EEOC Given a Year to Once Again Update Wellness Program Rules

Posted January 19, 2018 by Megan DiMartino

In May 2016, we blogged about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Wellness Rules Update, which proposed incentives (or penalties) for participating (or not participating) in wellness programs that may not exceed 30% of a group health plan. Next, we followed up in September 2017 with how the EEOC’s New Wellness Program Rules were a Bust as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) argued that the requirements were in no way “voluntary” as employees who did not want to participate and can’t afford to pay the 30% penalty would be forced to disclose their protected information, when otherwise, they wouldn’t have to do so.

Fast forward to December 20, 2017, when Judge John Bates of the US District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the wellness plan incentive rules, forcing the EEOC to go back to the drawing board to rewrite the regulations and to pursue and follow the true, dictionary-defined term, “voluntary.”

The EEOC was first given a rather lackadaisical timeline: new proposed regulations – August 2018, final rule – October 2019, and an effective date in January of 2021. Now, the EEOC has been given a year to adjust the rules: status report to review rules – March 30, 2018, new proposed regulations – August 31, 2018, and an effective date of January 1, 2019.

What does this mean for you and your health and welfare plans?

If you’ve already engaged your health and welfare benefit consultants, claims payers and others to craft, build and roll out your wellness plans, then you’ve already made a strategic decision to have a wellness plan. You invested in a process to drive education, cost-sharing and to engage employees to take control of their health. Given this new guidance, there’s little to be gained by eliminating, revamping or second-guessing the decisions you’ve already made. Besides, take advantage of the confusion and continue your competitive offering, because you can believe other employers will.

So, for now, maintain your plans and continue to provide incentivized achievements for your employees to better improve their well-being, and we will update you when new regulations and guidance become available.

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Maryland General Assembly Passes New Law – The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act

Posted January 18, 2018 by Megan DiMartino

On Friday, January 12, 2018, the Maryland Senate voted 30-17 to override Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (the “Act”), which passed the Maryland General Assembly last year. That was one more vote than the bill received in the Senate last year. You can find a summary, documents and history of the Act on the General Assembly of Maryland’s website.

The Act will become Law in 30 days, unless the General Assembly acts to delay its implementation. It requires employers to provide paid “Earned Sick and Safe Leave” to hundreds of thousands of Maryland workers. Governor Hogan put forth a vigorous fight to pick off a few Democrats in each chamber to sustain his veto, but his efforts fell short. The sick leave bill was the single most politically charged issue leftover from the 2017 Legislative Session. It pitted progressive groups and some labor unions against business groups in the six-year struggle that culminated in Friday’s vote.

Senator Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who opposed the bill last year, switched his vote to support the override. After the vote, Hogan’s spokeswoman, Amelia Chasse, issued a statement urging lawmakers to change the bill they just passed to bring it closer to the “compromise” bill the governor had offered as an alternative. This law is currently scheduled to take effect on February 11, 2018, but Senate President, Thomas Middleton, stated that they may be seeking an extension to make the law effective after 90 days instead.

In the meantime, as the political posturing is over, it’s time to get down to business. Governor Hogan is creating a State Office, the Office of Small Business Regulatory Assistance, to assist small businesses in response to the mandate for paid sick leave workers. While trying to help small businesses cope with the law’s impact, Hogan had urged lawmakers to support an alternative that would have applied to businesses with 25 or more workers by 2020.

The Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide their employees with at least one (1) hour of Sick and Safe Leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of paid Sick and Safe Leave per year. Smaller employers with 14 or fewer employees will be required to provide their employees with up to 40 hours of unpaid Sick and Safe Leave annually. Employees who have accrued unused Sick and Safe Leave at the end of each year must be permitted to carry over that leave to the following year, though employers may impose a 40-hour carry over cap.

Under the Act, employees can use Sick and Safe Leave to care for or treat the employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury or condition; to obtain preventive medical care for the employee or the employee’s family members; to care for a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury or condition; for maternity or paternity leave; or in situations where the absence is necessary due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking committed against the employee or the employee’s family member. A family member includes the employee’s children, parents, spouse, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings.

The Act contains several important exceptions and carve-outs. The Act will not apply to:

  • Employees who regularly work less than 12 hours a week;
  • Employees who are employed in the construction industry and are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that expressly waives the requirements of the law; and
  • Certain “as-needed” employees in a health or human services industry.

In addition, employers will not be required to allow employees to:

  • Carry over more than 40 hours of accrued, unused Sick and Safe Leave from year to year;
  • Use more than 64 hours of Sick and Safe Leave in a year;
  • Accrue more than 64 hours at any time; or
  • Use Sick and Safe Leave during the first 106 calendar days that the employee works for the employer (although leave must accrue during this initial employment period).

Once the Act goes into effect, Maryland will join Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Arizona, Washington, and Rhode Island to become the ninth state to require employers to provide paid sick leave. Washington D.C. also has a paid sick leave law.

In summary, some employers will need to revise their current Paid Time Off policies to reflect the requirements of the new law, which becomes effective February 11, 2018.

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

HRCI & SHRM Pre-Approved AssuredPartners’ Webinar | ACA Play or Pay Enforcement: The Taxman Cometh

Posted January 16, 2018 by Megan DiMartino

Although the ACA has occupied your time and attention for almost 8 years now, it may be hitting your bottom line in a distinct and powerful way as the IRS begins to assess Play or Pay penalties. This is mail no one wants to receive – both because the IRS provides only 30 days to respond and because the assessed penalties can be huge dollars. Join us, AssuredPartners and Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC’s Counsel, Jamie L. Leary, for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar to learn how the assessment works and what you can do NOW, so that if you receive one of these, you won’t be caught off guard.

Webinar Agenda:

  • Short refresher course on the ACA’s Play or Pay mandate
  • How the IRS is notifying employers of potential assessments
  • How employers can analyze the assessment to determine whether it is correct
  • How – and how quickly – an employer must respond

Webinar Details:

  • Wednesday, January 24, 2018
  • 2:00 – 3:00pm EST
  • No cost to attend
  • This webinar is open to all HR and Finance Professionals, but not to brokers, agents, TPAs and PEOs.
  

 


*The use of this seal confirms that this activity has met HR Certification Institute’s (HRCI) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval. This activity has been approved for 1 HR (General) recertification credit hours toward aPHR, PHR, PHRca, SPHR, GPHR, PHRi, and SPHRi recertification through HRCI.

**Crawford Advisors is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit shrmcertification.org.

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Happy Holidays, From Our Team to Yours!

Posted December 22, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

US House and Senate Pass Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017

Posted December 20, 2017 by PHaynes

Yesterday the House of Representatives voted along party lines today to pass H.R. 1, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, by a vote of 224-201. This followed Senate passage last night by a party-line vote of 51-48. with Sen. McCain not voting while recovering in Arizona from cancer treatments.  The President is expect to sign the legislation this week.

HR1 makes significant changes to individual and corporate provisions of the U.S. tax code, including a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 21%, down from 35%, beginning in 2018. The bill includes permanent effective repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual mandate, requiring individuals to purchase and maintain health coverage, by zeroing out the penalty beginning in 2019. For 2018, most individuals are still required to maintain coverage or pay a penalty when they file their 2018 federal income tax return.

The legislation avoids taxing employer-sponsored health insurance benefits. In addition to the individual mandate repeal, this legislation restores cost-sharing  payments to insurance companies, reforms the 1332 (state flexibility) waiver process (the so-called Alexander/Murray legislation), and create a federal reinsurance pool (the Collins/Nelson legislation).

It is neither clear when a vote on these ACA fixes being sought by Sen. Collins will happen in the Senate nor certain if the House will even consider it. The fate of Alexander/Murray and Collins/Nelson remains a sticking point in final legislation to avoid a government shutdown this week. As of today, the Senate appears poised to consider the legislation in its funding package, while House conservatives remain opposed to any effort to shore up the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile, House Leadership separately plans to move legislation to further delay the Cadillac Tax by one year and create a moratorium on employer mandate penalties from 2015-2018. The moves are significant for Council members as the IRS began imposing significant penalties last month for violation of the employer mandate

HR1 changes how certain tax thresholds will be indexed for inflation. Affected provisions, including the ACA “Cadillac” Tax (scheduled to take effect in 2020), will now be indexed to the Chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) instead of the regular CPI (the previous metric). That change makes it likely that more employer-sponsored plans would trigger the Cadillac tax sooner.   Accordingly, other legislation calls for a further delay on the Cadillac Tax until 2021 (the tax is currently scheduled to be effective in 2020, and the legislation introduced this week would implement the excise tax in 2021).  That legislation could be included in an end-of-year omnibus bill that could also repeal the medical device tax for five years, eliminate HSA restrictions for over the counter purchases for two years, repeal the Health Insurance Tax for some plans in 2018 and all plans in 2019, and reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Links

Compliance Strategies to Help Curb FMLA Abuse

Posted December 15, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

We’ve done numerous blogs regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and it always seems to revolve around truly understanding what FMLA covers and how employees are able to utilize it. So, to start off, let’s go over what FMLA covers:

  • FMLA provides certain employees with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year
    • Employers can allow for FMLA leave in the shortest period of time should their payroll system permit it, provided it is one hour or less
  • FMLA allows employees to take leave in consecutive days, “intermittently,” or on a “reduced leave schedule”
    • Intermittent Leave – this is when FMLA is taken in separate blocks of time for a single illness or injury
    • Reduced Leave Schedule –  this is when an employee’s usual number of working hours per workweek, or per workday, are reduced for a period of time. Usually from full-time hours to part-time hours.
      • These leaves may be taken when medically necessary:
        • To care for a seriously ill family member
        • Because of the employee’s serious health condition
        • To care for a newborn or newly placed adopted or foster care child with the employer’s approval

These types of leaves can be troublesome for an employer’s scheduling and production, and can also lead to leave abuse by employees. Here are a few compliance strategies to help curb employee abuse of FMLA:

  1. Address scheduling issues early in the process. Have employees that need foreseeable medical treatment schedule their leave in advance so as not to disrupt the employer’s operations. Let it be known to these employees requesting intermittent or reduced schedule leave to work with the employer to properly request and schedule time off.
  2. Provide the healthcare provider with necessary information. Let their healthcare provider know of the employee’s job duties and inquire if there are any accommodations you can make that would allow them to better perform these functions.
  3. Recertify FMLA leave every six months. FMLA allows an employer to recertify the FMLA qualifying condition every six months. Be sure to keep precise records of the employee’s use of FMLA and submit it to their physician to determine if their use of leave was consistent with their need for leave of the qualifying condition.
  4. Enforce company call-in policies and procedures. Employers can instill the use of a standard company call-in procedure when using FMLA leave. Applying a company wide call-in policy would be beneficial to all employees as well. Elements of a good notice procedure include:
    1. Submit requests for foreseeable leave in writing
    2. Use a uniform call-in number to notify the employer of absences that are unforeseen
    3. Require unforeseeable absences to be reported within a definite time window
    4. Have requests for leave be reported to a designated individual
    5. Ensure that proper FMLA medical certification forms are used, provided to, and returned by employees who make a request for leave
  5. Consider a transfer when appropriate. An employer may transfer an employee to an alternative job with equivalent pay and benefits to accommodate their recurring periods of leave. This helps keep the productivity of both jobs at a high while accommodating the employee’s need for leave.

Source: Business Advocate | Employment Law Q&A: 5 ways to address intermittent leave under the FMLA

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

HRCI & SHRM Pre-Approved Crawford Webinar | Santa has Diabetes & the Elves have Osteoarthritis? Managing Risk Within a Unique Population

Posted December 7, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Within every population there are unique challenges and situations that drive plan utilization and spend. No matter your group’s size, demographics, industry or other variables, each situation is unique. Understanding what sets your population apart from the rest and how to take advantage of the information available to you will help you optimize your plan’s performance and drive more predictable and stable spend over time.

Crawford Advisors’ Director of Data Analytics, Scott Mayer, will take you on a tour of an extremely unique employer and employee population, and share with you the ways that you can better analyze and understand the risk within your plan in this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar. You will also learn how to turn information into action with unique strategies designed to create lower cost for your plan members, lower cost for your plan, better member experience, and better member outcomes.

Topics include:

  • Stratifying Risk Within a Population
  • Lifestyle and Wellness
  • Clinical Risk and Gaps in Care
  • Utilization Risk
  • Network Strategy
  • Centers in Excellence
  • Bundled Payments
  • Site of Care Optimization
  • Formulary Analysis

Webinar Details:

  • Wednesday, December 13, 2017
  • 2:00 – 3:00pm EST
  • No cost to attend
  • This webinar is open to all HR and Finance Professionals, but not to brokers, agents, TPAs and PEOs.
  

*The use of this seal confirms that this activity has met HR Certification Institute’s (HRCI) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval. This activity has been approved for 1 HR (General) recertification credit hours toward aPHR, PHR, PHRca, SPHR, GPHR, PHRi, and SPHRi recertification through HRCI.

**Crawford Advisors is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit shrmcertification.org.

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

HRCI & SHRM Pre-Approved AssuredPartners’ Webinar | Wellness Plans: Best Practices and Easy Compliance Rules You Need to Know

Posted November 29, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Join AssuredPartners for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar as AssuredPartners NL’s Directors of Health & Productivity, Cary Seager and Kristin Meschler, share wellness plans best practice case studies from their work with clients varying in size and industry. Additionally, you will learn how to avoid legal land mines when developing an effective wellness program.

Webinar agenda:

  • Cary and Kristin will review wellness best practices for the development of a program, incentive strategy along with tools, resources and programming.
  • Do you have a tobacco surcharge? Cary and Kristin will discuss the recent lawsuit brought against Macy’s and how you can ensure your program is compliant.
  • Are your wellness incentives tied to biometric screenings or HRAs? Is the ADA/GINA required wellness annual notice in your employee communications? Cary and Kristin will explain exactly what you need to do.

Webinar Details:

  • Thursday, November 30, 2017
  • 3:00 – 4:00pm EST
  • No cost to attend
  • This webinar is open to all HR and Finance Professionals, but not to brokers, agents, TPAs and PEOs.
  

 

*The use of this seal confirms that this activity has met HR Certification Institute’s (HRCI) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval. This activity has been approved for 1 HR (General) recertification credit hours toward aPHR, PHR, PHRca, SPHR, GPHR, PHRi, and SPHRi recertification through HRCI.

**Crawford Advisors is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit shrmcertification.org.

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

This Coming Year’s HR Technology Trends

Posted November 28, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

This coming year’s focus is leaning toward technology: how it can be used to find people, connect people, engage people, replace people, and what to do when that happens. In 2018, technology will become a way of life in the workplace.

  1. Passive candidates – Job/career websites have made it easier to gather and sift through resumes, but social media has become a much more popular tool to find those diamonds in the rough. Social media platforms can be riffled through by hashtag searches, sub-forums or other online communication methods. Recruiters can engage new and different types of candidates to get a sense of what they’re looking for and if they’d be willing to make a career change.
  2. A remote workforce – In the past two decades, the volume of employees who have worked at least partially by telecommuting has quadrupled and currently stands at 37%. Technology has made it easier to work from practically anywhere and any computer. This not only opens your pool of candidates, but also helps retain your current employees and boost satisfaction through a better work-life balance.
  3. Blind hiring – To help eliminate any bias claims during recruiting, make hiring a blind process. Eliminate key demographic data such as gender, age, race, and even alma mater, so that the beginning of the recruiting process can be based strictly on abilities and achievements. There’s recruiting software that can help automate the screening process and keep candidates anonymous.
  4. Gamification – This is a technique using game-design elements and principles in non-game contexts. Gamification can be used as a candidate screener by turning tests of critical skills sets and cognitive abilities into fun engagement. Candidates can play smartphone apps that provide recruiters with a plethora of data that can help them predict the strengths and weaknesses of these potential employees.
  5. Future-proofing employees – As much as technology has become extremely helpful in our everyday lives, it has also replaced a countless number of jobs in both the manual-labor force and in management. In 2018, it’s up to companies to review their workforce and future positions to identify who is willing to embrace different aspects of jobs such as management, problem solving, troubleshooting, and any other area that requires a human element.

Start preparing for the future of your company and candidates by embracing current technology and investing in growing technology.

Source: Forbes | The 2018 Human Resources Trends To Keep On Your Radar

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

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