Archive for June, 2014

Understanding USERRA and its Employment Protections

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

In today’s post, John Gupton, CAI’s General Counsel and HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team, shares important information about The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provides certain reemployment rights and benefit protections for military personnel including members of the National Guard and reservists. USERRA protects applicants and employees who serve in the military, or who apply to serve, from employment discrimination, and provides employment and reemployment rights after completion of military service or training, or application for service.

USERRA requires that service members provide advance written or verbal notice to their employers for all military duty unless giving notice is impossible, unreasonable, or precluded by military necessity. An employee should provide notice as far in advance as is reasonable under the circumstances. Additionally, service members are able (but are not required) to use accrued vacation or annual leave while performing military duty. USERRA establishes the cumulative length of time that an individual may be absent from work for military duty and retain reemployment rights to five years; however, there are some exceptions to the five-year limit.

USERRA provides that returning service-members are reemployed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service (the long-standing “escalator” principle), with the same seniority, status and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority. USERRA also requires that reasonable efforts (such as training or retraining) be made to enable returning service members to refresh or upgrade their skills to help them qualify for reemployment.

The period an individual has to make application for reemployment or report back to work after military service is based on time spent on military duty. For service of less than 31 days, the service member must return at the beginning of the next regularly scheduled work period on the first full day after release from service, taking into account safe travel home plus an eight-hour rest period. For service of more than 30 days but less than 181 days, the service member must submit an application for reemployment within 14 days of release from service. For service of more than 180 days, an application for reemployment must be submitted within 90 days of release from service.

For more information on USERRA, check out Chapter 14 of CAI’s Employers’ Desk Manual on our web site (www.capital.org) under the Member Services section.

Don’t Be an HR Victim

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, asks HR professionals to not be HR victims.  He came to the conclusion that many people are dealing with drama and negativity in the workplace after attending CAI’s new course offering—Becoming the Totally Responsible Person®.

The new course explains the victim mentality, how you can identify when you are being a victim or someone else is being a victim, and lastly how you can infuse personal responsibility into your workplace.

Doug tends to find that many HR departments are characterized by lack of ownership, blame, negativity, gossip—basically sharing similar characteristics to an HR victim, he says. To further help identify the factors that make an HR victim, Doug lists several victim statements in the video.

Employees are not performing at their best when they are in the victim state, according to Doug. In order to be the true business partners companies need HR professionals to be, it’s critical that HR avoids the victim mentality. If you do find yourself in that state, it is important to pull yourself out of it quickly.  Doug says in a non-victim state we learn to stay positive, productive and effective no matter the challenges that may occur.

It’s important to be solution-focused instead of being problem possessed. Doug says modeling positivity and solution thinking can have a dramatic effect on your organization and your life. If you need help removing drama or negativity from your workplace, please give us a call at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 or sign up for our new course at www.capital.org/DramaFreeZone .

Employer vs. Federal Marketplace Open Enrollment

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

The post below is a guest blog from Dax Hill who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

hcw juneEmployers with “non-calendar” plan years may find themselves in the middle of a dilemma with the Marketplace open enrollment.

In preparation of the “pay or play” provision under PPACA, some employers are looking to shift contributions towards the employee portion and away from the dependents coverage.  This strategy will help employers avoid penalties under 4980h of the tax code and make coverage “affordable” for the employee only portion.  However, redistributing premium contributions towards employees only coverage could significantly increase the cost for those employees with dependents.  These employers might assume that the dependents could then go apply for coverage though the Federal Marketplace – which works only if the employer’s open enrollment coincides with the Federal Marketplace open enrollment period. For 2014, the Open Enrollment Period was October 1, 2013–March 31, 2014. In 2015, the proposed Open Enrollment Period is November 15, 2014–February 15, 2015.

What happens if the employer increases dependent premiums during their open enrollment and the employer’s open enrollment does NOT coincide with the Federal Marketplace open enrollment?  In this scenario, an increase in premium is NOT a qualifying event for the Federal Marketplace – meaning that the dependents would not be eligible to enroll for medical coverage until the next Marketplace open enrollment.  Things can get more complicated assuming that your Section 125 plan runs on the same non-calendar plan year as your medical insurance plan year.  If dependents decide to remain on the employer’s medical insurance plan and pay on a pre-tax basis, the dependents would not be allowed to come off of the employer’s medical insurance plan unless they experienced a life qualifying event. At which point, they would again miss the open enrollment for Federal exchange.  You can see that this could become a vicious cycle and lead to frustration to both employers and employees.

There is a push to modify the regulations to allow individuals to obtain coverage mid-year through the Marketplace for non-calendar year plans.  In the meantime, employers should understand the regulations and strategies allowing individuals to enroll onto the Marketplace.

Contact an HCW consultant regarding possible solutions to this problematic situation.

 

6 Reasons Taking Your Vacation Will Improve Your Work Performance

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

7956465780_5fb7b6d55a_zSummer is on its way. If you haven’t taken a vacation already and aren’t planning to do so, I would ask you to consider taking your time off.

You will enjoy a number of benefits when you use your vacation days. Some people prefer to work all of the time and some people have to work all of the time, but in either case, taking some time off, even just a few days, will improve your work performance.

Productivity generally lowers during the summer months. Taking a vacation will help you avoid being sluggish around the workplace. Check out the six benefits of using your vacation time below:

  • Spending time outside of work will help you focus on the important things in your life that do not revolve around your work, such as family and friends.
  • Your mind can relax. Taking time off will allow your mind to take a break, get some rest, and work at its optimal level when you return to the workplace.
  • A good vacation is greatly beneficial for those in roles that require creative and innovative thinking. Not focusing on your busy work week will enable you to get inspired and recharge your creative energy.
  • You can use your free time to complete tasks, get errands done or dedicate to yourself. Carving out time for the things you enjoy will improve your satisfaction in other areas of your life, like work.
  • Time away from work can help you figure out an issue that is currently stumping you in the workplace. Walking away from the problem and returning after a relaxing vacation can have you looking at the same issue from a different perspective.
  • Keep yourself healthy by taking a breather from your position. Stress and pressure are released when you’re not focused on your responsibilities at work, which allows you to sleep better, concentrate longer and be happier.

Make sure to use your vacation time this summer. For any questions regarding vacation time and its many benefits, please call CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Kevin Dooley

 

 

 

Helping Employees Deal With Stress

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares ways in which you can help your employees deal with workplace related stress.

Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

Stress in the workplace can lead to other health issues. Workers who are highly stressed are less likely to exercise, get enough sleep or eat healthy. High levels of stress over a prolonged period of time can also lead to stomach ulcers, hypertension, headaches and injuries due to distraction.

Signs your employees are under a high level of stress include: changes in attitude, a decrease in performance, missing deadlines, consistently late for work, withdrawal and increases in sick leave.

Many companies have taken the time to establish a formal stress-reduction program to assist their employees in managing stress in the workplace. However, if you do not have a formal program in place, there are a number of ways to help your employees identify and manage their own stress.

Post the following tips in common areas of the workplace as a way of helping employees who may feel stress and not quite sure how to handle it.

Take note of your own stress level and the things that cause you stress. Pay attention to the signals your body sends to let you know you are carrying too much stress.

Understand how you deal with stress. Is stress causing you to pick up or increase unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking or eating poorly? Has your attitude at worked suffered?

Disconnect whenever possible. When not at work, turn off your cell phone and stay off of email. If your job requires connectivity outside of normal work hours, set specific times when you will return calls and emails, and stick to that schedule in order to have some time away from work.

Maintain a list of tasks. Constantly keeping a list in your head of everything you need to do can be overwhelming. Make a list of everything you need to do and then divide it by today, tomorrow, and so on. Separate work-related tasks from non-work-related tasks. This will make your workload appear smaller and more manageable, thus reducing stress.

Accept responsibility for your own stress levels. Regardless of what is actually causing your stress, the real issue is how you react to it.

Take short breaks several times each day. This may not seem like much, but a two minute walk away from your desk and computer several times a day will help you to stay focused and energized. Take a short walk, breathe deeply, stretch your back and clear your head of thoughts.

Find time for yourself. There will always be plenty going on at work and at home. Once a task is completed, there will be several more to take its place. It is very important to take time out to exercise and eat healthy. Read a good book or take up a hobby that interests you.

Change your thinking. Try not to set goals for yourself that cannot be realized or depend too heavily on someone else. Unrealistic goals will set you up for failure and cause even more stress. Lower your expectations for perfection and be satisfied with putting forth your best effort each day.

Conflict and confrontations can cause enormous stress. Try to work things out calmly and find room for compromise whenever possible. Resolve conflicts quickly to eliminate stress more quickly and to prevent conflicts from growing larger and stronger.

Seek help when available. Friends and family members can help you better manage your stress levels. Employer-based EAP services such as counseling, work/life blend programs and access to mental health professionals may be available to you as well.

Total Rewards and Business Strategy Are Not Aligned at Most Companies

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Expensive giftThe Total Rewards Survey developed by Mercer analyzes the practices companies use to align compensation, benefits, training and career development with today’s business priorities. Findings from the survey show that while more than half (56 percent) of organizations made a significant change to their total rewards strategy in the past three years, less than one-third (32 percent) said their total rewards and business strategies fully align.

Eighty-nine percent of organizations that participated in the survey ranked attracting and retaining the “right” talent as the most noteworthy challenge of their overall total rewards strategy. Additional challenges that were noted as very important included: collecting relevant market compensation data, keeping rewards affordable, communicating the value of rewards to employees, and ensuring pay for performance and performance differentiation.

From experiences with many clients, Mercer has highlighted several actions employers can put in place to address the holes between total rewards strategies and their business strategies:

“As companies focus on the cost of their talent, attracting and retaining the ‘right’ employees and differentiating rewards for top performers are challenges that can be made easier by incorporating the use of workforce analytics,” said Mary Ann Sardone, Partner in Mercer’s Talent practice and Regional Leader of the firm’s Rewards segment.

“Additionally, incorporating offerings such as career development and work/life balance initiatives into total rewards strategies caters to the needs of [employees] in the workplace.”

Leading the list of ways to enrich the employee experience in other ways than pay is giving employees the ability to make a difference in their job functions. Other contenders on the list were career progression, healthy living/wellness and recognition.

For additional information on recent trends and developments in total rewards strategy, including an in-depth look at what North Carolina employers are doing, please join us for the 2014 Compensation and Benefits Conference on August 14 and August 15 at Raleigh’s McKimmon Center.

This year’s keynote presenters and presentations include:

The Future of Attraction, Retention and Motivation: How Compensation Fits into the Process Anne Ruddy – WorldatWork

Green Goldfish – 15 Ways to Drive Engagement & Reinforce Culture Stan Phelps – 9 INCH marketing

What Would Healthcare Look Like If Getting It at the Lowest Cost Was Your Key Priority? Skip Woody – Hill, Chesson & Woody Employee Benefit Services

Leverage Marketplace Trends When Making Decisions about Compensation and Benefits Strategies Molly Hegeman – CAI

Additional topics that speakers will cover at the conference include: how compensation affects retention, the future of healthcare cost, driving employee engagement, analysis of the latest market data in total rewards, building high-performing teams, and understanding survey data.

For more information on conference speakers and topics, please visit www.capital.org/compconf.

A Strong Partnership Between HR Leaders and CFOs Improves Business Performance

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

6861256042_0b37739bcd_zCompanies that have a strong relationship between their CFOs and chief human resources officers (CHROs) are linked to superior business performance. Professional services organization EY found these results from its global survey, Partnering for performance, which shared information from 550 CFOs and CHROs.

The findings of the survey show that companies that have become more collaborative over the past three years report financial growth and stronger improvement in a number of HR metrics, such as employee engagement and productivity.

From EY’s research, four key factors were identified as reasons that have driven HR leaders and CFOs closer over those three years:

  • Finding good talent is hard and labor costs are increasing.
  • The importance of HR is rising in corporate hierarchy.
  • Companies are constantly developing new products and services to adapt to the rapidly changing business environment.
  • In an effort to achieve greater success and efficiency, more organizations are transforming their business models.

“…Typically, CFOs have tended to view human capital primarily as a cost, while CHROs have viewed it primarily as an asset that requires investment,” Dina Pyron, Global Human Capital Leader at EY says. “To really maximize employee engagement and improve workforce productivity…the CFO and CHRO need to find ways to increase collaboration effectively and efficiently.”

Having highly-efficient teams that can interact with each other to achieve business goals and eliminate inefficiency is a desire of all employers. Here are some blog posts that offer tips in creating better collaboration and teamwork among the different groups at your organization:

 

Contingent Workers a Win-Win

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

In today’s post Pat Rountree, an HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team, shares valuable information about contingent workers and how they are transforming the workplace.

Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

The contingent workforce is changing.

Contingent workers include staffing agency employees, independent contractors, consultants, freelancers and generally workers who are not direct hires with an ongoing employment relationship.

The recession of 2009 and slow recovery caused businesses to move cautiously in adding headcount. Many businesses moved to more contingent workers as a hedge against the slow recovery. The contingent workforce has continued to grow since then, and there are some estimates that contingent workers will represent nearly half the workforce by 2020.

The benefits for businesses are flexibility in hiring skilled workers as needed to meet project needs that are not ongoing without adding to fixed costs. Technology has enabled businesses to more easily search for and recruit contingent talent.

However, another change is taking place. Many workers are contingent by choice. This work lifestyle offers opportunities to use their skills and experience personal growth through exposure to different business environments. Contingent workers like the flexibility, opportunity to manage their career and make more money (for those with in-demand talent).

Who makes up the contingent workforce?

  • Remote talent made available through technology
  • Older workers who no longer want to work full time but have knowledge, skills and abilities that are valuable and marketable to businesses on a consulting basis
  • Millenials who do not expect or want to work for one employer for more than 15 to 18 months, and who also want rapid career growth, work-life balance and to be free agents
  • Those who make a temporary lifestyle for a time-out from regular work while staying at home with children, caregiving or other personal responsibilities
  • Workers that are unable to find regular employment and are contingent workers by necessity

As businesses and workers change, there can be a win-win. Businesses can recruit talent to supplement the regular workforce and take on unique projects that are outside the skills or talent available in-house. This allows them to ramp up or scale down quickly to meet demand without affecting core employees. And, individuals with desirable talent and skills can take advantage of the contingent workforce market by actively managing their career without being tied down to a long-term commitment.

If you have questions about using contingent workers at your organization, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.