Compliance Matters: COBRA Offered to Spouse When Employee Elects Medicare

Posted on December 29th, 2020

Don't miss our weekly blog series, Compliance Matters! In the blog below, you'll learn more about the COBRA Offered to Spouse When an Employee Elects Medicare. To download this article, click here

Myth: When an employee (who works for an employer with more than 20 employees) elects Medicare and drops their employer-provided health coverage (which also covered the spouse) the spouse is eligible for COBRA due to the loss of employer coverage.

Fact: When working for an employer who employs more than 20 employees*, due to Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) rules, an employee cancelling their employer group health coverage when they enroll on Medicare is not a COBRA qualifying event (QE) for the dependents.

A fundamental rule for COBRA is a QE must “cause” a loss of coverage under the plan in order for COBRA to apply. An employee may voluntarily choose to drop their group coverage after enrolling in Medicare, but the employee could also remain enrolled in the group plan in addition to Medicare (e.g., in order for the spouse to remain covered).

Due to the MSP rules, enrollment in Medicare cannot “cause” a loss of coverage for an employer with more than 20 employees. Therefore, the loss of coverage for the spouse is due to the employee voluntarily ending the employer’s coverage (which is not a COBRA event); the Medicare entitlement did not actually “cause” the loss of coverage.

Although a common administration mistake, there is a risk in misapplying the rules. Offering the spouse COBRA coverage, may be viewed as an incentive for the employee to drop the group plan in favor of Medicare. Any financial or other benefits as incentives not to enroll in, or to terminate enrollment in an employer’s group health plan is a violation of MSP, triggering financial penalties of up to $9,639 per violation (adjusted annually for inflation).

*Employers with fewer than 20 employees are not subject to the MSP rules and an employee may lose group health coverage when they are entitled to Medicare. In this case, Medicare entitlement is a COBRA QE for the spouse/ dependents.

 

Disclaimer: This content was written by Michelle Turner, MBA, CEBS, Compliance Consultant, Alera Group Central Region. This blog post intends to provide general information regarding the status of, and/or potential concerns related to, current employer HR & benefi ts issues. This blog should not be construed as, nor is it intended to provide, legal advice. The opinions expressed herein are based upon the author’s experience as a Compliance Consultant and may not reflect the opinions of your counsel.

The information contained herein should be understood to be general insurance brokerage information only and does not constitute advice for any particular situation or fact pattern and cannot be relied upon as such. Statements concerning financial, regulatory or legal matters are based on general observations as an insurance broker and may not be relied upon as financial, regulatory or legal advice. This document is owned by Alera Group, Inc., and its contents may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the written permission of Alera Group, Inc.

This article was last reviewed and up to date as of 12/29/20.

Congress Passes a Second COVID-19-Related Stimulus Package

Posted on December 28th, 2020

Updated December 28, 2020 to reflect that the bill has been signed by President Trump

After weeks of negotiations, Congress overwhelmingly passed a second COVID-19 stimulus package – the COVID-Related Tax Relief Act of 2020 (COVIDTRA) and the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 (TCDTR), both part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA, 2021).  President Trump signed the bill into law on December 27, 2020.  The new stimulus package includes several employee benefits-related provisions relevant to health and welfare plans, as summarized below.  A provision on surprise medical billing (effective for plan years beginning in 2022) will be the subject of a future client alert. 

FFCRA Paid Leave

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the vaccine is unlikely to be available on a wide-scale basis in the next several months, the refundable payroll tax credits for emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) and extended family and medical leave (E-FMLA), which were enacted pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, are extended through March 31, 2021.  Notably, only the tax credits are extended, which means compliance with the EPSL or E-FMLA requirements is voluntary for employers after December 31, 2020. 

The policy behind this may have been to incentivize employers to continue allowing employees in the middle of FFCRA leave as of January 1, 2021 to finish out, and be paid for, any remaining leave to which they would have otherwise been entitled.  The tax credit is only available for leave that would otherwise satisfy the FFCRA, had it remained in effect, i.e., if employees for whom the employer provides paid leave would otherwise meet the eligibility requirements under the FFCRA and did not use the full amount of EPSL or E-FMLA leave between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.

Relief for Health Care and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts

As many employees are approaching the end of the year with significantly more unused funds in their health FSA and/or dependent care assistance plan (DCAP) than usual due to COVID-19, the stimulus package provides employers with the option of amending their plans to allow the following:

The stimulus bill allows employers to retroactively amend the plan to take advantage of any of the relief described above; however, any amendment must be adopted no later than the “last day of the first calendar year beginning after the end of the plan year in which the amendment is effective.” The employer must also operate the plan consistent with the terms of the amendment in the interim between date the amendment is intended to be effective and when it is ultimately adopted by the plan. For calendar year plans, this means any changes to the 2020 plan year must be adopted on or before December 31, 2021 and any changes to the 2021 plan year must be adopted on or before December 31, 2022.

Employers who adopt any of the relief options must amend their cafeteria plan by the applicable deadline and communicate the changes to employees.

Conclusion

Employers should familiarize themselves with these changes and determine next steps.  Employers should also consider any state or local COVID-19 related leave requirements. If an employer has employees in a state or locality with mandatory COVID-19 related leave, the expiration of mandatory paid leave under the FFCRA does not relieve employers of their obligation under state law.  Finally, employers who intend to adopt any of the health FSA or DCAP related relief should communicate these changes to employees, operate the plan in accordance with these intended changes, and adopt the necessary amendments before the applicable timeframe. 


About the Author.  This alert was prepared for Alera Group by Marathas Barrow Weatherhead Lent LLP, a national law firm with recognized experts on employee benefits, executive compensation, and employment law.  Contact Stacy Barrow or Nicole Quinn-Gato at sbarrow@marbarlaw.com or nquinngato@marbarlaw.com.

The information provided in this alert is not, is not intended to be, and shall not be construed to be, either the provision of legal advice or an offer to provide legal services, nor does it necessarily reflect the opinions of the agency, our lawyers, or our clients.  This is not legal advice.  No client-lawyer relationship between you and our lawyers is or may be created by your use of this information.  Rather, the content is intended as a general overview of the subject matter covered.  This agency and Marathas Barrow Weatherhead Lent LLP are not obligated to provide updates on the information presented herein.  Those reading this alert are encouraged to seek direct counsel on legal questions.

© 2020 Marathas Barrow Weatherhead Lent LLP.  All Rights Reserved.

Vaccine Mandates and Employment Practices Liability

Posted on December 23rd, 2020

With front-line healthcare workers already receiving COVID-19 vaccines, plans in place for successive phases of vaccination, and organizations of all kinds hoping for a mid- to late-spring return to normalcy, employers everywhere are asking the same questions:

  • Should my organization mandate employee vaccination?
  • What happens if an employee refuses to comply with a vaccination mandate?

“Without exaggerating, this is the most consequential employment issue of our lifetime because it affects every employee in this country,” Quinnipiac University School of Law adjunct professor Michael Soltis told Property Casualty 360. “To the extent that this virus is passed through asymptomatic individuals, that means decisions affect not only the employee but also the employee’s family, friends and other contacts. It has the potential to affect 300 million people in this country.”

So, case closed, right? Mandatory vaccination for all employees once vaccines are available to them?

Not so fast.

Even if federal, state or municipal mandates for COVID-19 vaccines were in place – and none currently are – employers would likely face challenges involving employment practices liability, including the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Answers from the EEOC

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this week expanded an already extensive Q&A webpage with the appropriately lengthy title “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.”

According to the EEOC:

“The ADA allows an employer to have a qualification standard that includes ‘a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace.’  However, if a safety-based qualification standard, such as a vaccination requirement, screens out or tends to screen out an individual with a disability, the employer must show that an unvaccinated employee would pose a direct threat due to a ‘significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.’”

You’ll find that passage in Section K.5. of the EEOC page, which includes these topics:

  1. Disability – Related Inquiries and Medical Exams
  2. Confidentiality of Medical Information
  3. Hiring and Onboarding
  4. Reasonable Accommodation
  5. Pandemic – Related Harassment Due to National Origin, Race, or Other Protected Characteristics
  6. Furloughs and Layoffs
  7. Return to Work
  8. Age
  9. Caregivers/Family Responsibilities
  10. Pregnancy
  11. Vaccinations

Other Potential Challenges

The aforementioned Property Casualty 360 article, “What employers need to know about COVID-19 vaccinations, compliance,” reports that experts believe employees refusing a vaccine due to a disability or religious reasons may have firm grounds while those objecting for other reasons would have a weaker case. The piece also notes that businesses that don’t mandates would be vulnerable to a lawsuit if an employee with COVID-19 spread the disease in the workplace. Federal guidance, beginning with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would help, Quinnipiac professor Soltis told the publication.

University of California Hastings College of the Law professor Dorit Reiss supported the notion that a public mandate would make life easier for employers, telling the Boston Globe, “Generally states have pretty broad power to step into the public health arena even if they’re stepping on individual rights. That’s the basis for a lot of measures we’ve already seen for COVID-19, such as masks and stay-at-home mandates.” You’ll find Reiss’ comments, as well as a look at a Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the right for local governments to require vaccines by law, in “Eventually, getting the COVID-19 vaccine could be required for many.”

For now, most business leaders are taking a wait-and-see approach, though a recent virtual summit conducted by the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute indicate strong support for employer-mandated vaccination. CNN reports that during the summit, “Seventy-two percent of current and recent CEOs of major companies signaled an openness to vaccine mandates.”


About the Author

Danielle Capilla

Alera Group Vice President of Compliance, Employee Benefits

 

Danielle Capilla’s areas of expertise include health care and employee benefit compliance, with an emphasis on the Patient Protection Act and the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, she regularly works with issues regarding Section 125 plans, COBRA, ERISA, Medicare, HIPAA and consumer-driven health care plans. Employee Benefit Adviser included her among its Top Women in Benefit Advising for 2020.

Disclaimer: The information contained herein should be understood to be general insurance brokerage information only and does not constitute advice for any particular situation or fact pattern and cannot be relied upon as such. Statements concerning financial, regulatory or legal matters are based on general observations as an insurance broker and may not be relied upon as financial, regulatory or legal advice. This document is owned by Alera Group, Inc., and its contents may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the written permission of Alera Group, Inc.

This article was last reviewed and up to date as of 12/18/2020.

 

Compliance Matters: Before You Start Celebrating the End of 2020 Too Much…

Posted on December 21st, 2020

Thanks for tuning back into our compliance blog series called Compliance Matters! We wish you all a wonderful end to 2020 and hope you will make use of this guide. Download this article.

New Year's Eve is almost here and everyone is ready to say goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021. However, before you start your celebration, employers offering health and welfare plans may have end-of-the-year tasks to accomplish connected with COVID-19 regulatory notices & relief issued during the year for their plans too. The following are items that may need to be on an employer’s list:

1. Deadline Extensions

In April, the Department of Labor (DOL), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued much-needed guidance and relief, requiring employers and plans to suspend the deadline for HIPAA special enrollment elections, for qualified beneficiaries to elect/pay for COBRA, and the filing of ERISA claims & appeals from March 1, 2020, until 60 days after the National Emergency ends (or such other date as specified by the Agencies). The National Emergency is still in effect, however by law, the extension may not last longer than one year.  Employers need to be mindful that timeframes for taking action on certain benefit-related tasks (e.g. COBRA elections, Health FSA Claims Run-Out Deadline) which normally would have already expired, has been extended and employees may still have these rights afforded to them. (See: Benefit Timeline Extensions Scenarios).

2. Summary of Benefits & Coverage (SBC)

In March, the FFCRA and the CARES Act required coverage of certain COVID-19 diagnostic services without cost-sharing, and the CARES Act included a new safe harbor under which high deductible health plans (HDHPs) can cover telehealth and other remote care before participants meet their deductibles both of which may need to be reflected on an SBC. Normally changes that impact an SBC must be provided 60 days prior to the date in which the modification becomes effective, however, FAQs Part 42 Q9. provided relief to this advance notice requirement.

3. Cafeteria Plan Changes

On May 12, 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-29 which gave employers latitude on permitting certain changes to elections midyear, that normally would be impermissible under Section 125 Cafeteria Plan irrevocability rules. It also made it possible for employers with FSA plan years or grace periods ending in 2020 to allow employees to continue incurring expenses and using amounts in their FSAs, (normally lost if unused at the end of a grace period) through December 31, 2020. This Notice and the employer requirements, if they chose to implement the relief, is summarized in more detail here: IRS Relaxes Election Change, Other Rules for Cafeteria Plans and FSAs. Or additional information may also be found: COVID-19 and Cafeteria Plan Considerations & COVID-19 and DCAPs, FSAs, and Transit Benefit Concerns

The CARES Act, also allowed certain over-the-counter medical products and menstrual care items to be reimbursed. Depending on the plan language, an employer’s FSA plan document may need to be amended if they wish to permit these changes. (See Legal Alert: Notice Requirements When Making Health Plan Design Changes).

Don’t forget to check these to-dos off your list…

All employers offering benefits on a pre-tax basis must do so through a Section 125 plan. Section 125 requires nondiscrimination testing to be performed on the last day of the plan year. If the plan fails, the failure must be corrected.

  • ACA Reporting

ACA Reporting is still required and enforced by the IRS. There is no statute of limitations for failure to comply. The IRS did extend the deadline for furnishing Form 1095-C to employees to March 2, 2021, however, they failed to provide any relief for reporting on employees furloughed during the pandemic.

Don't let the IRS spoil your 2021 because you forgot to make sure everything on your 2020 to-do list was completed. 

 

Disclaimer: This content was written by Michelle Turner, MBA, CEBS, Compliance Consultant, Alera Group Central Region. This blog post intends to provide general information regarding the status of, and/or potential concerns related to, current employer HR & benefi ts issues. This blog should not be construed as, nor is it intended to provide, legal advice. The opinions expressed herein are based upon the author’s experience as a Compliance Consultant and may not reflect the opinions of your counsel.

The information contained herein should be understood to be general insurance brokerage information only and does not constitute advice for any particular situation or fact pattern and cannot be relied upon as such. Statements concerning financial, regulatory or legal matters are based on general observations as an insurance broker and may not be relied upon as financial, regulatory or legal advice. This document is owned by Alera Group, Inc., and its contents may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the written permission of Alera Group, Inc.

This article was last reviewed and up to date as of 12/21/20.

 

9 Areas of Focus for Employers Right Now: Parts 5 and 6

Posted on December 17th, 2020

Thanks for tuning back in as we share our most noteworthy reflections around how priorities have changed for folks in this industry. We hope you caught parts 1-2 and 3-4. After over six months of combatting COVID-19, we have figured a lot out, but questions remain. Here we are with numbers five and six on our list of key things employers should be focusing on.

5. Women in the Workforce

Policies like maternal leave and breastfeeding accommodations have long been debated, but this year women are facing even more pressure. For one, it’s been reported that women continue to shoulder the burden of having children while working at home. I am sure there are plenty of involved dads out there, but it would appear that women are more often being tasked with homeschooling, activities, meals, etc. and are more often interrupted by children during the workday. Working mothers may be struggling to keep up with the demands of work and home, and feeling like they have to choose. We hope that once we start seeing consistent success in education during the pandemic, and eventually vaccines, women will gain back their confidence. However, employers should be thinking about how to be flexible with working mothers so that they don’t have to take leave, as re-engagement will be difficult.

Another hot topic related to women is the issue of pregnancy during these COVID times. Many pregnant women have extra fear of being exposed to the virus and are likely to err on the side of caution, meaning they may be reluctant to return to the workplace. Things get tricky here, as pregnancy is not a disability in the eyes of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and therefore does not offer accommodation to pregnant women. Further, because of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers cannot single out pregnant employees. This conundrum has several states trying to fill this pregnancy gap in upcoming legislation. Finally, let us not forget, as employers, about single women lacking a support system at home.

6. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

I got a lot of value out of one Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) session focused on Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and I thought I would share. EAPs are a severely under-utilized tool. This is due to lack of awareness, stigma around mental health and addiction, company culture, confidentiality concerns, and accessibility or time constraints. Many employees don’t realize the amount of free or discounted services associated with EAPs, with costs being another barrier.  However, as we saw, mental and behavioral health problems are rising at an unprecedented rate, and EAPs could be a critical mitigating factor, but only if they are leveraged.

When it comes to EAPs, you should:

  • Ensure managers are adequately trained on the program(s) offered
  • Partner with your provider to increase communications and remove obstacles
  • Link EAP access to other HR programs such as wellness initiatives
  • Monitor program effectiveness through regular surveys and performance checks
  • Check in with employees before, during and after an EAP request – did they find the resources they were looking for?

We may see EAPs transform from a “nice to have” to a “must-have” in the future. If that’s the case, all of us in this industry need to understand how to better drive utilization, because it’s clearly not enough to simply provide one. Spring can help with this!

We’ll be back soon with our #7 and beyond.

 

About the Author
Christine Culgin
Director of Marketing at Spring Consulting Group, an Alera Group Company

Christine Culgin is Spring Consulting Group,  Director of Marketing. She studied Spanish and Economics at Lafayette College and later went on to receive her master's degree in global marketing communications and advertising from Emerson College. Christine specializes in B2B marketing and handles content creation, email marketing, social media, blogging, SEO and event management at Spring.

Alera Group Acquires Todd Associates, Inc.

Posted on December 17th, 2020

Alera Group, one of the nation’s leading employee benefits, property and casualty, retirement services and wealth management firms, today announced that it has acquired Todd Associates, Inc. (Todd Associates), effective December 1, 2020.

Todd Associates, founded in 1939 and operated by Ned Hyland since 1978, is headquartered in Beachwood, Ohio, and has an office in Port St. Lucie, Florida. As an award-winning agency, Todd Associates seeks to provide high-level service and solutions to businesses and business owners throughout the United States. The firm provides property & casualty, professional and management liability and employee benefits solutions, with specific expertise in financial institutions, public entities, construction, manufacturing and real estate. 

“Todd Associates is an excellent addition to Alera Group. We are proud to welcome them as the latest firm to join Alera Group and our culture of collaboration,” said Alan Levitz, CEO of Alera Group. “Their team of industry experts and presence in the Midwest and Florida will continue to expand our ability to serve our clients’ needs with respect to both property and casualty and employee benefits. We look forward to working and growing together.”

“Becoming an Alera Group company is the next right step for our company and our clients, propelling us towards future growth and collaborative success,” said Ned Hyland, Chairman of Todd Associates. “We look forward to working with other Alera Group firms in Ohio, Florida and across the United States as we seek to further enhance our client offerings and services.”

The Todd Associates team will continue serving clients in their existing roles. Terms of the transaction were not announced.

###

About Alera Group

Based in Deerfield, IL, Alera Group’s over 2,000 employees serve thousands of clients nationally in employee benefits, property and casualty, retirement services and wealth management. Alera Group is the 15th largest privately held firm in the country. For more information, visit www.jmjwebconsulting.com or follow Alera Group on Twitter: @AleraGroupUS.

Alera Group Releases 2021 Property and Casualty Market Outlook

Posted on December 16th, 2020

National Analysis Reveals Hardening Market, Other Industry Trends

Deerfield, IL—Alera Group, a national property & casualty, employee benefits, wealth management and retirement services firm, today released its 2021 Property and Casualty Market Outlook.

This extensive document provides a comprehensive, future-oriented view of the property & casualty market from coast to coast, both by coverage line and industry. This report gathers input from national carriers, regional carriers and wholesalers and paired its findings with Alera Group’s industry experts across the country, revealing a hardening market in 2021 with rates rising in nearly every line of coverage.

Some of the report’s key takeaways include:

  • Less Coverage Available in 2021: Insurance market respondents expect less coverage availability in 2021 for multiple lines of business, including commercial auto, business interruption, D&O, and umbrella & excess liability.
  • Capacity Expected to Lower Across Almost All Lines: Apart from professional and environmental liability, respondents expect less capacity in 2021 for every line of business.
  • Key Factors Driving Market Conditions: While the pandemic is a given driver, natural disasters, decline in investment income and lower profitability are also key contributors to the current market conditions.

“We are proud to release Alera Group’s first-ever market outlook report. We anticipate that it will be a valuable resource for clients across the country,” said Mark Englert, Executive Vice President and Property & Casualty Practice Leader at Alera Group. “With pricing increases, lengthened renewal times and reductions in coverage and capacity, 2021 will likely be a continuation of the current hardening market.” 

Englert continued, “Although 2021 may prove to be a difficult insurance marketplace, our team of experts remains committed to designing and implementing cost effective solutions for our clients.”

“It is too soon to fully anticipate the impact of COVID-19 on the marketplace, but we can safely expect placement difficulty and rate increases,” said Jane Koppenheffer, President of The Insurance Alliance Network, an Alera Group company. “Our property and casualty experts will continue to create targeted resources that keep our clients informed throughout the pandemic and its aftermath.”

The 2021 Property and Casualty Market Outlook is available for download by clicking here. Contact a local Alera Group agency or email info@aleragroup.com with questions and requests for assistance.

###

About Alera Group

With over 90 locations across the country and more than 2,000 teammates, Alera Group works together to deliver solutions in employee benefits, property and casualty, retirement services and wealth management. Built on a unique model of collaboration, Alera Group is now the 17th largest independent insurance agency in the United States. For more information, visit jmjwebconsulting.com.

Weekly Wellbeing Resources: Lockdown Lessons, Family Zooms and More!

Posted on December 14th, 2020

The Alera Group Wellbeing team wishes you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season as we approach the end of 2021. Below you'll find this week’s curated list of wellbeing resources.  Feel free to share these resources, as appropriate, with your team.  Of note, there will be no resources for the week of December 21st or 28th but the distribution will start back up on January 4th! 

Have a safe and healthy week!

Career Wellbeing

  • Returning to Work After Lockdown: Lessons from Wuhan – Researchers surveyed and followed hundreds of workers in Wuhan to explore how both employees and managers prepared for the return to work.  This article discusses the key commonalities of the most successful teams. 

Social & Family Wellbeing

  • 11 Tips for Making the Most of this Holiday Season as a Caregiver – Being a family caregiver can be challenging at the best of times, and between the regular pressures of the holiday season along with the compounding stress of the pandemic, this year is looking unlike any other.  Here are 11 tips for making the most of this holiday season.
  • 27 Conversation Starters for Zoom Calls with Family – If you’re in a family where frequent Zoom catch-ups have been going strong since March, you’ve probably run out of things to say a few times.  Here are some great questions to keep the conversation flowing. 

Financial Wellbeing

Physical Wellbeing

Emotional Wellbeing

Community Wellbeing

Employer Focused Wellbeing

9 Areas of Focus For Employers Right Now: Parts 3 and 4

Posted on December 14th, 2020

We are back with more industry food for thought. We hope you caught #s 1 and 2, telework and workplace safety here. We are continuing on with more unique challenges HR, benefits and absence management professionals are still facing in light of the pandemic.

3. Mental and Behavioral Health

Mental and behavioral health has long been a concern for employers, but COVID-19 complicated this area in a myriad of ways. Research shows that by the end of the year, it’s projected that someone will die by suicide every 20 seconds. This could be the next pandemic, in that COVID-19 will lead to PTSD and increased rates of depression. In conjunction with suicide, overdose rates are rising and alcohol sales have skyrocketed. Domestic violence is also of particular concern as many have been stuck at home in unsafe environments, and with children largely out of schools and programs, there are fewer opportunities to report issues.

 

One DMEC presentation shared that 45% of employees surveyed reported their mental health being negatively impacted in some capacity by COVID-19 and that it is often more difficult for older adults, those working in healthcare, and those with pre-existing conditions. The rapidly changing news on public health and the crisis is further contributing to anxiety.  However, the number one stressor for employees across the board pertains to finances.

Non-job related factors affecting mental health right now include:

  • Childcare
  • Health of family members and self
  • Social disconnectedness
  • Postponing or canceling of events and celebrations
  • Grief/loss

Then, of course, there are job stressors that may come into play, such as career development and relationships at work.

Now that I’ve painted a very grim picture, let’s talk about what employers can do to mitigate these mental and behavioral health complexities.

Here are some ideas:

  • Conduct manager sensitivity training
  • Understand what signs of depression might look like, especially in this virtual world. An example might be morning fatigue from lack of sleep
  • Offer flexibility when possible – this could mean scheduled breaks or a switch from full-time to part-time
  • Treat mental health as you would physical health problems
  • Ensure employees understand what resources are available, such as EAPs
  • Offer benefits like 401(k) and retirement planning, HSAs and/or flexible spending accounts, emergency hardship assistance, etc.
  • Offer thoughtful perks like noise-canceling headphones, as those dealing with depression will have a harder time focusing
  • Leverage your disability carrier for help

Confronting and assisting with mental and behavioral health problems is not only a compassionate move, but a sound business decision as well. An employee with a mental health or addiction issue will be about half as productive; a DMEC presenter stated that this level of lost productivity can cost a company with 1,000 employees a minimum of $2.4 million a year.

Essentially, those who were experiencing anxiety, addiction, or depression before are facing magnified conditions now, and we have a larger subset of people who were not struggling in these areas prior to COVID-19 but now are. Your employees could be worried their spouse is going to lose his/her job so they are putting in overtime to secure their own job. Others are dealing with pre-existing conditions, aging parents who need extra care, children at home, a lack of social life, and so on.

As mental and behavioral health problems continue to soar, everyone can benefit from an employer proactively addressing them.

4. Travel

The vast majority of employers have banned non-essential business travel. For personal travel, quarantine policies may come into play. The future of business travel, that is, in a post-COVID world, remains unclear. One DMEC presentation cited a poll that showed 28% of employers planning on reducing business travel after the pandemic, and 51% of companies are unsure of what they will do. On the other hand, 62% of employees surveyed stated they would prefer to travel less when the pandemic is over than they did before it started.

Be sure to check back in for #5 and beyond!

 

About the Author
Christine Culgin
Director of Marketing at Spring Consulting Group, an Alera Group Company

Christine Culgin is Spring Consulting Group,  Director of Marketing. She studied Spanish and Economics at Lafayette College and later went on to receive her master's degree in global marketing communications and advertising from Emerson College. Christine specializes in b2b marketing and handles content creation, email marketing, social media, blogging, SEO and event management here at Spring.

 

Alera Group Releases 2020 Benchmarking Survey Results

Posted on December 10th, 2020

National Report Reveals Benefits Trends and Changes

Alera Group, a national employee benefits, property and casualty, retirement services and wealth management firm, today released the results of the 2020 Healthcare & Employee Benefits Benchmarking Survey.

The report highlights key findings from benefits analysis across the nation, including:

  • Rising Age of Retirement: Many employees are working past age 65, remaining on employer plans in addition to retiree medical plans. This impacts overall employer costs.
  • Health and Life Benefits Remain Crucial: Holding to historical standards, surveyed employers most commonly offer medical, dental, pharmacy and life benefits.
  • Prevalence of Disability & Retirement Benefits: 60% of employers offer disability benefits, with Long-Term Disability being the most common offering. The vast majority of employers surveyed—83%–offered a 401(k) defined contribution plan.
  • Voluntary Benefits are Valuable: Approximately 50% of employers offer voluntary benefits to employees, including accident, critical illness, and paid family care leave benefits.

“While our 2020 benchmarking survey revealed that some benefits trends continue to hold steady, we saw a rise in benefits offerings that can be linked to COVID-19 and work from home needs. These include telemedicine and employee assistance programs,” said Sally Prather, Executive Vice President and Employee Benefits Practice Leader at Alera Group. “We expect to see more employers relying on benchmarking tools to gauge the impact and value of their benefits offerings, both through the remainder of the pandemic and beyond.”

“The Alera Group team of data analysts collected data from across the country to compile this report,” said Karin Landry, Managing Partner. “We are excited that this report, along with our proprietary benchmarking analysis tools, will help employers nationally to create winning, cost-effective benefits packages.”

The Alera Group benchmarking survey was conducted online from July 10 through August 28, 2020. Approximately 2,000 companies participated in the 2020 survey from across the United States, including 1,069 Alera Group clients and prospects and 881 companies from a supplemental panel. The aggregate report with a summary of key findings is available here. Please contact your local Alera Group firm or email info@aleragroup.com to be connected with a benchmarking expert who can answer your questions.

###

About Alera Group

With over 90 locations across the country and more than 2,000 teammates, Alera Group works together to deliver solutions in employee benefits, property and casualty, retirement services and wealth management. Built on a unique model of collaboration, Alera Group is now the 17th largest independent insurance agency in the United States. For more information, visit jmjwebconsulting.com.

Top