on the application of the duties test.

In addition, because of the short implementation deadline, employers should not delay becoming familiar with the new requirements and implementing any necessary changes into their timekeeping and payroll systems. Employers should also determine whether additional training on modifications is necessary for their managers and supervisors.

Finally, employers should also consider communicating with employees to inform them of how their wages, hours of work and timekeeping practices will be affected.

Enforcement and Compliance

Employers that fail to comply with the final rule may be subject to a variety of overtime wage payment enforcement mechanisms, including the ones listed below.

  • Private employee lawsuits: These lawsuits can be initiated by employees either individually or through collective action to recover back pay, interest, attorneys’ fees and court costs.
  • Administrative injunctions: These injunctions may include a prohibition on the shipment of goods in interstate commerce if the goods were produced in violation of the FLSA (including overtime wage payment provisions).
  • Civil fines for willful and repeated violations (up to $1,100 per violation).
  • Criminal charges for willful violations (up to $10,000 in fines, imprisonment for up to six months or both).

These laws can seem confusing and complex. If you have questions or need more information, please contact Sinclair Risk & Financial Management – we’re here to help!

Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director
Overtime Rule Changes

Making Healthcare Hit Home — How to Explain Group Benefits to Your Employees

group benefitsGroup Benefits are both the most important and the most valued benefit provided by employers. American workers regularly cite healthcare as one of the main factors affecting their employment decisions – good or bad. A good group plan provides your people with peace of mind and helps them be happier and more confident in life and work.  In the end, it’s a game changer on many levels when it comes to employee retention and satisfaction.

It’s a shame then that so many people find health plans confusing — whether it’s benefits, coverage, deductibles, premiums, or copays, the bewildering number of choices makes it difficult for employees to make the right decision. Let’s face it – insurance is complicated.

Why is choosing health insurance difficult for employees?

There are many reasons for this including:

  • The sheer number of plans available.
  • The difference in benefits and coverage between plans.
  • Not understanding how premiums and out-of-pocket costs will affect finances.
  • Differences between in-network and out-of-network providers.
  • And many more areas…

 How to make the decision easier

There are several things you can do to make things easier for your team, they include:

Get your employees involved in choosing and educating about group benefits:

Get your managers and team leaders involved so they have a good understanding of all group benefit options and are comfortable discussing it with their direct reports. A great idea would be to create a Benefits Team within your organization. Here’s how: take one employee from each department and create a team. Involve them in the process of decision making when it comes to all areas of group benefit insurance. This way, if a change in benefits is necessary, employees are armed with the reasons why. They can educate others on their team and throughout the company. This helps ward off any negative discussions around changes that are going to happen with your company’s group benefit structure, whether it’s dental, medical, short term disability (STD), long term disability (LTD), etc. Ensure that group benefit insurance is presented both team or company meetings and via one-on-ones if needed.

 Provide a more limited number of health insurance plans

Research shows the more choice consumers are given, the more difficult it is to make the right choice. Think about providing five or six plans as “core” choices, but give employees the option to choose other types of plan if they need them.

Centralize all health insurance information in one place

Link to or create a good comparison of healthcare plans, that show benefits, co-pays, premiums, coverage, and other key elements side-by-side, so people can contrast and compare. Provide supporting material, examples, and context that discusses what the plans cover and how they would work in real life. Your health insurance provider or broker can help with this.

 Get your insurance broker to talk to your team

Your health insurance broker is an expert. Invite them to talk to your employees about the importance of making the right decision. Have them clearly explain the various options open to them and let your employees ask questions and share concerns.

Keep health insurance simple

Explain health coverage in simple terms. Have a person available – ideally your broker, who can answer questions from your team on the options open to them. Provide follow up information people can download and use to understand their coverage.

If you’re changing carriers, explain the reasons why

Sometimes you might need to change your insurance carrier. If you need to do this, provide very clear, simple explanations of how benefits and coverage are changing. Let people know exactly what benefits are being removed, what’s being gained, and any changes to existing benefits. If necessary, provide the reasoning behind changing insurers.

Above all, remember that health insurance is confusing to most people. Be completely transparent, provide simple, useful information, answer questions and ensure employees understand their responsibilities. Rely on your broker to help with the hard tasks – that’s what they are there for!

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

Changes from the Affordable Care Act in 2017 — What you need to know

Doctor Tablet Computer Affordable Care ActThe Affordable Care Act is making some changes in 2017 and if you’re providing health insurance via a group plan you need to make sure you’re compliant. Here’s a quick guide to the main changes and what you need to do to ensure you meet all the new guidelines and regulations.

Remember, we’re here to help, so if you have any questions about any of this, please do get in touch. The main changes include:

  • Grandfathered plans — Check your plan is still grandfathered.
  • Deductibles amounts — Changing deductibles for EHB and HSA plans.
  • Employee contributions — Changes to FSB contribution limits from employees.
  • Group plan information — Changes to how information on group benefits and coverage is provided to employees.
  • Reinsurance — No reinsurance fees for self-funded plans in 2017.
  • Large employers — Must offer health plans if you have more than 50 full-time employees.

Grandfathered plans — Check grandfathered status for 2017

You likely have a “grandfathered plan” if the plan was already in existence when the ACA came into effect in March 2010 and it hasn’t had significant changes since then. Grandfathered plans can retain their old benefits, premiums, and other features and fees so long as they don’t have prohibited changes made.

  • If your plan has been grandfathered, check that there aren’t any changes being made that will make it lose the grandfathered status in 2017.
  • If it does lose grandfathered status, you’ll need to ensure it meets all of the regulations and guidelines that the ACA requires.

Essential Health Benefits (EHB) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA)  High Deductibles plans — Amounts changing in 2017

Under the ACA, the Out of Pocket maximum fee for EHBs can’t exceed $7,150 for self-only coverage and $14,300 for family coverage in 2017.

  • Check your plan’s out of pocket maximums to make sure it complies with these guidelines.
  • If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) plan with high deductibles, make sure those deductibles are below the ACAs allowed limits. In 2017 that’s $6,550 for self-only and $13,100 for families.

Health Flexible Spending Account (FSA) contributions changing in 2017

The amount an employee can contribute, pre-tax, to a health spending account was $2,550 in 2016 and may be increased in 2017. Note that this amount does not apply to employer contributions or to contributions to other benefits such as dependent care assistance.

  • Check to see what the new FSA limit is in 2017, it’s normally announced at the end of the year.
  • If you aren’t able to get that information, use the 2016 limit of $2,550.

Summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) information needs to be updated

The ACA has strict guidelines on how information on benefits and coverage is provided to plan members. In 2017, these guidelines are changing, and a new template will be introduced for SBC information.

  • Use the new SBC template for open-enrollment plans or plans starting on or after April 1 2017.

Reinsurance fees in 2017 — Applies if you are a self-funded plan

From 2014 through 2016, self-funded plans needed to pay fees to a transitional reinsurance program. Starting in 2017, reinsurance fees no longer apply, although your 2016 fees will be due in 2017.

  • Submit the 2016 reinsurance form and make the appropriate payments for the 2016 benefit year.

Applicable Large Employers (ALE) will be subject to penalties if they do not provide appropriate insurance coverage to full-time employees

ALEs must offer affordable health coverage to their full-time employees. They will be penalized if any full-time employee receives a subsidy for health coverage through an Exchange.

  • Calculate the number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees — These are individuals working, on average, more than 30 hours a week or 130 hours a month. If you have more than 50, you are likely an ALE.
  • Ensure that you have proper health care coverage in place for your full time employees in 2017.
  • Report the coverage to your employees and the IRS.

If you’ve got any questions about how this affects you, we’re only a phone call away. We’ve got the experience and expertise to talk you through any changes you need to make.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

Protect Your Healthcare Organization with a Strong Pre-Screening Process

Protect Your Healthcare Organization with a Strong Pre-Screening Process

Hiring is a complicated component of business that always opens a company to liability. Hiring an ineligible candidate doesn’t just risk fines and litigation,  it can also affect the organization’s brand, which can cause long-lasting financial damage.

In the HireRight 2013 Spotlight, 56% of healthcare organizations said background screening improves the hiring process and protects the company from liability. Not only does a qualified, eligible hire deliver good service, they also represent the brand positively. 40% of healthcare organizations believe background checking improves safety. 44% believe background checking improves regulatory compliance.

It’s the job of good managers to ensure that new hires are eligible to provide healthcare to patients. No matter how experienced a hiring manager may be, a “good feeling” is not an indication of anything. You have to do your homework, which means building and enacting a screening process.

When you consider an applicant, the first place you should look is the Office of Inspector General’s List of Excluded Individuals/Entities, which lists people and organizations that are excluded from federally funded healthcare programs.

Entities are excluded because of past Medicare fraud, patient neglect or abuse, or felony or misdemeanor convictions of healthcare-related fraud, theft, or misconduct of any kind. Any healthcare organization who hires an excluded entity won’t be reimbursed for costs and may end up paying significant monetary penalties (up to $500,000 per ineligible employee).

Next, check state and federal data sources to ensure your applicants are properly licensed and aren’t carrying medical sanctions. Unfortunately, there’s no comprehensive source for sanction data in the United States. Hiring managers would be smart to check multiple sources to reduce their risk, such as the National Practitioner Databank and the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

Third, test candidates and new hires for drugs and alcohol use. This isn’t required by law, but the risk of exposure to lawsuits if a patient is injured by an impaired worker is significant. Continue testing employees routinely and randomly to deter unsafe behavior.

Finally, review your screening process at least once a year. As laws and regulations change, you’ll want to ensure your screening program adapts accordingly to identify gaps. Ensuring you have an effective process will improve the reliability of your overall hiring.

The National Business Research Institute says the number one reason organizations cut corners on pre-screening is because they’re desperate to fill positions. Slow down and investigate carefully. Have you considered potential aliases? Have you verified the applicant’s credentials, licenses and education?

Rushing the screening (and the interview process as a whole) is a terrible mistake that can leave your company open to massive liability. Always make the time to thoroughly complete your screening process (or use an agency specifically for this purpose) and check future applicants’ personal and professional references.

Heather Sinclair
Risk Management Consultant
hsinclair@srfm.com

Protect Your Healthcare Organization with a Strong Pre-Screening Process

You’ve Hired Someone with a Questionable Record: What’s Next?

You’ve Hired Someone with a Questionable Record: What’s Next?As a hiring manager, you know how difficult it can be to find the perfect candidate. In unsteady economic times like these, thousands of people can reply to the same job ad. It’s your duty to comb through them to find the best candidate for the position.
However, all those phone calls to verify employment and forms to request database information can take time. There’s work to be done! When you need someone right now, it can be tempting to cut corners. Don’t – it’s not worth it in the end.  Let the process do the work.
What do you do when you discover your new hire has a criminal (or otherwise questionable) record?
It sounds harsh, but hiring someone with a criminal record, industry sanctions, or other black marks on their record can pose a significant risk to your business and expose your company to liability.
1. Confirm your information is accurate. Verify in any way you can that the record actually belongs to your new hire. Data entry inaccuracies on your part and/or the database you used are quite common. In many cases, a small detail (like an old address or a middle initial) will clear up the confusion. If you use a third-party screener, double check they have provided you with the correct information.
2. Understand the conviction or sanction. Carefully investigate the employee’s past infraction that concerns you. Depending on the type, severity, and distance from the questionable mark, you may choose to disregard it. Of course, infractions in certain industries can’t be ignored, like the medical and financial sectors. It may be helpful to speak with a lawyer to make sure you don’t violate the new hire’s rights. If the person has a parole/probation officer or case counselor, speak with them as well.
3. Execute a Pre-Adverse Action. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a job candidate or employee must be given an opportunity to dispute or explain any information uncovered on a background check. The employer must issue a Pre-Adverse Action, which is a document that informs the new hire that they can be terminated based on the information in the background check. You are also required to give the employee a copy of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the background report, and a reasonable amount of time to respond.
4. Execute an Adverse Action. If the employee is unable to offer a suitable explanation or adequate proof that the results of the background check are inaccurate, you may issue an Adverse Action and termination. This must be done in writing. 
5. Review your screening process. If someone slipped through the cracks, your screening process needs some work. First, identify where the error occurred. Were the interview questions less than thorough? Were the references checked? Was each step of the background check completed? Were any licensing or accreditation agencies contacted? 
It’s worth mentioning that by hiring a felon, you may be creating a fiercely loyal employee. Job prospects for felons (or anyone with unfavorable marks on their records) can be slim. By giving the hire an opportunity, you may be rewarded with an outstanding employee who won’t leave a safe, steady job. 
Hiring a candidate should be a thorough multi-step process that uncovers problems and red flags as early as possible. That’s why a proper background check should always be a part of your screening process. You must simultaneously ensure the candidate/employee’s rights are protected and business is insulated from potential harm.
Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director

Why your business needs a wellness program

Helping Your Employees Get the Most Out of Their Benefits – Part 2

Helping Your Employees Get the Most Out of Their Benefits – Part 2Employers know that carefully crafted benefits packages are an integral way to attract and keep the best talent. Employees are looking for more than base compensation: they want vacation time, retirement account access, on-the-job perks, and, of course, company subsidized health insurance.

Benefits packages aren’t just bonuses. 41% of employers say their benefits are a key component of their employee retention strategy because benefits can actually improve company loyalty.

But offering quality benefits packages isn’t enough. You have to make sure your employees actually use those benefits so they can realize that side of their compensation.

Make setting up benefits easy

Enrolling in health insurance, setting up a 401k, and even scheduling vacation time can be a challenge at some companies. Many employees don’t bother using their benefits because getting to them is a pain. If your employees can’t use their benefits, they essentially don’t exist.

In fact, a study in Health Services Research found that a large portion of work-related illnesses and injuries are never billed to worker’s comp insurance because employees aren’t aware it’s an option.

Use a system that allows employees to self-sign-up without bothering an office manager or human resources desk. Provide digital guides that clearly explain each step. If you do need them to talk with someone to set up their benefits, make sure this person is available all the time, not just during arbitrary enrollment periods.

Summarize benefits packages clearly

Many employees offer extensive benefits packages that can be quite complex. In fact, 40% don’t even understand their options.

If your employees don’t understand their benefits, they can’t use them properly. Most of your employees aren’t going to dig through their insurance packets or retirement account booklets. They are likely ignorant to many benefits that apply to them.

Use an online web portal or cloud-based documents to simply and clearly list the benefits that apply your employees and notify them when something changes. Ensure that there is always someone at your company (usually in HR) that thoroughly understands the benefits you offer.

Personalize their benefits

The best benefits packages are the ones your employees truly love. If you can appeal to their needs, you’ll build compensation packages your employees can’t find anywhere else.

For every employee, you surely have a number that accounts for their benefits package. Be willing to adjust this package based on your employees’ preferences. Instead of laying out a package, ask them directly what would make them happy. A younger person may be happy with a reduced healthcare plan in exchange for more vacation, whereas a family man/woman may trade in vacation time for a better health package.

Speak openly about your employees’ compensation

No, you shouldn’t announce everyone’s pay in a memo. But you should make it clear through positive interaction that your employees should be taking advantage of their benefits package because it’s part of their compensation. Instead of keeping quiet about that monthly gym membership to save a few dollars, encourage your staff to go with you to sign up. If your benefits package is well-budgeted, you shouldn’t hide it.

If you help your employees take full advantage of their benefits packages, you’ll foster a happy, loyal and productive workforce. Check out part one of this series for more tips!

Lori Newsome
Account Executive, Group Benefits
lnewsome@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-9