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Disadvantages of Technology-Based Enrollment


  • • Employees may be intimidated by the software and may also desire interpersonal assistance, rather than making their selections via a computer.
  • • Employees may not make informed benefit decisions if they are only advised via the computer and are not provided personalized recommendations.
The enrollment period is a daunting time for both employers and employees; it is a lot of work for companies and can be a confusing process for workers. For instance, if you have 500 employees and offer 10 benefit plans with several documents correlated to each plan, you may be sifting through as many as 20,000 documents during open enrollment. However, by using technology-based enrollment, you can save time and money, make the process more efficient and user-friendly for your HR department and your employees.


Hotel Employee Theft Prevention Tips


To curb theft at your organization, consider the following safeguards:

  • Communicate with your employees about the economy and how it will affect your organization. Be open and honest, but discourage them from panicking.
  • Try to maintain a positive work environment even during tough times. Encourage open communication, listen to employees’ ideas and recognize employee achievement.
  • Educate your employees about what is considered fraud and the consequences associated with it, and emphasize that the company has a no-tolerance policy.
  • Conduct more internal audits, especially of your financials and of any employees who handle customer transactions.
  • Increase company oversight by upper management and owners.
  • Reconcile bank statements immediately and do not keep large stores of cash on-site.
  • Consider using a payroll service to ensure accuracy.
  • Purchase Embezzlement Insurance.
  • Consider installing surveillance equipment. Be mindful that this may decrease employee morale if they feel that they are not trusted.
  • Upper management may consider taking a pay decrease or not receiving bonuses, so that lower-level employees see that everyone in the organization is affected by the economy.
  • Regarding financial tasks, give different employees different jobs, so that one employee does not have too much control. If needed, rotate certain responsibilities and personally double check statements and records on a regular basis.
  • Encourage employees to use their vacation time. If someone is stealing, it may become more evident once they are away for a few days.
  • Establish a fraud hotline for employees to report suspicious or fraudulent behavior. Give them the option to call anonymously.
  • Conduct thorough background checks on all your new hires.
  • Train managers and supervisors to monitor employees and watch for suspicious behavior. Any suspicious behavior should be reported and further investigated.
Unfortunately, employee theft is something you should always watch out for as an employer. This risk is often greater during times of economic hardship. If employees are struggling financially, even normally honest and loyal workers may be tempted to embezzle money or steal from their job. This temptation may increase if your company is also struggling, especially if you’ve had layoffs or employees are concerned for their job.


Potential Risks of Vacant Real Estate

        Protecting Vacant Real Estate Property


There are a host of risks and concerns associated with owning vacant property. Vacant buildings are an obvious target for theft, trespassing and vandalism. For example, the rising cost of copper has given rise to an increase in the theft of copper pipes from vacant properties. In addition to any loss or property damage that may occur, keep in mind that the owner of a property can be held liable for criminal activities or accidents that take place on the premises.

In addition, vacant properties are susceptible to undetected damages, such as fire, water damage, electrical explosions, wind or hail damage, and mold. A study by the U.S. Fire Administration shows that approximately 30,000 fires occur every year in vacant buildings, costing $900 million annually in direct property damage. Many of these incidents occur in vacant buildings due to small, undetected maintenance issues (where someone in an occupied building would have recognized and handled the problem before it caused a larger loss).

In certain facilities, there may also be environmental hazards that the owner needs to consider. Facilities that are used to store chemicals or other pollutants should ensure that such materials are removed or securely stored—the owner may be held liable for any hazardous materials that contaminate groundwater or other nearby natural resources. Also, underground fuel tanks present serious challenges and thus should be frequently and carefully inspected by professionals.

In a time when layoffs and foreclosures are widespread, your firm may be forced to manage vacant real estate. The insurance risks and liabilities associated with owning vacant property can be extensive, and to ensure you are adequately protected, it is important to know these risks. In addition to purchasing comprehensive insurance coverage, there are numerous preventive strategies for maintaining vacant properties to reduce risk and liability.


Benefits of Technology-Based Enrollment


  • • Every step of the benefits management process is automated, eliminating the need for paper-based processes and improving efficiency and accuracy.
  • • Online enrollment lowers the overall cost of providing services to your employees by eliminating the costs of distributing and collecting paper enrollment packets.
  • • Online enrolment shortens the enrollment cycle.
  • • Online enrollment enables employees to self-enroll in benefit programs, review their benefit data and report life event changes.
  • • Employees can choose plans based on eligibility criteria and can compare costs and coverage of previous elections against new offerings.
  • • Elections can be automatically applied to employee records.
  • • Employees receive written confirmations detailing their elections.
  • • Employees can easily view and update their records and plans.
  • • HR can check the status of enrollment in real time and may be able to generate detailed reports regarding the cost of employee benefits.
The enrollment period is a daunting time for both employers and employees; it is a lot of work for companies and can be a confusing process for workers. For instance, if you have 500 employees and offer 10 benefit plans with several documents correlated to each plan, you may be sifting through as many as 20,000 documents during open enrollment. However, by using technology-based enrollment, you can save time and money, make the process more efficient and user-friendly for your HR department and your employees.


Health Care Reform: Common Acronyms

New legislation means the addition of new health care reform terms. Use this handy reference to help decode what terms mean.There are a growing number of acronyms used in health care reform-related materials today. Here is a list of common acronyms and a definition for each.

ACA: The Affordable Care Act. Used to refer to the final, amended version of the health care reform legislation.

CDC: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CHIP: The Children’s Health Insurance Program. Program that provides health insurance to low-income children, and in some states, pregnant women who do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford to purchase private health insurance.

DOL: United States Department of Labor.

EBSA: Employee Benefits Security Administration. A division of the DOL responsible for compliance assistance regarding benefit plans.

EPO Plan: An exclusive provider organization plan. A managed care plan that only covers services in the plan’s network of doctors, specialists or hospitals (except in an emergency).

ERRP: The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. A temporary program created under health care reform to provide coverage to early retirees.

FPL: Federal poverty level. A measure of income level issued annually by HHS and used to determine eligibility for certain programs and benefits.

FLSA: The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Amended by PPACA to incorporate health care reform-specific provisions.

FSA: Flexible spending account.

HCERA: The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Enacted on March 30, 2010, to amend and supplement PPACA.

HCR: Health care reform.

HDHP: High deductible health plan.

HHS: United States Department of Health and Human Services.

HMO: Health maintenance organization. A type of health insurance plan that typically limits coverage to care from medical providers who work for or contract with the HMO.

HRA: Health reimbursement arrangement or account.

HSA: Health savings account.

IRO: An independent review organization. An organization that performs independent external reviews of adverse benefit determinations.

MLR: Medical loss ratio. Refers to the claims costs and amounts expended on health care quality improvement as a percent of total premiums. This ratio excludes taxes, fees, risk adjustments, risk corridors and reinsurance.

NAIC: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

OCIIO: The Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. A division of HHS responsible for implementing many of the health care reform provisions.

OOP: Out-of-pocket limit. The maximum amount you have to pay for covered services in a plan year.

PCE: Pre-existing condition exclusion. A plan provision imposing an exclusion of benefits due to a pre-existing condition.

PCIP: The Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan. A temporary high-risk insurance pool that provided coverage to eligible individuals until 2014.

POS Plan: Point-of-service plan. A type of plan in which you pay less if you go to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers that belong to the plan’s network. POS plans require a referral from your primary care doctor to see a specialist.

PPACA: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Enacted on March 23, 2010, as the primary health care reform law.

PPO: Preferred provider organization. A type of health plan that contracts with medical providers (doctors, hospitals) to create a network of participating providers. You pay less when using providers in the plan’s network, but can use providers outside the network for an additional cost.

QHP: Qualified health plan. A certified health plan that provides an essential health benefits package. Offered by a licensed health insurer.

SHOP Exchange: The Small Business Health Options Program. A program that each health insurance exchange must create to assist eligible small employers when enrolling their employees in qualified health plans offered in the small-group market.


The Challenges of Workers’ Comp. and the Aging Workforce

Workers’ Compensation and the Aging Workforce


One of the main challenges associated with older employees is the impact that they can potentially have on your organization’s workers’ compensation costs. These costs come largely from the growth of employees with pre-existing and age-related medical conditions, as well as chronic illness. This is resulting in a much more difficult and time-consuming process to prevent and treat work-related injuries.

For many employers, workers’ compensation claims are growing at a rate faster than most other costs. Claims for back injuries, knee injuries, stress and cumulative trauma disorder continue to increase as the proportion of aging workers grows. Addressing the challenge of meeting the needs of aging workers will not only decrease workers’ compensation claims, it can have a positive effect on both workplace safety and health care costs.

It’s true that accidents can always occur in the workplace, but the majority of workers’ compensation claims are not accidental. Rather, they are preventable. And many of these claims simply occur because the employee is not physically capable of performing the duties associated with the position in a safe manner. This is especially common with aging workers due to many of them having pre-existing injuries or chronic conditions.

Although some workers’ compensation claims are unavoidable, executing pre-employment physical examinations and ability testing can significantly reduce your risk exposure. Older Americans continue to delay their retirement or reenter the workforce to supplement their income and combat the effects of a down economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of workers between the ages of 55 and 64 is estimated to climb to 29.3 million by 2020 and make up almost 18 percent of the labor force. This increase in older workers introduces the need to understand the risks associated with this age group, and as a result, effectively manage their potentially costly workers’ compensation claims.


Benefits for Workers’ Compensation

The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Workers’ Compensation


One of the main goals of the ACA is to provide citizens greater access to health care. Greater access for more people potentially creates two benefits for workers’ compensation.

One benefit of greater access to health care is that overall, employees will be healthier, likely leading to a reduction in workers’ compensation claims. And if employees are healthier, they will be less likely to remain reliant on workers’ compensation with a combination of work-related and other medical conditions, allowing claims to be closed sooner.

Greater access to health care will allow diseases or conditions, such as high blood pressure, to be diagnosed at an appointment with a primary physician rather than in the emergency room after a workplace accident. Diagnosing existing conditions before a workplace accident will help a physician treat injuries more thoroughly, since he or she will know that the patient has it earlier on.

Another benefit of the ACA on workers’ compensation is that increased access to health care will help injured employees recover more quickly from workplace injuries, since employees will be healthier from the start. The sooner an injured employee recovers and is back to work, the less you will have to pay for workers’ compensation costs.

Greater access to health care helps keep your employees healthy and could reduce the number of workers’ compensation claims.The Affordable Care Act does not directly address workers’ compensation issues, but some aspects of the health care reform law will most likely have an impact on workers’ compensation costs and practices.


How can a cyber attack cause a business interruption?

          Cyber Attacks – A Growing Business Interruption Threat


Hackers, thieves and other unauthorized individuals have become adept at exploiting weaknesses in a business’ computer system, whether through traditional hacking methods or social engineering. There are several types of attacks that could completely cripple your ability to perform normal business activities, including:

        Malicious code that renders your website unusable

        Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that make your website
        inaccessible to employees and customers alike

        Viruses, worms or other code that deletes critical information on a
        business’ hard drives and other hardware

It is quite easy to see how any of these events might leave your company scrambling to do business. Unfortunately, many smaller businesses don’t have the manpower available to detect the problem and work on fixing it, which only increases the length of an interruption.

When you think about what usually causes a business interruption, natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes and floods probably come to mind first. These events can physically damage your property and equipment, making your workspace unusable for a time. The damages from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy are great examples of how a natural disaster can put a halt to a business’ day-to-day operations. Many of those affected businesses remain closed to this day.

While natural disasters are still the main reason for an interruption, another cause is quickly moving up the ranks: cyber attacks. As businesses continue to rely on computers and digital storage of essential data, cyber attacks will continue to be a potential exposure. Read on to learn how a cyber attack could lead to a business interruption and what you can do to mitigate the risk.


Health Insurance Subsidies

          Federal Courts Issue Conflicting Rulings
          on Subsidies in Federal Exchanges


The ACA created health insurance subsidies to help eligible individuals and families purchase health insurance through an Exchange. The subsidies are designed to make coverage through an Exchange more affordable by reducing taxpayers’ out-of-pocket premium costs.

There are two federal health insurance subsidies available with respect to coverage through an Exchange: premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions. Both of these subsidies vary in amount based on the taxpayer’s household income, and they reduce the out-of-pocket costs of health insurance for the insured.

Premium tax credits are available for people with somewhat higher incomes (up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)), and reduce out-of-pocket premium costs for the taxpayer.

Reduced cost-sharing is available for individuals with lower incomes (up to 250 percent of the FPL). Through cost-sharing reductions, these individuals will be eligible to enroll in plans with higher actuarial values and have the plan, on average, pay a greater share of covered benefits. This means that coverage for these individuals will have lower out-of-pocket costs at the point of service (for example, lower deductibles and copayments).

Several lawsuits have been filed by individuals and employers to challenge the ability of the federal government to provide tax credits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to individuals in states that did not establish their own Exchanges (that is, in states with federally-facilitated exchanges, or FFEs). These lawsuits were filed in response to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rule that authorizes subsidies in all states, including those with FFEs.

On July 22, 2014, two federal appeals courts—the District of Columbia Circuit Court and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court—issued inconsistent rulings on the availability of subsidies in states with FFEs.

In Halbig v. Burwell, the D.C. Circuit Court held that the IRS rule authorizing subsidies in states with FFEs is invalid. In a 2-1 opinion, the court ruled that the text of the ACA clearly restricts the subsidies to individuals in states that established their own Exchanges.

In King v. Burwell, the 4th Circuit Court unanimously upheld the availability of the ACA’s subsidies in states with their own Exchanges and in states with FFEs.


Affirmative Action for Federal Contractors

All federal contractors and subcontractors are required to implement AAPs. However, federal contractors and subcontractors with contracts of under $10,000 or with multiple contracts which, when combined, total less than $10,000, are exempt from the AAP requirements outlined by the OFCCP.

Many states also regulate which employers must have AAPs. Contact your local Office of Contract Compliance for more details.

Affirmative Action Requirements: The Department of Labor (DOL) has set specific reporting, notice and recordkeeping requirements to ensure that employers comply with all affirmative action regulations.

These requirements apply to all employers covered by federal anti-discrimination laws, regardless of whether a charge has been filed against them.

Reporting Requirements: Employers must report their AAP efforts using the following forms. Employers with more than one location must file a report for their headquarters, a report for each location with 50 or more employees and a separate report for each location having fewer than 50 employees. Alternatively, employers with more than one location can file a consolidated report that covers each location with fewer than 50 employees.

The term “affirmative action” refers to public and private initiatives to improve development opportunities for women, minorities and other protected classes. In the employment sector, these efforts seek to increase employment opportunities for women, minorities, veterans, the disabled and any other protected classes of employees. The goal is for all individuals to have an equal opportunity for employment, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or veteran status.

Equal employment opportunities for federal contractors are required by the following three laws: Executive Order 11246, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA). These laws are administered and enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

Many companies are required by law to have an Affirmative Action Plan in place.
As required by the OFCCP, many companies must have an Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) in place. This plan should contain an analysis of all protected classes of employees at the organization and compare protected class statistics to an employer’s entire population to discover any barriers to equal employment opportunity. The plan should also include actions to remedy these barriers. For more information on affirmative action and your obligations as an employer, visit