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Ask the Experts: Employee on modified assignment due to a workers’ comp claim | Maryland Benefit Advisors

 

Question: We have an employee who is on modified assignment due to a workers’ comp claim. Do we have to pay for the time spent away from work for doctor appointments or does the employee have to use PTO time?

Answer: You may not necessarily have to pay for the time an employee spends at the doctor’s office, but rules vary based on state workers’ compensation laws governing the injured or ill worker’s time off and the details of the situation. The first thing we recommend is determining how your state workers’ compensation laws address this subject.

Typically, when an employee experiences a work-related injury or illness, the employee is referred to a medical provider selected by the employer. When an employee receives medical attention at your direction during normal working hours on working days, it constitutes hours worked. Hours worked are compensable hours therefore you would pay for time spent at those doctor’s appointments.

If, on the other hand, the visits are to the employee’s personal doctor, and the visits are not at your direction, then the time spent away does not qualify as compensable hours. In this case, you treat the absences for medical appointments the same way you treat time away from work for medical absences for any other employee. You should refer to your company’s policy because this time may or may not be compensable. If the time is not compensable, the employee may use paid time off (PTO) or sick leave to go to a doctor’s appointment. This is permissible if your employee is not using PTO while receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

To reiterate, policies regarding employee absences for medical treatment should be governed by your state’s applicable laws and documented in your company policies and handbook. Now is the time to update your policies and handbook if they don’t contain this information. If applicable, review and follow your collective bargaining agreement covering payments for workplace injuries and illnesses. Finally, as an extra precaution, it is always a good idea to consult your counsel with questions regarding workers’ compensation and other employee benefits and leave concerns.

 

Originally posted by www.ThinkHR.com

Employee Benefit Trends of 2017 | Maryland Benefit Advisors

Customization of benefits is becoming more popular.  The process of personalizing employee benefits allows for individuals to choose from an array of options, and increases employee satisfaction.

How Apps are Changing the Way Employees Receive Mental Health Care | Maryland Employee Benefits

mental-health-app-resizedDid you know studies convey that 20% of the population, or 1 in every 5 adults suffer from some sort of mental health condition? Mental health has become a substantially concerning issue in America’s workplace, and therefore a top priority in employee wellness. Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder cause workers to perform less efficiently on a daily basis, which in turn creates negative effects on both the employees and employers.

Unaddressed mental health problems can leave employees unhappy and less efficient at work, as well as having financial consequences for employers. Studies conducted show that mental health conditions left without treatment cost employers nationwide a total of $80- $100 billion per year. In addition, employers have a duty to ensure physical and mental safety for their workers. In the past, companies have typically encouraged employees to see therapists and potentially receive medication. These treatments can be very effective. According to a recent study by the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, 86% of those employees that were treated saw improvements in their daily work.

However, these therapy and medication can also be very time consuming and costly. In order to achieve a more efficient and cost effective solution, companies have found creative outlets to provide daily treatment. Enter the mental health app. Human Resources in general is becoming a more app-friendly department. The IAB-commissioned Harris Poll shows mobile phone users spend 88% of their time in applications and appreciate having apps that streamline services on their phones. There are countless apps for companies to choose from, but Mobylize and MoodNotes are two of the most innovative options.

Mobylize

Mobilyze is an employee-focused mobile application that tracks location, movement, sleeping patterns, and phone calls. It then compiles the data to analyze the user’s different moods and sends them messages as well as giving feedback on their responses to try and improve their symptoms. The app is user-specific which helps generate results faster and more accurately, and offers a more convenient and cost-effective option for companies trying to improve their employees’ well-being.

MoodNotes

Other apps, like MoodNotes, provide a more interactive user experience. Like Mobilyze, the app tracks different patterns that may be associated with mental health problems, but also focuses on creating a personal relationship with the user. MoodNotes encourages the user to answer more challenging questions about how they feel and why they may be feeling that way. As a result, the user is forced to think about possible suppressed problems and the reasons behind them. The app’s goal is to act like a mental health coach or friend, and strives to get users back to their healthy, happy selves.

These are only two examples of popular mental health apps that companies are starting to use. The companies that choose to implement these types of apps are continuing to see positive results. The market for mental health apps is growing, providing employees with many options to address specific issues and allowing room to find the best fit. As businesses focus on more ways to implement technology, mobile apps may be a solution to lowering the costs of mental health care, as well as looking out for the well-being of employees and fostering a well-functioning, healthy business environment.

 

By Nicole Federico

4 Easy Ways to Step Up Your Employee Wellness Program | Maryland Employee Benefits

Brooklyn BridgeEmployee Wellness Programs are a key factor in employee engagement and overall company success in today’s business world. Wellness programs are consistently evolving and changing as employee demands shift. Companies are constantly looking for new ways to engage and encourage their employees, preferably at a lower cost. Below are some effective and cost-efficient ways to enhance your employee wellness programs, leaving your employees happier and more excited about work!

  1. Walk and Talk Meetings

Walk and Talk meetings are becoming a popular new way that companies can encourage employee fitness in the workplace. The average American employee spends the vast majority of the day sitting at the desk, and studies show that 86% of them hate it. The walk and talk meetings provide a way to get up and move around, while still being productive with the work that needs to be accomplished. In addition, walking boosts creativity and new environments produce fresh ideas. A Stanford study recently found that, “walking has a very specific benefit – the improvement of creativity.” So, next time you’re looking for a boost of creativity and activity in your schedule, consider taking your meeting for a walk.

  1. Fit Bit Challenges

Fit Bits are one of the most popular fitness trackers on the market. Several employees already have personal Fit Bits so bringing them into the workplace is an easy transition. For those that do not, many companies are buying them in large bundles for resale at discounted rates to their employees. Companies are finding innovative ways to incorporate Fit Bits into their wellness programs to keep employees active while also fostering teamwork. According to Fit Bit, by holding challenges and competitions using the Fit Bit, companies create group health that is easily trackable. More specifically, “Fit Bit users with one or more friends are 27% more active.” The concept of using the Fit Bit with other employees builds better relationships as well as holds them accountable for being active.

The challenges are a simple and cost efficient way to improve overall health and many companies have had great success through using the Fit Bit. For example, The Cleveland Cavaliers’ employees did a Fit Bit walking challenge in which they logged their daily activities and food. In order to entice workers to take part, they held competitions with prizes that spiked employee participation and overall health and happiness. The result of the challenge- “employees reached their personal fitness and weight loss goals, conference room meetings became walking meetings, and elevator trips were nixed in favor of the stairs. By the time their challenge came to a close, participants had recorded a cumulative 76.6 million steps—more than 38,000 miles—and created new healthy habits to take into the future.” Your company could be the next to see amazing FitBit challenge results!

  1. Healthy Vending Machines

In order to achieve a healthy lifestyle, the combination of exercise and healthy eating is essential. For busy employees, grabbing a quick snack is a typical daily routine, however these quick grabs are often unhealthy. Keeping healthy vending machines, or stocking the fridge with fruits and vegetables allows workers to snag a healthy snack that will aid overall health and also satisfy mid-day hunger cravings. In addition, eating healthy has many cognitive benefits that can transfer into employees’ work. For example, typical benefits that arise from healthy eating are an increase in concentration and alertness, generating better work from each of your employees.

  1. Competitions

Competitions can easily be tailored to fit your company’s culture! One of the most popular workplace competitions is the Biggest Loser challenge. In this type of challenge, the employee or team of employees sets a weight loss goal. The group that loses the most weight by the end of the allotted competition time wins! Another popular challenge is signing up for local 5Ks or half marathons and running the race with your co-workers. You can encourage employees to partake in fitness challenges by having prizes or monetary rewards. Aside from the obvious health results, challenges like these encourage teamwork and healthy competition inside the workplace. Above all else, it’s important to get creative with whichever competition you choose!

The key to a successful wellness program is to make it personal to what your employees enjoy and will want to participate in. These are just a few ways that you can find success in employee wellness throughout your company. So, boost your overall employee morale and efficiency by implementing these simple yet cost efficient wellness ideas in your daily routines!

 

Contributed by Nicole Federico

Employee Fitness Challenge Ideas | Maryland Employee Benefits

A photo by Crew. unsplash.com/photos/rCOWMC8qf8AMore than 81 percent of American businesses with at least 50 employees engage in some type of health promotion program, according to the Wellness Councils of America. One component of these programs is employee fitness challenges, which are contests between employees — either individually or as part of a team — to increase their physical activity and manage their weight in a fun way. These challenges provide several benefits for both employees and employers and you can implement them in a variety of ways.

Benefits

By boosting employee fitness, corporate wellness and fitness challenges help employees to develop healthier eating and exercise habits, manage stress better and improve their overall health. These challenges also reduce absenteeism and improve job performance and morale. Plus, they can save your company money. Providence Everett Medical Center saved $3 million dollars over nine years as a result of their employee Wellness Challenge program, according to the Wellness Councils of America.

Weight Loss Challenges

Sixty-eight percent of Americans are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Through an employee weight-loss challenge, you can do your part to stem the rise of this epidemic while making it more convenient and fun for your employees to meet their weight-loss goals. Some companies provide free gym memberships and online diet and exercise journals for employees to track their progress. They also provide incentives such as cash prizes or trips to employees who lose the most weight.

Marathon Charity Challenges

Charity runs and marathons are popular ways to raise money for charities and can complement your employees’ goals to lose weight, get fit and give back. For a marathon charity challenge, employees collect donations for walking, running or “wheel-chairing” in a marathon or mini-marathon and donate the proceeds to a charity your company supports. You can develop this type of fitness challenge just within your company or compete against employees from other companies.

Pedometer Contests

According to the Northern Ohio Area Chamber of Commerce, pedometer contests are a proven, budget-friendly way to increase exercise among employees. The goal is to encourage employees to walk the commonly recommended 10,000 steps a day, which 80 percent of Americans fail to do. Employees can either compete as individuals or as part of a group or team.

Getting Started

If you or your human resources department need advice on starting an employee fitness challenge in your company, contact your health insurance provider. Some of them, such as BlueCross Blueshield, provide Employee Fitness Contest Kits with information on how to prepare, execute and evaluate the challenge. You can also bring a corporate wellness consultant or company on board to help get your program started.

Originally published by Livestrong – Read More

How to Implement a Workplace Fitness Program | Maryland Employee Benefits

0909Implementing a workplace fitness program at the office can help your company’s bottom line. A study by The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, with results published in a 2008 issue of the “Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine,” found that employees who engaged in workplace wellness programs saved $176 to $182 on health care costs yearly. By presenting management with the benefits of a fitness program, you can get support for a program at your own workplace for healthier, happier employees who cost the company less in health costs.

Step 1

Schedule an appointment with your management team to talk about the possibility of implementing a workplace fitness program. Come armed with information on what type of fitness program you’d like to use, whether it’s a weight loss competition, themed fitness days or fitness classes offered at work. Talk about the cost of a fitness program versus the benefits, such as reduced health care costs and improved productivity. Once you have the approval from your managers, you can begin your planning.

Step 2

Meet with your employees to define your fitness goals and your program plan. You may want to ask employees about the things they struggle with in regard to fitness. Some answers you may hear are time constraints, morale at work, money and fitness levels. You then create the program that will work best for the collective goals of those who will be taking advantage of your fitness program.

Step 3

Offer incentives to entice your employees to participate. Whether it’s a prize for the most weight loss, days where participating employees can come late to work, or sponsored events with free food and fitness, make the workplace fitness program an exciting and desirable way to spend time at work. Without incentives, you may find that employees have little interest.

Step 4

Participate in fitness activities, contests and programs as well. Show support for the program by making allowances for those who are participating. For instance, you may decide to give time off to attend weight management meetings together, suggests the “St. Louis Business Journal.” Show that as the program organizer, you believe in the fitness program and participate yourself to keep participation and morale high.

Step 5

Organize office-wide fitness days to include those who don’t participate formally in the program. Natural Healthcare Canada suggests having a “Walk to Work Day,” or having a group lunch outside in order to get everyone moving. A health fair or having a fitness meeting can also help to include everyone in your office.

Originally published by Livestrong – Read More

What Are the Advantages of Having a Corporate Office Gym? | Maryland Employee Benefits

0830Employers benefit from a healthy and fit workforce. Although employees may be individually motivated to lose weight and maintain physical fitness on their own, employers can offer incentives to encourage their workers to do so. One common method is to open an onsite fitness center. A corporate office gym offers advantages for employees, and their use of the facility benefits the employer.

Lower Premiums

When employees exercise regularly, it improves their overall health. Regular exercise can reduce weight, lower blood pressure and reduce symptoms of chronic illness. This can result in lower health-care costs, which lowers the total cost of a company’s health insurance premiums.

Fewer Absentee Days

Employees who work out on a regular basis have better overall health, including greater resistance to illness. According to a report in the “Kansas City Business Journal,” use of an onsite fitness center can lead to employees having fewer colds. This may reduce the total number of employee sick days.

Cheaper Than Gym Memberships

Some companies offer an employee benefit that pays for an annual membership at an offsite public gym or health club. According to research conducted by the University of California at Berkeley, people who pay for annual gym memberships are significantly less likely to maintain a long-term exercise habit. Paying for employee gym memberships may not be cost-effective.

Convenience

The presence of an onsite office gym provides a convenience that makes it more likely that employees will exercise. It can be difficult to make time to go to a separate facility to work out before or after a long day on the job. An opportunity to work out at your place of employment makes it easier to fit exercise into your busy schedule.

Originally published by Livestrong – Read More

Under-Vacationed: Majority of American Workers Left Vacation Days Unused | MD Employee Benefits

vacation1Everybody loves vacation days, right?  Fun on the beach, crisp days in the mountains, or just doing nothing – it’s a summer ritual.  Unfortunately, many American workers are taking less time off than ever before.  According to a study by Project: Time Off, 55% of U.S. workers left at least one vacation day unused in 2015 – the first time that has happened in the history of the study.  American workers took an average of 16.2 vacation days last year, down from the 1978-2000 average of 20.3 days.  Beginning in 2000, vacation usage fell beneath the long-term average and has been declining ever since.

Why would people not take their vacation days, you ask?  Here are the top reasons uncovered by the study:
– 37%  Fear of returning to a mountain of work
– 30%  Feeling that no one else can do the job
– 30%  Cannot financially afford a vacation
– 28%  Higher-ranking executives concerned that they can’t take time off in such positions
– 22%  Wanting to show total dedication to their job, presumably to either advance in the company or just to keep their job

And before you think maybe they just rolled them over to the next year, the study found that of the 658 million vacation days unused by American workers, 222 million of them were truly lost.  These lost days did not roll over, get paid out, or banked for anyone else, they were simply lost.  That’s an average of 2.0 full days lost per U.S. worker.

The irony is that workers who take less than 10 days of vacation time are less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the past three years than those who took more time off.  It also affects the economy – if Americans would have used all the vacation days they earned in 2015, that would have had a $223 billion spending effect in the U.S. economy.

So what would encourage U.S. workers to take more vacation days?  80% said that support and encouragement from their boss would make them more likely to take time off.  Unfortunately, over half of employees feel a lack of support from both their boss and their coworkers.  This is symptomatic of the deeper issue, which is that over 2/3 of American workers report that they hear nothing, mixed messages, or discouragement about taking time off.

So are vacations going the way of the dinosaurs?  Not yet – Americans need to confront their fears and take the vacation days they’ve earned.  The best way to do this is to plan them in advance – planners are more likely to take all of their vacation time, and to take longer breaks when they do take vacation.  U.S employees need to be sure to plan their vacation time, and enjoy all the time off from work they’ve earned.

 

By Jarod Onthank

EEOC Posts Sample Notice for Employer Wellness Programs | Maryland Employee Benefits

0624Our May 24, 2016 blog post, “EEOC Finalizes Rules for Employer Wellness Programs,” summarized new regulations issued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) for workplace wellness programs. At that time, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced it would develop a sample notice for employers to use in meeting the ADA’s notice requirement. On June 16, 2016, the EEOC posted the Sample Notice.

By way of background, the ADA’s notice requirement applies to employers that offer wellness programs that collect employee health information, such as health risk assessments and biometric screenings. The employer’s notice must inform the employee what information will be collected, how it will be used, who will receive it, and what will be done to keep the information confidential. The employer may use the EEOC’s Sample Notice by tailoring the text for its wellness program or the employer may design its own notice provided it includes all required information.

The ADA’s notice requirement takes effect as of the first day of the health plan year that begins on or after January 1, 2017. The following questions and answers are provided by the EEOC to assist employers in meeting the requirement:

  1. If wellness program participants already get a notice under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), do they need to get a separate ADA notice?

Employers that already provide a notice that informs employees what information will be collected, who will receive it, how it will be used, and how it will be kept confidential, may not have to provide a separate notice under the ADA. However, if an existing notice does not provide all of this information, or if it is not easily understood by employees, then employers must provide a separate ADA notice that sets forth this information in a manner that is reasonably likely to be understood by employees.

  1. Who must provide the notice?

An employer may have its wellness program provider give the notice, but the employer is still responsible for ensuring that employees receive it.

  1. Does the notice have to include the exact words in the EEOC sample notice?

No. As long as the notice tells employees, in language they can understand, what information will be collected, how it will be used, who will receive it, and how it will be kept confidential, the notice is sufficient. Employers do not have to use the precise wording in the EEOC sample notice. The EEOC notice is written in a way that enables employers to tailor their notices to the specific features of their wellness programs.

  1. When should employees get the notice?

The requirement to provide the notice takes effect as of the first day of the plan year that begins on or after January 1, 2017 for the health plan an employer uses to calculate any incentives it offers as part of the wellness program. For more information about which plan to use in calculating wellness program incentives, refer to EEOC’s questions and answers on the ADA rule and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination (GINA) rule. Once the notice requirement becomes effective, the EEOC’s rule does not require that employees get the notice at a particular time (e.g., within 10 days prior to collecting health information). But they must receive it before providing any health information, and with enough time to decide whether to participate in the program. Waiting until after an employee has completed an HRA or medical examination to provide the notice is illegal.

  1. Is an employee’s signed authorization required?

No. The ADA rule only requires a notice, not signed authorization, though other laws, like HIPAA, may require authorization. Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) requires prior, written, knowing, and voluntary authorization when a wellness program collects genetic information, including family medical history. (See Q&A 7 below.)

  1. In what format should the notice be provided?

The notice can be given in any format that will be effective in reaching employees being offered an opportunity to participate in the wellness program. For example, it may be provided in hard copy or as part of an email sent to all employees with a subject line that clearly identifies what information is being communicated (e.g., “Notice Concerning Employee Wellness Program”). Avoid providing the notice along with a lot of information unrelated to the wellness program as this may cause employees to ignore or misunderstand the contents of the notice. If an employee files a charge with EEOC and claims that he or she was unaware of a particular medical examination conducted as part of a wellness program, EEOC will examine the contents of the notice and all of the surrounding circumstances to determine whether the employee understood what information was being collected, how it was being used, who would receive it, and how it would be kept confidential.

Employees with disabilities may need to have the notice made available in an alternative format. For example, if you distribute the notice in hard copy, you may need to provide a large print version to employees with vision impairments, or may have to read the notice to a blind employee or an employee with a learning disability. A deaf employee may want a sign language interpreter to communicate information in the notice, whether the notice is in hard copy or available electronically. Notices distributed electronically should be formatted so that employees who use screen reading programs can read them.

  1. What notice must employers provide for spouses participating in an employer’s wellness program?

As was the case prior to the issuance of the rules in 2016, GINA requires that an employer that offers health or genetic services and requests current or past health status information of an employee’s spouse obtain prior, knowing, written, and voluntary authorization from the spouse before the spouse completes a health risk assessment. Like the ADA notice, the GINA authorization has to be written so that it is reasonably likely to be understood by the person providing the information. It also has to describe the genetic information being obtained, how it will be used, and any restrictions on its disclosure.

 Originally published by ThinkHR – Read More