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

Building Healthy Habits — Beat Holiday Indulgences and Feel Fantastic

healthy habitsEating and drinking is one of the great pleasures in life, and the holiday season is the perfect time to indulge. Celebrating with family and friends makes it easy to just have one more serving, an extra slice of cake, or another glass of wine. Of course, that can mean putting on a few more pounds than you’d like, so what’s the best way to shift that holiday weight?

Rather than starting up a new diet or exercise regime, it’s all about making small, positive lifestyle changes and building good habits — Here’s how to do exactly that.

Understand what you want to change most to get healthier

You can only change your lifestyle if you’ve got a good reason. Think about what your goals are when it comes to getting healthier — Is it losing weight, lifting a certain amount, walking up a steep hill without being out of breath, or something else?

Your goals should be short-term and easy to reach — If you want to lose weight it’s much better to aim at losing a couple of pounds a month than 25 pounds this year. So, choose one goal, write it down, and commit to it.

Focus on making one small change to your health at a time

If you try to do too much too soon, you’ll lose focus, get distracted, and it won’t last. That’s why getting healthier is all about making small, incremental changes that together add up to you feeling fantastic. Look at your goal and think about the one small thing you could do today to get towards it. For example:

  • Reduce your mid-afternoon snacks.
  • Drink one less beer during an evening out with friends.
  • Walk for 15 minutes each day.
  • Have one “meat free” day a week.

Then, make the change and stick to it.

Take pleasure in what you’re doing to create a healthier lifestyle

It’s important to feel positively about the changes you’re making, rather than seeing them as denying yourself. Be “in the moment” and conscious of how and why you’re making your choices. If you’re taking a walk each day, spend the time really enjoying and noticing your surroundings. If you’re reducing how much you drink, replace the beer or wine with a delicious fruit smoothie. Think about ways to positively reinforce what you’re doing.

When it comes to getting healthier, don’t do too much, too quickly

As you make changes, wait for them to become a habit and “stick” before you move onto something else. Ideally, you want your positive lifestyle changes to become effortless and part of who you are. That way, it will never feel like a chore.

Really feel the benefits of a healthier lifestyle

Positive reinforcement is vitally important. That’s why you want to notice the changes you’re making and the benefits they’re having. Appreciate the fact you don’t run out of breath when you’re hiking up a hill, or that you look great in the new clothes you’ve been able to buy. Reward yourself for creating healthy changes in your life.

It’s amazing how much you can do for your health if you set realistic goals, turn small changes into habits, feel the benefits, and take pleasure in what you’re doing. Of course, you can still have “cheat days” and overindulge from time to time. Now you’ll have the confidence you’re completely in charge of your lifestyle and the healthy choices you’ve made.

Heather Sinclair
Risk Management Consultant
hsinclair@srfm.com

Healthly Habits

Prepping Your Vehicle for Winter

Prepping Your Vehicle for WinterAs the temperature drops and the skies turn gray, natures’ animals prepare for the great hibernation that is winter. Squirrels stockpile nuts, bears fatten themselves up, birds fly south, and us humans head to the store and buy a new winter coat. For those of us with opposable thumbs, we also have to prepare other things for winter that are distinctly human…like our automobiles.

Owning a car, which most of us do, comes with the responsibility of regular maintenance and upkeep and for those of us living in colder climates, we have the added task of prepping our automobiles for winter. So as the cold front approaches, what do you need to do to get your car ready for the change of season?

Getting your car mechanically ready for the cold:

  • Fluids: Fluids are the life blood of your vehicle and as the temperature drops, the fluids in our vehicle respond. Frozen or broken down fluids are generally not good for a car. It’s critical to ensure that the fluids we’re using in our car can stand up to the freezing temperatures of winter. Specifically:
  • Engine Coolant/Anti-Freeze:  A coolant system flush and new radiator fluid is a good idea going into winter, and make sure you have anti-freeze in your radiator that’s rated for sub zero temperatures.
  • Engine Oil: Most engine oil these days are rated for two temperature ranges (10W 30 for example). The numbers signify the weight or viscosity of the oil. The more viscous the oil, the more easily it flows through the engine. With engine oil, lower numbers means the oil flows more easily. In winter you want a lower weight oil so the cold doesn’t thicken the oil and impede the flow through the engine. Be sure you have some 10W in your oil weight. Did you know that the “w” in 10w30 stands for winter? It does.
  • Transmission Fluid: Typically, the transmission fluid in your vehicle is rated for the cold but heading into winter is a good time to have a mechanic check the fluid, flush it out and replace it if needed.
  • Windshield Wiper Fluid: While it’s not critical to the operation of your vehicle, wiper fluid if not rated for the cold can freeze up and cause damage to the wiper fluid reservoir.
  • Tires: The obvious item to prep for winter is your tires. Have your tires inspected by a professional mechanic to ensure that there is sufficient tread to get you through the snowy days. If your area sees a lot of snow, you may want to consider putting on tires with snow specific tread. These tires have a more aggressive tread pattern and will reduce your gas mileage so consider the trade off. Here are some tips from the pros on winter tires.
  • Heater: None of us want to be stuck in the dead of winter with no heater in the car. Have your mechanic check your heater operation and make sure you’re ready for the chill.

 Preparing to drive and store your car in the cold:

Once your vehicle is mechanically ready for the cold weather, it’s time to prep yourself as a driver for the cold days ahead. Here are some things you can do to make your winter driving life easier.

  • Keep an emergency kit in the car: You never know when your car may break down or get stuck in the snow leaving you stranded in the cold. Act like a boy scout and be prepared with a winter emergency car kit with items like flares, a camping shovel for digging out of snow, and some cold weather gear.
  • Get an Ice scraper/Snow brush: Duh. I know, it’s obvious to have one but it’s also good to invest in a good quality scraper.
  • Get a car cover: If you’re not into scraping and brushing snow off the car in the morning, a car cover could make your life more enjoyable. A couple of minutes to put a cover on your car in the evening can save you several minutes of scraping ice and brushing snow in the morning. And who wants to do that on a cold winter morning when you’re late for work? You can purchase a car cover online that is made specifically for your car.

Here’s a tip: Always make sure that all of the snow is completely removed from your vehicle before driving. I know, you just want to get to work, but when you leave snow on your car, it blows off while you drive blinding drivers in cars behind you in a snow drift, which is unsafe, and not too friendly.

As winter approaches, do these few things to get you and your car ready for the cold and it’s going to make your life a whole lot easier. At Sinclair, we’re always preparing for the future and the unforeseen. We are Risk Management Specialists ready to handle whatever life brings your way.

Stephen Davis
sdavis@srfm.com
Sinclair Risk& Financial Management

Prepping Your Vehicle for Winter

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

Use caution when Decking the Halls!

Use caution when Decking the Halls!
Photo Credit: National Safety Council (nsc.org)

Every year without fail, insurance agents across the country handle thousands of claims involving home fires due to holiday decorations.  Sadly, most of these incidents could have been avoided saving the homeowners from heartache – and a lot of money.

Here are some great tips from the National Safety Council (Click HERE for the full brochure!)

TREES

Many artificial trees are fire resistant. Make sure when purchasing one, you look for a statement specifying this protection. Consider replacing your old tree if you aren’t certain it’s fire resistant

If you prefer a fresh tree, ensure it stays greener longer and is less of a fire hazard by keeping it watered.

To check for freshness, remember:

  • A fresh tree is green.
  • Fresh needles are hard to pull from branches.
  • When bent between your fingers, fresh needles do not break.
  • The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin.
  • When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles shows that tree is too dry.

LIGHTS

Regardless if you are using indoor or outdoor lights, make sure they have been tested for safety. Identify these by the label from an independent testing laboratory.

  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.
  • Discard damaged sets or repair them before using.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house, walls or other firm support to protect from wind damage.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
  • Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights could short and start a fire.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree
  • Never use indoor lights for outdoor purposes

CANDLES

  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.
  • Always use non-flammable holders.
  • Keep candles away from other decorations and wrapping paper.
  • Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over.

TRIMMINGS

  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials.
  • Wear gloves while decorating with spun glass “angel hair” to avoid irritation to eyes and skin.
  • Choose tinsel or artificial icicles or plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
  • In homes with small children, take special care to:
    • Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable.
    • Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children. Pieces could be swallowed or inhaled.
    • Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food. A child could eat them!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST – UNPLUG! Please don’t leave your tree lights plugged in or any holiday decorations plugged in when you are sleeping or away from your home.  Shorts and accidents can happen and will cause a fire.  Even a well hydrated Christmas tree will go up in flames quickly.  Take a quick peek at this video.   Christmas Tree Fire

Have a happy and safe holiday season!

Rachel Winslow
Personal Lines Account Executive
rwinslow@srfm.com

Deck the Halls

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

Millennials and Healthcare — What Are They Looking For?

MillenialsAs the fastest-growing generational group, millennials (people born between the mid-1980s and the turn of the century) are a vital part of a strong workforce. If you want to attract millennials to your business, it’s important to understand what they need and more importantly, what they want.

In addition to a good salary and a positive work environment, the benefit millennials are most interested in is healthcare. In fact, since the Affordable Care Act came into force, the number of uninsured millennials has fallen from 23% to just 11%. Insured millennials are better for your business too — Insured millennials are more likely to report being in good or excellent health (79%) than uninsured millennials (62%).

With health insurance being front and center, and increasing options for employment, how do you attract and retain the best young talent? An important part is providing the right health benefits. Let’s explore a few options.

The health services millennials are most interested in

It’s important to provide health insurance plans to cover the main concerns millennials have about their health, this includes:

  • Accident and emergency coverage — Catastrophe can strike at any time. Millennials are less concerned with insurance against long-term, chronic illnesses than they are against accidents and other critical emergencies. A health plan that has good coverage for emergency room visits and treating acute conditions fits in well with their needs.
  • Doctor visits — Reasonable copay amounts for doctor and specialist visits rank highly with millennials.
  • Immunizations and wellness — Staying healthy is near the top of the millennial’s agenda. This includes vaccination for flu and human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV). wellness programs also play a part in helping to keep people healthy and reduce stress.
  • Alcohol and depression screening and counselling — Depression, anxiety and other mental illness affects a disproportionate number of young people. Access to therapy, treatment, and counsellors is critically important.
  • Sexual and reproductive health — Contraception, birth control, and sexual health are vital to millennials. Pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding support, and infant care are also high on the agenda for millennials wanting to start families.

 Keeping health premium costs down for millennials

Another important consideration is the cost of premiums, and the trend here is clear — Millennials much prefer low-premium, high-deductible health plans. For many millennials, cost is the most important factor when it comes to health insurance. In fact, two thirds of them said a premium of more than $200 a month is unaffordable. Clearly, with a premium that low, high-deductible plans are really the only choice.

Another option is to give millennials various options in terms of their overall benefits package — Perhaps they can trade off some vacation days for a lower insurance premium?

Addressing other health concerns

It’s not just premiums and coverage that are important to millennials. Many are concerned that being ill or injured for an extended period of time would mean they would get fired. Make sure you have clear employment policies in place that address these concerns — What are implications for someone’s employment if they are unable to work for the medium or long-term?

Another benefit you can offer is making it easier for millennials to transfer off of their family health plan. Children can stay on their parent’s plan until they’re 26 years old, so providing a convenient and easy way to switch will definitely help.

Make it clear that the Affordable Care Act requires everyone to be insured by law. Being uninsured just isn’t an option unless they want to pay yearly fines when they report their taxes. Clearly explain the benefits of health insurance and make it easy for people to start paying their premiums and enjoying their coverage.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

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