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May 28, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Wellness Programs Set to Rise

Filed under: Benefits — Tags: , , 7:00 am

The costs of the health care reform law make it more important than ever that employers keep their workers healthy and motivated to adopt healthy lifestyles, a vast majority of employers said in a recent survey. Not only did 78 percent of employers agree or somewhat agree with that statement, but most also said they are likely or very likely to create or expand corporate wellness programs as a result of an incentive provision in the new law.

Effective January 1, 2014, employers will be able to use employee wellness program rewards or penalties of up to 30 percent of the cost of individual health coverage, up from the current limit of 20 percent.

The survey conducted by the Chicago-based Midwest Business Group on Health in partnership with Business Insurance, found that 60 percent of employers are likely or very likely to create or expand their wellness programs as a result of the wellness provision, while 33 percent said they are unlikely or not very likely to do so, and 7 percent did not answer.

The survey of 1,300 employers, including MBGH members and the National Business Coalition on Health, gauged their intentions and perspectives concerning the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The survey also found that when it comes to communicating information to employees, 52 percent are educating employees about how the law affects their benefits; 36 percent are describing what they, as the employer, plan to do; and 35 percent are explaining to employees what’s contained in the new law.

Conversely, 38 percent of the employers surveyed said they haven’t decided what to communicate to employees and 6 percent said they don’t plan to inform employees about the law.

Source: Business Insurance, Sally Roberts


May 26, 2010

In Which States Do Women Earn the Most Money?

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , 1:50 pm

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report women across the country still earn significantly less than male employees…20% less in fact. But that wage gap differs a lot around the country.  Washington D.C. comes in with the smallest gap.  Women in the District of Columbia make 92.2% of men.  That’s likely attributable to the large number of government jobs available.

D.C. is followed by Maryland, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.   Southern and western states have the highest pay gaps.  Women in Mississippi experience the highest gap and earn 75% of males.

Additionally, a U.S. Census Bureau study Women, Men, and the New Economics of Marriage, has found that in 2007, 22% of women earned more than their husbands, that’s up from only 4% in 1970.  Wives’ educational levels have also increased.

In 1970 20% of women had more education than their spouses.  That increased to 28% in 2007.  Just 19% of men had more education than their wives in 2007 vs. 28% in 1970.


May 24, 2010

New Tax Breaks for Hiring Unemployed Workers

Filed under: Employment Law — Tags: 2:04 pm

On March 18, 2010, the President signed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act, (HIRE) which provides tax breaks to organizations hiring unemployed workers.

The Act applies to private businesses, tax exempt organizations, and higher educational institutions.  It provides a break on payroll taxes-(basically Social Security wages (6.2%)) to organizations who hire individuals between February 3, 2010 and December 31, 2011.

The individuals must have been unemployed (or worked minimal hours) for the previous 60 days. Employers may also qualify for an additional tax credit of up to $1000 if the new hire is still employed for at least a year.

The individual must be hired to fill a new position or to replace someone who quit or was fired for cause, and must sign a statement acknowledging his status.
Go to:,,id=220326,00.html For more information.


One Dumb Manager Remark Costs Firm Big

Filed under: General HR Buzz10:25 am

Note to managers — when making hiring or promotion decisions involving female employees, avoid applying the following standard: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes flex time and a baby carriage.”

Sales managers at giant drugmaker Novartis disregarded that advice. Now the company’s on the hook for $250 million in damages for discriminating against women — and perhaps opening the floodgates for a special type of bias lawsuits.

“Caregiver discrimination” (call it “family responsibility discrimination,” if you prefer) is a concept that’s been bandied about by attorneys for a couple of years now. But the Novartis decision — and its enormous price tag — has brought the issue front and center.

And smart companies are paying attention. (more…)


May 21, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Which Occupations Have the Highest Concentration of Women?

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , , 1:32 pm

A lot has changed for women in the workplace.  But apparently some things remain the same.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released a list of the top 20 leading occupations of women which probably looks a lot like it did years ago.  The jobs and percent occupied by women are:

Secretaries/Admin Assistants (96.8%), Childcare Workers (95%), Accounting Clerks (92.3%), Registered Nurses (92%),  Teacher Assistants (91.6%),  Receptionists (91.5%), Maids (89.5%), Nursing aides (88.5%), Home Care Aids (85.2%),  Office Clerks (82%), Elementary & Middle School Teachers (81.9%),  Cashiers (74.4%), Wait Staff/Servers (71.6%), Office Supervisors (71.3%), Customer Service Reps (67.9%), Accountants (61.8%), Retail Sales (51.9%), Retail Supervisors (44.1%), Cooks (41.5%) and Managers (34.1%).   Overall, women now comprise 47.4% of the workforce.


May 20, 2010

Top Termination Mistakes That Can Make Firing Someone Even Worse Than It Already Is And Put A Sparkle In A Plaintiff Attorney’s Eyes

Filed under: Discipline & Termination — Tags: 10:37 am

Why do some employees sue after being fired? It’s not just luck. Simple employer mistakes can lead to costly results. How an employee is treated at termination can determine whether or not he or she will sue. Focus on the “how” as much as the “what.”

But Managers can make other fundamental mistakes with appraisals as well, they include:

    1. Shoot Now, Ask Questions Later.  Employees should not be fired “on the spot.” An investigation should occur even if an employee is “caught red handed.”
    2. Failing To Count To Ten or One Hundred.  You’ll regret acting when you’re mad, fed up, or just can’t take it any more.
    3. Surprise, Surprise, Surprise.  Don’t surprise the employee. Except in unusual and serious circumstances, an employee should have had some notice that her performance is unacceptable and also an opportunity to improve. Surprised employees sue.
    4. Maybe I Will, Maybe I Won’t.  Have other employees been fired for similar offenses? An employee who thinks he was treated differently may seek to “get even.” Being inconsistent is high risk behavior.
    5. Forgetting Your Inner Scout. Being well prepared, perhaps even preparing at least part of what you will say, will make things less stressful, make the meeting go more smoothly, and make it more likely that you won’t slip and say something you shouldn’t.  A little rehearsal wouldn’t hurt.
    6. No Breadcrumbs.  Having little (or no) documentation makes it awfully hard to support your decisions. Are there records of oral or written warnings? Are past performance appraisals consistent with your actions? It’s really about fairness.
    7. Motor Mouth and Long Goodbyes.  Terminations should be short and to the point. This isn’t the time to discuss problems. Be especially careful about what you say. Misinterpreted words are a real danger here. Remember that what you say can and will be used against you.
    8. Channeling Perry Mason.  Don’t argue, prosecute, try to justify your decision, or attempt to win the case. The decision has been made and it’s final. Your job is to inform the employee of the termination not debate it.
    9. Forgetting That Mom Was Right About Telling the Truth.  Do you have to give a reason for the firing?  Probably not.  But should you?  Yes, to give no reason, false justification, or a less painful reason (e.g., RIF) may create suspicions in the employee and certainly won’t look good should that employee file a case later on. Don’t provide lots of details but be honest.  (Refer to #5 “Inner Scout for practice tips.)
    10. Treat Them Like Dirt.  Failing to treat the employee with dignity is not only unkind, it makes him mad. A humane, private, and professional termination may avoid a lawsuit down the road. Pick a discreet time and place.  Don’t humiliate him by forcing him to clean out his desk or remove personal effects in front of coworkers.
    11. No Solo Flights.  Don’t do it alone. Have another manager present and have your actions reviewed by HR before you act.
    12. Loose Lips Sink Ships.  Keep your mouth shut after the termination. Don’t discuss the reasons for the termination with other employees. Loose lips can lead to a defamation suit.

Salary Offers for 2010 Graduates

Filed under: Compensation — Tags: 9:15 am

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) average starting salaries for 2010 college grads with bachelor’s degrees are down 2% from 2009, from $49,353 to $48,351.

Of course salary was greatly dependent upon major.  Engineering majors took 8 of the top 10 average salaries, with petroleum engineers at the top at $86,220. Average engineering salaries were at $59,245.   Computer science related degrees came in at $59,570. The average offer to accounting majors was $47,982. Liberal arts grads didn’t fare as well, averaging $32,555.


May 17, 2010

Breaks for Breastfeeding Required by Healthcare Act

Filed under: Employment Law — Tags: 8:52 am

Under the recently signed, federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, nearly all employers are required to provide “reasonable” breaks for mothers to express milk. 

Employers must also provide mothers a private location, other than a bathroom.  Organizations of fewer than 50 employees may be excluded if an “undue hardship” would otherwise result.  Such break time can be unpaid.

Note: Some states have already enacted similar legislation.  Therefore be sure to check state law.  Remember that the law that most benefits the employee applies.


May 14, 2010

$200 Million for Small Companies That Start Wellness Programs

Filed under: General HR Buzz8:04 am – Want to reward — or bribe — your workers for healthy lifestyle choices? Provisions in the new reform law offer aid, and even some cash, to small businesses that run wellness and prevention programs for their employees.

Starting next year, the law authorizes grants totaling $200 million over five years for small companies that start wellness programs focused on efforts such as nutrition, smoking cessation, physical fitness and stress management. Companies with fewer than 100 employees qualify for the grants, which will be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, but only new wellness initiatives — those launched after March 23, 2010, the date the heath reform bill was enacted — are eligible.

The law has another boon for prevention efforts: Beginning in 2014, employers will be able to offer reward payments of up to 30% of the cost of insurance coverage (up from the current 20%) to workers who participate in such programs and meet certain health-related benchmarks.

Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business have opposed the most prominent aspects of President Obama’s health care reform, while labor unions and organizations like AARP have been among its biggest cheerleaders. But on the discount provision, the two sides switch teams.

NFIB sees the change as “a positive development,” says Amanda Austin, the group’s director of federal public policy. “From an employer perspective, there is certainly an interest to be able to incentivize and reward employees for engaging in healthy behaviors.” A July 2009 survey by Health2 Resources, an industry PR firm, found that insurance premium reductions are the most popular wellness program incentive among employers.

On the other hand, the Partnership for Prevention, a Washington nonprofit that lobbies for wellness polices and research, is cautious about tying workplace prevention programs to insurance discounts.

“There is concern about whether an incentive for some will end up being a disincentive for others, or whether a benefit for some will end up being an unfair penalty on others,” says Robert Gould, the organization’s CEO.

Gould is similarly wary about the grants provision.

“It is not an enormous amount of money, nor is it guaranteed to be spent,” Gould says. “It’s authorized in the legislation, but it has to be appropriated. We’ll be encouraging the appropriation, but it’s going to be a fight, given the obvious issues with the [federal] budget. But it is the right idea.”

But Austin and Gould both agree that the grants authorization is a good effort toward closing the opportunity gap between small and large employers implementing wellness plans.

“We are very interested in it, and we look forward to seeing how this plays out and what exactly we need to do to qualify to get some of this money to the small employers in the community,” Austin says.

Front Range Internet CEO Bill Ward would welcome government help to make such programs more affordable. Based in fitness-conscious Fort Collins, Colo., Front Range took home the Wellness Council of America’s top small business workplace wellness award last year.

But budget constraints have forced cutbacks each year since the program started in 2007.

Front Range, which has a staff of around 40 people, initially offered a broad menu of activities, from on-site yoga classes to a smoking cessation program and a softball team. Now, instead of focusing on on-site programs, the company uses a point system to reward workers who participate in health and fitness activities on their own. Employees who rack up 100 points during a designated six-month period get $10 off their insurance premiums for each of the following six months.

Front Range spent $1,830 on its wellness program in 2009, including $1,300 in premium discounts paid as reimbursements to employees. The company is considering offering some on-site exercise classes again, but this time for a small fee.

“It’s putting it more on the employee, but at least it’s making it available even if we can’t really contribute to it as much as we would like to,” says Kristi Siedow Thompson, the company’s design and marketing coordinator.

CEO Ward says he would love to see government support for expanding such programs at small firms like his.

“I would hope that some flavor of that kind of policy would be enacted and funded,” he says. “We would certainly want to try to be a part of it.”

Source: (


HR Fact Friday: Employees Ready to Settle Down

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , , , 7:00 am

Job security takes precedence over advancement as workers manage their own careers, health care and retirements, a Towers Watson survey shows.
The findings, released in the 2010 Global Workforce Study, are from a biennial survey of employee attitudes and workplace trends. Participants were in 22 countries, including the United States.

Among the nearly 1,100 U.S. employees surveyed, job security is crucial, and the recession has prompted workers to lower their career and retirement expectations severely, the survey researchers found. Stability is “paramount,” according to the report, “even at the expense of career growth and development.”

Among the findings for U.S. workers:

  • 40% said working for two or three organizations throughout their careers is the most appealing career model.
  • 39% would prefer to be employed at one organization their entire work lives.

Globally, 81% of all workers are not actively looking for new jobs, and more than three-fourths place job security above everything else, including more pay.

Source: HR Magazine, Kathy Gurchiek, May 2010, pg 18

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