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‘Benefits’ Category

Apr08

Corporate Wellness – Investment or Expense

Hi! I would love to hear your weigh-in on Corporate Wellness programs. Do you consider them an investment or expense? Do you see the value of learning the tools of yoga and meditation to help manage the stresses of work/life balance?

Looking forward to your response.

Many HR and Business Professionals consider corporate wellness programs a valuable investment in employee health, morale, satisfaction, engagement and productivity while ultimately reducing company health care expenses.

The mental and physical ramifications of excessive stress are becoming more apparent and acknowledged in today’s workforce. Studies and basic observations continue to prove that excessive stress causes individuals to lose focus, commitment, and stamina which will inevitably decrease the individual’s ability to efficiently and successfully perform at work. Corporate wellness programs can change the mindset of employees to truly believe a healthy lifestyle will not only help them have a better work experience but also an improved overall well being.

Successful wellness programs depend on tailoring the program to company mission and culture while offering attractive initiatives to employees. There are many different programs to consider. Some are educational, action based, outcome oriented or all inclusive. It’s important to ascertain which programs will engage employees for the long haul and achieve both the company’s and individual’s goals.

It’s also important to be aware of the potential criticism of a wellness program. Depending on the type of program adopted employees may feel it’s too intrusive and be concerned with the confidentiality of their health information. Some employees may feel discriminated against or out casted by outcome based programs that reward employees for achieving unrealistic goals. Again, aligning the program with the needs and wants of employees will obtain the most participation and long term results.

Managing the stress of work/life balance through yoga and meditation may be beneficial to a lot of employees. Learning basic yoga poses and simple meditation techniques to use throughout the day can quickly alleviate common stressors. However, adopting a wellness program focused solely on these activities can ostracize employees who prefer other activities or are intimidated by the common misbelief that only a person in good physical shape can do yoga. So, offering a range of activities will ensure all employees’ interests are met. Consider surveying employees regarding their interest in a wellness program, specifically the activities and rewards that would engage them the most. Lastly, make sure whichever activities are offered can be adapted to meet various levels of physical ability.

Good Luck!

April 8th, 2014, 1:35 PM |  Posted in: Benefits, Workplace Health & Safety |
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Apr08

Intermittent FMLA leave

I have an employee who was just granted FMLA for Fibro and Depression. Now anytime he gets an ache or pain he just walks into my office and tells me that he needs to go home. I am enforsing out Time and Attendance policy regarding notification but is there anything else we can do in this situation?

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles covered, eligible employees to take twelve workweeks in a twelve month period of unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Eligible employees are allowed to take FMLA leave for both unforeseen emergencies and planned absences involving the care and bonding with a newborn, adopted, or foster child; and to care for oneself or immediate family member with a serious health condition.

FMLA leave may be taken intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule under certain circumstances. Under FMLA regulations, there must be a medical need for such a leave and it must be that the medical need is best accommodated by an intermittent or reduced schedule leave. The medical certification submitted to the employer must address the medical necessity for intermittent leave and state the estimated frequency of the leave. If the initial medical certification doesn’t state the need for intermittent leave or if it’s determined that the employee’s absences substantially differ from what the certification states, the employer may request recertification to substantiate the need for more frequent and abrupt absences as intermittent leave.

Also, under the FMLA, employees must give reasonable advanced notice of the need for intermittent FMLA leave. Employers may remind employees of their notice expectations for FMLA leave and of company time and attendance policies. However, keep in mind the employee is relieved of the advanced notice responsibility if the need for such leave is unforeseeable such as when an individual with a serious health condition has a flare up of conditions.

As long as the absences are verified by the medical certification and covered under the FMLA, the employee cannot be disciplined for them. However, if the employee is unable to provide a medical certification substantiating the need for intermittent leave under the FMLA, the absences, tardiness, and early departures are considered unexcused and normal disciplinary procedures should be followed. If this ends up being the case, it’s important to have clear documentation given to the employee stating that the absences are not covered under the FMLA. It would also be a good idea to have a documented conversation with the employee ensuring he is aware the absences are not covered and he will be subject to disciplinary actions if further unexcused absences occur.

Remember to count all of the leave time used by the employee. Employers may account for FMLA leave in the shortest period of time that their payroll systems use, provided it is one hour or less.

April 8th, 2014, 1:33 PM |  Posted in: Benefits |
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Apr07

PTO in California

In the state of California, can an employer distinguish they way PTO is calculated for exempt and nonexempt? Exempt is accrued immediately upon hiring at a rate of XX and nonexempt employees are granted PTO 12 month and 24th month of employment, not accrued?

There are neither federal nor California laws requiring an employer provide its employees with paid time off (PTO) including vacation time or sick leave. However, in California if an employer does have an established policy, practice, or agreement to provide such benefits, then certain restrictions regarding the fulfillment of its obligations apply.

Under California law, earned vacation time is considered wages and vacation time is earned as labor is performed. An employer’s vacation plan may provide for the earning of vacation benefits on a day-by-day, by the week, by the pay period, or other period basis. Employers are permitted to provide a specified time period in the beginning of the employment relationship during which an employee doesn’t earn any vacation time. Earned vacation time must be paid out upon termination of the employment relationship. Use-it-or-lose-it vacation polices are not permissible in California.

Conversely, sick leave is a non-accrued benefit in California. Unused sick leave may be forfeited at the end of a designated period of time and sick leave does not need to be paid out upon termination of the employment relationship.

Employers may offer combined vacation, sick leave, and personal days as PTO, allowing employees a certain number of days off to use as the employee chooses. In California, the full PTO allotment is considered an accrued, earned wage-benefit. So, just like with vacation time, earned but unused PTO must be paid to employees upon the termination of the relationship and use-it-or-lose-it policies are not allowed.

It is lawful for an employer to exclude certain classes of employees from earning PTO or offer different benefit plans based on employee classifications i.e. part time or on call workers. It’s recommended the employer has a clear policy establishing employee eligibility and benefit descriptions. Though no regulations specifically address an employer calculating PTO differently for each class of employees, the aforementioned regulations would still apply. Also, using different calculations would seem to only cause administrative hardship to the employer.

Lastly, benefit plans may differ among employees only based on employment classifications such as exempt and non-exempt, full time and part time, date of hire, length of service, or geographic location. Plans must be non-discriminatory and not adversely impact or unintentionally discriminate against protected groups.

April 7th, 2014, 12:46 PM |  Posted in: Benefits |
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Apr01

Health Insurance Payments

We are a small company, 28 employees, located in Virginia. We are no longer carrying a health insurance policy for the employees to sign up on. We had our insurance broker come in and help them sign up for the government health insurance options or an independent policy if they didn’t have a health insurance option with a spouse. In place of the policy we will pay the employees a set amount of money each week to offset their health insurance cost, in addition to their regular pay.

My understanding is this would be considered a taxable fringe benefit or income for the employee, is that correct? If so, how do we report this on their W-2?

Is there anything else we should know about providing a benefit this way?

According to my sources an additional amount of money given to employees to offset medical expenses is taxable income and should be reported as supplemental wages.

A few key points when providing such a benefit:

The employer must not get involved in the employees’ decision process regarding purchasing health options, specifically which insurer or plan to use. It was very nice of you to offer your insurance broker’s assistance to your employees. Some HR/Insurance professionals wouldn’t recommend doing so again. It opens the door for your employees to come to you with issues regarding their health care coverage. It must be clear that you are not involved in the relationship between the employees and their insurance carrier.

Employers must not get involved in any negotiations with the insurance carrier, provide any forms or materials related to the insurer or policies, and not get involved in any claims dispute no matter what. The employee must be solely responsible for maintaining his coverage in all aspects.

This probably goes without saying but to be sure…The employer should never pay for premiums directly to the insurance carrier. Again, the employee must be responsible for maintaining his coverage. Also, the employer must never accept any compensation from insurance carriers related to employees’ individual health insurance.

Employers’ offering of supplemental wages in an effort to offset employees’ individual health care coverage will probably increase in popularity among small business owners in the next year or so. There will most likely be more standards established or even regulations adopted surrounding such a benefit.

April 1st, 2014, 11:29 AM |  Posted in: Benefits |
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Mar22

Vacation pay in Indiana

How much time does an employer have to pay vacation time to terminated employees in Indiana? Where can I get the law for this answer?

Indiana, like the federal government, considers vacation time a benefit and a matter of agreement between employee and employer.

In Indiana, fringe benefits such as vacation time are not required and employers must pay employees only for time actually worked. Accrued vacation pay is considered a form of compensation in Indiana. An employee may be entitled to a pro rata share of his accrued vacation at the time of termination. However, if a company policy or employment contract stipulates that certain conditions must be met before accrued vacation pay will be paid, the conditions must be met in order to receive the accrued vacation pay. Employers are generally free to adopt vacation policies at their discretion.

Additionally, final wages must be paid on or before the next regularly scheduled payday on which the employee would have been normally paid had the employee remained employed. Since accrued vacation pay is considered a form of compensation in Indiana, one can assume it must be paid under the same guidelines as final wages. However, there is no written or case law specifically addressing the issue.

The Indiana Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour FAQs can be found at http://www.in.gov/dol/2345.htm#107.

Some states, including Indiana, require employers to adhere to their policies or established practices. Thus, it’s best practice to adopt clear and easily understandable vacation policies. Such policies should be disseminated to staff and uniformly applied to all employees throughout the agency.

March 22nd, 2014, 12:34 PM |  Posted in: Benefits |
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