A mayor in Ohio has gotten himself in some hot water for his selective use of pre-employment medical examinations for hirees.

How selective? According to WKYC, one woman claims that the mayor required her and other women, but not men, to be examined by his personal doctor. For his part, the mayor denies the allegations as an act of a “fertile imagination” and claims that he sends all city workers, male and female, to the same doctor for pre-employment exams.

Why would her allegations rise to the level of unlawful activity?

Aside from the obvious sex discrimination (an employer cannot apply one set of policies to male employees a different set to female employees), it also violates the ADA’s requirements for pre-employment medical examinations.

The ADA applies a traffic-light approach to employer-mandated medical exams.

    • Red light (prior to an offer of employment): the ADA prohibits all disability-related inquiries and medical examinations, even those that are job related.
    • Yellow light (after employment begins): an employer only may make disability-related inquiries and require medical examinations that are job-related and consistent with business necessity.
    • Green Light (after an applicant is given a conditional job offer, but before s/he starts work): an employer may make any disability-related inquiries and conduct medical examinations, regardless of whether they are related to the job, as long as it does so for all entering employees in the same job category.

Because these exams fall in the “Green Light” category, the city is in the clear, right? Wrong. Pre-employment medical exams are permitted as long as the employer does so for all entering employees in the same job category. This employee alleges the females were singled out. Thus, unless she worked with all women in her job category (another legal red flag), the city violated the ADA by sending some, but not all, employees for pre-employment medical exams.

Also, pay attention to state laws when conducting medical exams. For example, Ohio prohibits an employer from shifting the cost of any pre-employment medical exam to an employee: “No employer shall require any prospective employee or applicant for employment to pay the cost of a medical examination required by the employer as a condition of employment.”

As for this mayor, these allegations are just the tip of his legal iceberg. It’s also alleged that he uses the n-word to refer to African American residents, and sexually harasses female employees by talking about his private parts and how pistachios contribute to his sexual prowess. Sounds like a great place to work.

The post Do You Know? Pre-employment Medical Exams appeared first on Workforce.

For some businesses beyond retail, the holiday season — November through February — is the busy season.

holiday rush

This means heavy workloads, tight deadlines and the need for collaborative teamwork more than ever as many companies are winding down. Research from my company’s research arm, the Limeade Institute, shows that burnout happens when employees have high stress but low well-being. So we’ve come together as a company to keep our people balanced, productive and healthy during this time.

Here’s what we found works best:

Reorganize annual events to alleviate employees’ schedules: Like most companies, we launched annual employee reviews at year-end. Now we’ve moved our annual reviews to February, so employees can approach them thoughtfully and reflect on all they’ve accomplished. We also pushed our holiday party to  midyear so our employees can spend their time with family and friends. And while most companies send customers holiday gifts in December, we send gratitude gifts just before Thanksgiving.

Push for real PTO: We encourage employees to use their vacation time by year-end. In fact, our research shows those who take all of their vacation days are more engaged. Some employees prefer to take a long break just after the busy season. Because of this, we roll over up to 160 hours of PTO per year.

Support employee well-being: Throughout the busy season, we developed a Refresh Yourself campaign that promotes employee well-being — something often neglected when the pressure is on. We’ve offered chair massages, fruit-infused water, smoothies, yoga and meditation sessions, stretching stations, brain games and had the leadership team cook breakfast for employees. An optional office decorating contest and ugly sweater competition brings spirit to the office. In the meantime, remote employees receive care packages so they feel included and supported.

Help employees manage stress: Stress is inevitable during the busy season, so we help employees feel energized and motivated versus run-down or overwhelmed. We coach managers on how to help their team deal with stress and bring in guest speakers on how to stay positive in stressful times.

Our advice to those whose holiday rush ramps up during the holidays? Test new ideas, measure success and improve every year.

— Laura Hamill is chief people officer at Limeade and chief science officer of the Limeade Institute.

The post Handling the Workplace Holiday Rush appeared first on Workforce.

When we think of pregnancy protection, most of us immediately think of maternity leave — the colloquial term for the 12 weeks of federally mandated unpaid leave available to new mothers under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Some employers offer pay during this 12-week period. Others offer more than 12 weeks. All covered employers are required to hold the employee’s job and reinstate her with the same benefits after the 12 weeks.

However, most employers have additional obligations to pregnant employees. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers with more than 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees suffering from certain pregnancy-related disabilities, unless the accommodation would be an undue hardship on the employer. These accommodations can include modified work schedules, additional leave, temporary reassignment to light duty or modifying work policies to allow more frequent breaks.

Many employers forget about another federal law that protects pregnant employees: The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy (past, current or potential), childbirth or related medical conditions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — the agency that enforces the Pregnancy Discrimination Act — has provided specific examples of prohibited discrimination. Broadly, an employer may not deny a pregnant employee or applicant access to a job, promotion or opportunities for fear she will have physical limitations, require significant time off or impose high health care costs.

pregnancy discriminationPut another way, an employer must hire, train, promote, accommodate and otherwise treat any pregnant employee who is able to perform the essential functions of her job in the same way non-pregnant employees are treated. This means an employer is prohibited from requiring a pregnant employee to undergo additional medical clearances not required of other employees.

Likewise, if an employee is unable to perform her job due to pregnancy-related conditions, her employer must treat her the same as other disabled workers (i.e. providing light duty, disability leave, etc.).

A number of additional obligations come from often-overlooked state and even city/municipal laws. In fact, most states now have pregnancy protection laws prohibiting discrimination and/or requiring specific accommodations.

 Is my state one of them? Most likely, yes. The states with no additional pregnancy discrimination laws are North Carolina, Indiana and Georgia. Even in these states, employers should consider whether local ordinances impose additional regulations.

If my company complies with federal laws, are we automatically complying with state and local laws? Not necessarily. State and local laws are intended to provide additional protections, above and beyond those provided by federal laws. Thus, these laws will often cover more employers and/or require additional accommodations for employees.

An important consideration for small employers is whether state laws are applicable even where federal are not. Title VII, and therefore the PDA, applies to employers with more than 15 employees. However, 13 states and the District of Columbia all have statutes that may apply to smaller employers.

Likewise, employees may have more protections. In Minnesota, for instance, pregnant employees are not required to provide medical documentation when requesting more frequent restroom or water breaks, seating and limits on lifting more than 20 pounds. Neither can employers assert undue hardship in response to any of these requests. These are more stringent requirements than those under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act or ADA.

So, what does it mean if my state has additional pregnancy protection and anti-discrimination laws? Read your state and local laws, and consult with legal counsel about how to ensure compliance with the law.

Review your company’s light duty and reasonable accommodations policy. State and local legislation often require employers to provide pregnant employees with the same accommodations provided to employees with non-pregnancy-related disabilities, such as employees with work-related injuries and disabilities. Some local laws specifically designate the accommodations to which pregnant employees are entitled.

Include pregnancy discrimination education in management training. Supervisors and managers should know how to handle requests for accommodations from pregnant workers as they may field these inquiries before, or more often than, HR. Again, legal counsel can help you create training that covers laws in your specific jurisdiction.

 How can a multistate/national employer ensure compliance with all local, state and federal laws? Adhere to the state laws in the most stringent jurisdictions. Or, create a broad policy that does not violate any federal laws and yields to state or local laws as appropriate.

 Here is a sample handbook policy:

“(Your organization) is firmly committed to protecting the rights of expectant mothers and complying with Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. [Your organization’s] policy is to treat women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions in the same manner as other employees unable to work because of their physical condition in all employment aspects, including recruitment, hiring, training, promotion and benefits. Discrimination on the basis of an individual’s sex, pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, disability or handicap, any other category protected by federal, state, or local law is a violation of this policy and will be treated as a disciplinary matter.

“Further, (your organization) fully recognizes eligible employees’ rights and responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act, applicable state and local family leave laws, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Pregnant employees may continue to work until childbirth or until they are certified as unable to work by their physician. Additionally, reasonable accommodation will be made for pregnancy, although state laws usually provide specific guidelines for accommodating pregnant applicants and employees.”

Ultimately, when in doubt, err on the side of offering reasonable accommodations — especially if the company has offered similar accommodations to any employees in the past. A few small accommodations for pregnant employees can go a long way toward maintaining employee morale, retaining valuable talent and minimizing the potential for expensive discrimination claims.

The post Workplace Pregnancy Protection Laws: More Than Just Family Medical Leave Act appeared first on Workforce.

winter workinglandBalancing personal and work obligations is a struggle for busy professionals any time of the year.

But the holiday season — when intense work deadlines collide with a whirlwind of shopping, parties, travel and more — adds an extra layer of pressure and stress that can make employees feel, shall we say, less than festive.

And then, just like that, the holidays are over. Employees are back at their desks, facing a mountain of to-dos that they were desperate to finish before the break but just couldn’t find the time to get to. Silently, they promise themselves that next year will be different: “Next year, I will do everything I can to make sure I have time to actually enjoy the holidays.”

Managers can help them out. Supervisors can make it easier for their workers to find time to experience the joy of the season by rethinking office traditions such as the company-hosted holiday party. While this annual celebration can be fun and meaningful, it is also one more commitment for employees in an ultra-hectic season. In fact, only about one-third (36 percent) of workers surveyed by my company, OfficeTeam, describe this event as entertaining. A nearly equal percentage of professionals — 35 percent — give it a big thumbs down.

However, there shouldn’t be a rush to cancel the eggnog and tinsel just yet. Taking a different approach to how the office celebrates the holidays could be all that’s needed to make employees feel they’re attending an event that’s well worth their time — and for the company to feel satisfied that its budget is well spent.

Take Justin Gray, founder and CEO of LeadMD, a marketing and sales consultancy company based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He brings his entire team together for an annual holiday weekend at a local resort. The company pays for remote team members and their significant others to travel to the event.

“It’s a great team-building exercise, and it lets people know that we care,” Gray said. “I think of everything we do for our teams as an investment. If you want the best from your employees, you have to create experiences where they feel appreciated.”

Hosting a low-key get-together before the holiday break can be a good option for employers, too, said Susan M. Heathfield, a human resources expert and writer. Heathfield is the owner of two Michigan-based businesses: management consulting firm Heathfield Consulting Associates and software company TechSmith Corp.

“We decided a long time ago that the holiday season is the absolute worst time of year to have a company party,” she said. “It’s so hard to get people together. They just don’t have the time. Plus, they would rather spend what time they do have with their family and friends.”

Heathfield said TechSmith officially closes for the holidays at noon on Christmas Eve and hosts a casual lunch at a local tavern for any employees who want to attend — and they are welcome to bring their family members, too. Then, in February, the firm really pulls out all the stops.

“We hold an extravagant party to celebrate our company’s founding birthday,” Heathfield said, adding that almost all of TechSmith’s 285 employees usually attend this annual event, and most invite their family and friends along, as well.

Giving All Employees a Break

Shutting down the office between Christmas and New Year’s Day has become a common practice for many employers. Heathfield and Gray both agree that doing so has a strong, positive impact on employee morale — and can help with retention and recruitment efforts, too. Gray said he has received “so many notes ” from staff members over the years, expressing their appreciation for this simple gesture. “And we have an unlimited paid time-off policy, too!” he said.

For companies that can’t close down their office during the December holidays, Gray offers a suggestion: “Consider providing a ‘floating week’ option that can be used around Thanksgiving, during the Christmas holiday season, or during the summer,” he said. “There are low productivity valleys in every business. You can capitalize on them to provide big value for your team while still providing great service to your customers. Just be sure to clearly communicate to your teams the number of staff who can be off at a given time.”

Flexible scheduling practices throughout the year can also help workers maintain their work-life balance — and prevent them from facing a mad rush during the holidays, said Heathfield. “A lot of pressure at the holidays is self-imposed,” she said. “People are trying to do too much in too little time.”

Like Gray, Heathfield also encourages employees to take their vacation at less busy times of the year, when they can really rest and come back to work recharged.

Welcome in the New

While the end of the year is a logical time to reflect on team accomplishments and set new goals, managers might want to wait until after Jan. 1 to dig into numbers and talk strategy with their staff. However, they need to be careful not to pile on too much too soon in the new year: Taking time off and then coming back to heavy workloads can be stressful for professionals during the holidays.

Instead, managers can consider planning a team celebration to ring in the new year and get energized for the first quarter. This event could take the place of the traditional team celebration in December — thereby also helping to reduce employees’ end-of-year stress. In early January, when all staff members are back from the holiday break, everyone can be taken out to a restaurant. Just going out for burgers doesn’t cut it: Supervisors should try to invite employees somewhere special.

Please also read: Handling the Workplace Holiday Rush

During the meal, people are encouraged to talk about their holiday experiences. After everyone has had a chance to catch up, the conversation can shift to business. Leadership should outline the company’s objectives for the year and get everyone focused on working toward them.

“Goal setting is important at both the individual and departmental level,” Heathfield noted in an article that discussed the New Year’s lunch strategy. “Employees also need to see where their job and goals fit into the bigger picture.” She urges employers to keep the atmosphere of the post-holiday lunch “positive, uplifting and forward-looking.”

Managers should also make a point to let all their employees know how much they are appreciated — both before and after the holidays, and really, all through the year. Failing to do so could not only undermine employee morale and productivity but also jeopardize the firm’s ability to retain talent. 

The top three types of recognition that employees value most? Money, paid time off and a personal thank-you from their employer. And the return on investment for a sincere thank-you can be significant for managers, according to Gray. “I hand-write notes to each employee every year, and that has been one of the most appreciated activities I do — beyond even big commission checks, charitable donations and sharing stories of customer success,” he said. 

He added, “To create a connection with your staff, you have to be willing to go one-on-one. I know that if I foster individual connections with my employees, in return, they are going to go deep when I need them to.”

The post Easing the Holiday Pressure in Your Winter Workingland appeared first on Workforce.

This month, I spent a long weekend before the midterm election supporting my brother-in-law’s campaign for a state Assembly seat in rural Wisconsin.

We traveled to several campaign offices and spent the days knocking on doors in small towns. Approaching strangers’ houses to ask them about their political affiliations or their plans to vote can be an uncomfortable experience at first. But it quickly becomes energizing as you encounter incredibly interesting people and witness their reactions.

For me, being part of the boots-on-the-ground effort to motivate voters was deeply inspiring, and it renewed my appreciation for the tireless work that happens outside the cable news cycle.

I was struck by the varied examples of people stepping up and stepping into an opportunity to do something for their community. Whether actually running for office, as my brother-in-law did, or staffing a field office, managing a campaign, hosting an event or attending a town hall meeting, there are countless ways to engage in local issues. And it got me thinking about all the other ways I — and our industry — could be adding to important local and national dialogues.

Given the big challenges facing our country, I can think of no group more qualified or capable of influencing our political climate than HR and benefits leaders, who all have expertise in many of the areas being debated at the national level. HR leaders know all about balancing competing interests, creating equal opportunities and managing complex health and financial programs.

We know how to create policies and programs that can scale. We also know that a solid safety net benefits not only those who need it but also the community around them.

benefit of politicsKatherine Eyster, deputy director of workplace programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families, agrees that HR leaders have valuable insights: “HR professionals have a key role to play in sharing their experiences with policymakers and advocates to ensure that legislation is thoughtfully and effectively designed with real companies and workers in mind.” Through her organization’s work, more than 75 companies and business leaders recently endorsed the need for a strong national paid family and medical leave policy.

“For too long the false narrative has endured that what is good for workers is bad for business, when evidence shows time and again that when workers thrive, businesses and the economy grow,” she said.

Adding our voices to the national debate is an idea gaining momentum among HR leaders. Rosemarie Day, founder and CEO of Day Health Strategies, has a forthcoming book about engaging in politics to protect access to health care. In it, she presents a “continuum of involvement” that shows the various ways to get involved.

She shares ways you can speak as a private citizen or spokesperson for your organization. The first step is getting (and staying) informed, followed by sharing information, supporting a cause, speaking up, showing up (at events, rallies and more), organizing people and even running for office.

“As a society, we need safeguards and safety nets,” she said. “Benefits managers can represent the human side of capitalism, and they know the limitations of what private companies can do and the gaps that are very critical for the government to fill.”

Renee Lutzen, director of health care product management at UMB Healthcare Services (one of our clients), is a member of the Employers Council for Flexible Compensation. In that capacity, she has been able to visit legislators and regulators and educate them about the issues we face every day.

“Legislative offices are interested in and very receptive to hearing real stories from real people — those of us who are working in the industry of health care, HR and benefits administration. We’re not just sitting at a desk crunching numbers against theoretical concepts. We have real-life examples we can share on how current health care policies are impacting individuals along with insights on the potential effects proposed policies will have,” she said.

This year, I’m vowing to get more involved and helping others do the same. As for my brother-in-law, he lost by a tiny margin, but I have no doubt he’ll have a fantastic career in public life. His efforts and the integrity and vision that guided his campaign inspired thousands of people in his district and beyond. I hope our efforts will do the same.

The post How HR Benefits By Getting Political appeared first on Workforce.

As the population of the United States ages, millions of adult workers are already providing care for an elderly parent or family member.elder care

Providing such care while working a full-time job is both physically and mentally taxing for most employees, and studies even show that burnout from caregiving responsibilities cost companies nearly $13.4 billion each year in health care expenses.

To make matters worse, employees who care for their aging parents are more likely to be less productive, take more time off, and arrive to work late on a regular basis. This is troubling news for many companies, especially since lower productivity often equates to lower revenue. Some companies are beginning to offer a variety of support resources to employees doubling as caregivers.

Backup elder care is a benefit some organizations are considering for employees. In general, there are two primary types of elder care benefits:

  • Dependent care assistance plans. These plans deduct a certain portion of an employee’s paycheck (gross amount before taxes) to pay for elder care costs. According to Forbes, currently, 41 percent of employers offer this benefit.
  • Respite care. Offered by only 7 percent of companies, this benefit offers short-term care to family members when an employee needs to rest, take time off or go into work.

Some other types of elder care benefits include:

  • Flexible work options. These options include allowing caregiver employees to work from home, have flexible hours during the day, or providing paid time off.
  • Care subsidies. This benefit would help employees with the cost of elder care with subsidies covering either direct costs or backup care.
  • Support groups. Employers can create onsite caregiver support groups for employees. This will allow them to speak with fellow coworkers dealing with caregiving of senior parents and perhaps find some value in communicating. The employer may also provide online support group resources if onsite isn’t an option.

Respite care is the benefit most commonly referred to as backup elder care, and it is provided through the private insurance companies employers contract with. It is a voluntary benefit, so employees who do not need backup elder care do not have to enroll. If an employee does not know whether they have these benefits, they should speak with a human resources or benefits manager.

The Professional Impact of an Aging Population

 According to the U.S. census, nearly 70 million Americans will be over the age of 65 by 2030. This may sound like a shocking statistic to many, but as the baby boomer population ages and exits the workforce, their children and younger relatives might be required to act as caregivers in many situations.

Also read: Elder Care: You Can’t Buy, Pray or Prescribe Your Way Out of It

Backup elder care benefits helps employers reduce the amount of stress caregiving employees experience by allowing them to know that their loved ones will be cared for while they are at work.

Studies show that employees prefer to work for companies that offer a reasonable work-life balance. Companies should keep this in mind when deciding whether to provide backup elder care. Caregiving can be exhausting, even for the most dedicated individual and when paired with a demanding work schedule, employees become overwhelmed.

By providing elder care, caregiving employees will have more flexibility. This means limiting the choice of missing a workday or taking care of an infirm parent.

Scheduling Flexibility

According to a 2012 CareerBuilder study, nearly 40 percent of employees who voluntarily left the workplace did so because of a poor work-life balance. Few employees appreciate being called in at the last minute to work abnormal hours, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Most managers and supervisors are aware of this, but if their employees have outside caregiving obligations, they simply will not be able to depend on them to work outside of normal work hours.

Many employees also have difficulty balancing their caregiving responsibilities with regular work hours. Caregivers are more likely than other employees to leave work early and use paid time off to look after loved ones.

Also read: How to Confront the Elder Care Challenge

This can place a strain on the workplace when a valuable employee is not able to work their normal hours, especially if other workers are forced to pull their weight for them.

Millennials make up 35 percent of the American workforce, and as members of the baby boomer generation age millennials will have to accept the role of family caregiver. As of 2013, nearly 19 percent of caregiving employees were under the age of 40, and this percentage is only expected to increase in coming years. If a company fails to keep such statistics in mind when recruiting younger professionals, it may start to notice its talent pool shrinking because of its perceived lack of concern for its employees who double as caregivers.

Offering Backup Elder Care

As time continues to prove backup elder care should be a benefit offered by an employer, more companies are taking responsibility in offering these benefits. A main provider of backup elder care is Bright Horizons. They offer 24/7 backup elder care to employers. The organization is understanding of both the employer and employee’s needs and even provides an online self-service support for if the employee wants to choose and hire the caregivers themselves. Other providers include Care.comLifeCare and Town + Country Resources.

Prices vary per provider, with some backup benefit providers estimating a minimum of $15,000 per year to be paid by the employer. The average amount of an employee paying for elder care services is estimated at $4 to $6 per day if the employer subsidizes the cost.

Offering backup elder care is not only beneficial for employees and their loved ones but a company’s bottom line as well. Caregiving employees cost companies millions of dollars in lost hours each year, and by offering backup elder care, you may be able to make up for these losses and retain your most valuable employees who want to work for a company that understands their needs and the importance of family.

The post The Benefits of Offering Backup Elder Care to Employees appeared first on Workforce.

Elkay Manufacturing Co. is on the cusp of something new as benefits open enrollment season rolls around. After successfully meeting the needs of employees and the budget of the employer for years, its health care offerings just weren’t popular anymore. communication during open enrollment

“Because of either new businesses or how things are trending, you find your plan design after a period of time doesn’t fit anymore. That’s when you realize you need to shelve it, start with a clean slate and see what’s a good design to be competitive in your work environment for your employees,” said Carol Partington, corporate senior manager of total benefits for the Oak Brook, Illinois-based plumbing-fixture maker.

Elkay scrapped its previous health plans to introduce three completely new lifestyle plans that will go into effect in 2019, she said. The three plans are meant to appeal to employees at different stages of life and include a core plan, another plan with a higher deductible and lower premium, and one with a lower deductible and higher premium. One challenge was communicating the new plans’ advantages to Elkay’s 3,138 employees.

The vast changes in the health care landscape can be confounding even to seasoned benefits professionals. Employees whose jobs don’t revolve around benefits can get frustrated with multiple offerings. That’s why employers must focus on communication solutions that work for their employees.

Almost half of U.S. workers spend 30 minutes or less reviewing their benefits, according to Unum research released in August 2018. The same survey found that of the 1,227 respondents, many reported feeling stressed (21 percent), confused (22 percent) or anxious (20 percent) while enrolling.

Communication during open enrollment is a large task for any employer, even one that didn’t revamp its entire plan design. Elkay had the added challenge of dealing with a rural, dispersed workforce that didn’t necessarily have regular access to the internet. Their communications solution was to bring the top HR leaders to local HR staff at outside locations to copresent benefits information.

Also read: Don’t Waste Open Enrollment Time on Just Open Enrollment 

“We get so entrenched in where we are, [and] we have to spend time sitting in the shoes of the employee or their family when they’re making that decision,” Partington said. “With these changes, we’re being mindful that we want them to make successful decisions.”

Elkay wanted to be present instead of solely rely on online material or videos. By holding the mandatory meetings, employees can ask questions, she said. Also, the company schedules conference calls in the evening where family members of employees cans listen to the presentation and ask questions.

Communicating health care information in a way that employees and their families can understand is especially important to ensure the success of these new programs.

Also read: Don’t Underestimate the Effects of Poor Communication 

“The change in [health plans] will only be successful if we get the majority of our employees and their family members understanding what they’re doing and comfortable with the decisions they’re making,” Partington said.

Ally Financial Inc., a Detroit-based financial services company, sees a unique quality in its benefits strategy this open enrollment season as well. It relies on an unconventional, straightforward and conversational communication style, said Chief Human Resources Officer Kathie Patterson. HR consistently reaches out to employees looking for feedback about the company’s benefits offerings.

Thanks to the dialogue, in 2019 Ally is introducing several new benefits offerings including broader fertility and adoption benefits, hearing-aid coverage and no dollar limit on applied behavioral analysis therapy for autism treatment — all additions specific to the employee population.

Also read: Benefits Open Enrollment Advice From an Employee’s Point of View

The changes the company has made and how it has communicated them has inspired employees to be more open, Patterson said. Employees have both reached out with personal success stories and raised helpful questions or suggestions.

“This open dialogue is exciting and will help us continue to shape and evolve the programs going forward,” Patterson said.

The post Communication Is a Benefit During Open Enrollment appeared first on Workforce.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in September that the 2017-18 flu season was one of the worst on record.flu season workplace

Some 80,000 Americans died, making it the deadliest season in more than four decades. With this year’s flu season approaching, health experts and employers are taking action to keep employees healthy.

The CDC predicts flu activity will begin this year as early as November and may continue to spread as late as May 2019. They also add that flu activity usually peaks in the United States between December and February.

HR departments nationwide are preparing for ways to keep their workplace safe from what has the potential to be another epidemic.

Danielle Ozer, executive vice president, brokerage services at Benefits Solutions Group LLC, suggests employers and managers should inform employees about the dangers of the flu, enforce certain health rules and make flu shots available.

flu season workplace
Danielle Ozer

“Educating employees and pushing things around the office like washing your hands, staying home until your fever is clear, any precautions you would get from your doctor,” Ozer said. “[My company] hooks up our employers with vendors to administer flu shots on site. That makes it easy for people, so they don’t have to run out to their primary care physician or a pharmacy to get it done.”

The CDC published its final estimates on the 2017 flu season in late October, estimating that only 37 percent of Americans got vaccinated last season.

Dr. Pat Lord said the lack of vaccinated people was one of many reasons why last year’s flu season turned out to be so difficult. Lord said it’s imperative for companies to offer employees flu shots.

“Getting the vaccine allows your bodies to build antibodies,” said Lord, a virologist at Wake Forest University. “So, when you are exposed to the virus by someone that is sick, the antibodies stick to the virus and prevent the virus from getting into the cell.”

flu season workplace
Dr. Pat Lord

The CDC’s 2018 forecast cites daily protective actions to ward off influenza. Avoiding sick people and hand-washing helps reduce the spread of germs, and coughing into the elbow helps.

When someone coughs, they are typically propelling droplets at about 100 miles per hour, according to Lord. Those droplets can contain hundreds of thousands of copies of the flu virus. Coughing into the elbow prevents the virus from becoming airborne and spreading.

Also read: You’re Sick? Go Home!

If an employee happens to experience flu-like symptoms, they should be advised to stay home to prevent spreading the flu to others. For those who haven’t experienced symptoms but want to be cautious, they can check out the website FluNearYou, which tracks how much the flu is being spread in specific areas by ZIP code.

While plenty of resources exist to prevent and control the flu, Lord said employers still should have a no-tolerance policy with the illness. Being too lenient with the flu can be very problematic, she added.

“[Employers need to] get the message out that if you’re running a fever and sick and coughing, stay home,” Lord said. “That’s so important. You should not power through when you’re sick. You need to stay home because you’re putting your co-workers at risk and it’s getting spread out.”

The post Threat of Another Nasty Flu Season Prompts Workplaces to Be Proactive appeared first on Workforce.