Is your small business reasonably accommodating the needs of its new and expectant mothers? You may have heard the horror story of a new mom who returned from maternity leave, only to have her employer criticize everything from the frequency she pumped her breast milk to the number of weeks she pumped. When the employer decreed the new mom had to stop pumping when her baby turned a year old, the new mom refused and was fired. How can you prevent this unfortunate—and avoidable—dilemma from happening in your workplace?
The answer may lie in the health care reform law. One revision to the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide unpaid, “reasonable break time” and a place, other than a restroom, that is “shielded from view and free from intrusion” to allow new moms to pump breast milk. This provision covers all workers subject to overtime-pay requirements and lasts up to one year after the baby is born. It also provides reasonable workplace policies beyond maternity leave to help new mothers balance career and family.
Remember, except for the 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave mandated by federal law, many new mothers either can’t afford to take more time off or aren’t permitted to by their employers. Reasonably accommodating nursing mothers meets them in the middle by allowing them to work without giving up breastfeeding. Not to mention, mom-friendly HR policies are sure to increase employee morale and retention after maternity leave!
It turns out both businesses and their employees are upset about how health care reform butchered flexible spending accounts (FSAs). A recent survey by the Midwest Business Group on Health found that two provisions affecting FSAs fall into the top five provisions employers most want removed from the reform law.
This year saw the elimination of popular and widely accessible parts of what is still loosely called the “flexible” spending account. For one, the FSA can no longer be used to purchase over-the-counter medications unless prescribed by a doctor. When was the last time your doctor wrote you a prescription for Tylenol? This change alone rendered the account much less useful to workers with few health expenses beyond the annual sniffle. Gone are the days of contributing $100 for annual Advil and NyQuil needs. In addition to the ban on over-the-counter meds, in 2013, the reform will place a $2,500 annual limit on FSA contributions, making the account much less useful to workers planning large medical expenses. Gone are the days of buying Suzy’s braces with pretax dollars.
If the account won’t cover small daily expenses or large annual expenses, how useful is this program? And is FSA reform making health care more affordable and accessible, according to the goals of Obama’s health care laws?
These questions may have helped motivate Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) to introduce The Patients’ Freedom to Choose Act in the Senate and Representative Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) to introduce similar legislation in the House. The bills would repeal both FSA reform law provisions and return the “flexible” function to the flexible spending account.
ObamaCare continues to make waves in its latest string of legislative challenges. The latest challenge to the health law, a Lynchburg, Virginia case brought by Liberty University and five individuals, alleged Congress could not force Americans to purchase health insurance. Judge Norman Moon dismissed the case, finding that the “challenged provisions are well within Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause” of the Constitution. The plaintiffs in the matter plan to appeal.
The Virginia ruling proves one thing: The lower courts’ decisions show no consensus about the constitutionality of the health law. In October, a Michigan federal judge dismissed a Christian law center’s argument and upheld ObamaCare’s constitutionality. A pair of Florida lawsuits, one filed by 20 U.S. states and one filed by a Virginia attorney, could fare better. In October, a Pensacola judge found that the government’s expansion of power was without precedent—a decision that allowed the states’ challenge to go forward. The judge is scheduled to hear further argument on the matter later today.
So what’s next for ObamaCare—a final decision from the U.S. Supreme Court? That might be what it takes to finally lay this controversial issue to rest. Then, individuals and small businesses can make concrete preparations for the myriad changes ahead.
Health care changes are afoot—lots of them. We’ve all heard about the health care reform passed by the Obama administration, dubbed “ObamaCare.” Such reform includes sweeping changes like mandatory health coverage, extended dependent coverage, and limited spending on flexible spending accounts, to name just a few. But what do all these changes really mean for your small business?
To start, by 2014, small-business owners and their employees must purchase a government-approved health insurance policy that offers unlimited lifetime and unlimited annual coverage. New guidance issued by the administration mentions a potential waiver for businesses whose compliance would result in a significant increase to premiums or decrease in service availability. Still, according to Obama administration estimates, these mandates could increase health premiums by seven percent.
The impending health care changes not only affect employees, but also employees’ children. Under the new system, coverage must be provided to dependent and nondependent children up to age 26, regardless of children’s employment or marital status. One estimate figures this mandate could cause a two-percent increase to premiums, if not more for small-business owners.
And what if the small-business owners switch health plans are no longer grandfathered? Then the owners and their employees must bear the entire cost of preventative-services coverage. This mandate is expected to increase premiums by roughly 1.5 percent; however, the administration is considering allowing employers to shop for less expensive health plans without penalty.
What’s more, by 2012, employers must begin reporting the cost of employer-sponsored health coverage on their employees’ W-2s. These amounts aren’t taxable, but reporting them could put a tax on your payroll department!
These mandates are just a sample of changes expected for health care in the coming years.
To combat rising premiums, under the reformed health care system, small businesses that pay at least 50 percent of their employees’ health insurance premiums may qualify for a tax credit. In 2010, the maximum credit is 35 percent of employers’ contributions to health insurance premiums. By 2014, the maximum credit increases to 50 percent. However, by 2016, businesses may no longer claim the tax credit and must shoulder the health care changes alone.
With so many health care changes on the way, who’s to say what these new mandates will cost, what additional insurance benefits must be provided, or even what kinds of insurance will be available to provide those benefits? As a small-business owner, you’re already juggling so much paperwork. Don’t get lost in the shuffle. GHRO is here to guide you through the health care changes as they happen. As the ultimate partner for HR outsourcing, we’ll help you make smart decisions for your small business. We can even reduce your employee benefits costs by customizing the right package at the right price for your small business. To discover a complete solution to your employee benefits needs, call GHRO at 888-308-0338.
With rising health care expenses looming on the horizon, many companies are thinking about ways to reduce costs. Between furloughs, layoffs, and salary cuts, companies may have overlooked one small investment that can reap big returns: an employee wellness program.
Since the late 1970s, cost control and health trends have provided a push toward wellness programs in the workplace. Employee wellness programs have continued to increase in popularity thanks to their mutual benefit to employers and employees. Through such programs, employers can increase the work performance and productivity of their most precious commodity: their human resources. In return, employees can enjoy a healthier lifestyle and a more positive work environment.
Employee wellness programs concentrate on the physical well being of workers, such as medical requirements and general health. Wellness programs offer a variety of health-related solutions, which may include weight loss plans, stress management training, smoking cessation programs, nutrition coaching, physical fitness advice, behavioral health therapy, and physiological testing, like blood pressure screenings and cholesterol checks. Even alternative therapies like massage and meditation are catching on.
Here are five reasons why an employee wellness program might be the right choice for your company.
Education and training courses promote healthier employee lifestyles, which decreases absenteeism due to behavioral health and sick leave. A complete work force can help a company enjoy maximum productivity.
Reduced Health Care Costs
With health care and insurance costs skyrocketing, the minimal expense of a wellness program and its positive effect on employee health has shown to decrease company health care and insurance costs. Dollar for dollar, the investment is well worth the return.
Improved Morale and Loyalty
Healthier employees make for happier employees! Well-cared-for employees are more likely to feel appreciated by and connected to their employer, which promotes feelings of pride and responsibility in their work. Happy employees foster a pleasant and positive work environment—an invaluable resource to any company. Happy employees are also more productive and more likely to demonstrate company loyalty, which results in less turnover and reduced recruitment costs.
This is arguably the greatest advantage of an employee wellness program. Employees at their healthiest have higher energy, improved concentration, and increased productivity. Coupled with reduced absenteeism and increased workplace morale, this means employees are happier, healthier, and ready to consistently perform at optimum levels.
Lower Overall Costs
All of the above reasons combined result in lower overall costs to the company. While it’s difficult to quantify what is gained through increased morale and loyalty, tangible results like decreased absenteeism, reduced health care costs, and increased productivity provide a measurable—and sizable—reduction in overall company costs.
Did you know that as part of its HR Total Solutions package, Global Human Resources Outsourcing offers a complete and comprehensive HR partnership, which includes employee health and wellness programs? With GHRO Total Solutions, your company will also have direct access to unlimited services, such as asset protection, cost containment strategies, and turnover reduction strategies. With nearly one hundred years of combined HR experience, GHRO’s team is committed to facing any HR challenges your company encounters. When your company is ready to meet those challenges head on, visit GHRO’s website to receive a free quote.
Treating your employees well, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, is something every company must do in order to attract the best employees in their field.
The Human Rights Campaign recently gave Cox Enterprises and Delta Airlines top honors for its treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees and consumers.
The award was given to the two Atlanta-based companies, both of which received a perfect 100 percent score on HRC’s 2011 “Best Places To Work.” This is the third year in a row Cox has received a perfect score, which is based on employee benefits, diversity, training programs and community outreach. Cox Enterprises also reiterated its expenditures of over 320 million in 2009 to minority and women-owned suppliers.
The Human Rights Campaign rated 618 businesses for their 2011 report. It evaluated each company’s polices and practices related to LGBT related topics, non-discrimination policies, domestic partner benefits and overall support of the LGBT community.
Before the extension, involuntary terminations that occurred after March 31, 2010, didn’t qualify for subsidies for COBRA continuation coverage.
With the extension, workers who are or were involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008 and May 31, 2010 are eligible for 65 percent COBRA subsidies. Workers can receive the subsidies for up to 15 months.
The extension also includes a provision that allows workers who were involuntarily terminated after March 31 but before passage of the extension to qualify for the subsidies.
Given the latest extension, employers will have to update their COBRA notices. HR.BLR.com and Compensation.BLR.com will post revised notices once the Department of Labor updates its model notices.
The COBRA subsidy program was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The Senate has approved legislation that would extend the program through the end of 2010. However, the House has yet to give its approval.