Benefits Compliance: 3 Areas to Focus On

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Courtesy of Fisher & Phillips LLC

2013 marks not just the start of a new calendar year, but also compliance obligation deadlines for some employee benefit plans. We have outlined a number of key provisions impacting welfare and retirement plans, as well as changes to your payroll system, to help you be prepared. Let me know if you have any questions,

Medical Plans

  • A Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) must be provided to all group medical plan enrollees by the first day of the first annual open enrollment period beginning on and after September 23, 2012. This means if your medical plan is operated on a calendar year basis, you must provide SBCs to enrollees as part of your upcoming annual open enrollment period for coverage that takes effect January 1, 2013.
  • Health FSAs must be redesigned for the 2013 plan year to limit annual account balances to $2,500. Make sure to update your plan document as well.
  • Ensure that your group health plan SPDs have been properly amended to reflect any applicable changes under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA).
  • Claims’ correspondence (claims and appeals responses) must use “culturally and linguistically appropriate language” when 10%+ or more of employees reside in a county literate only in the same non-English language. The HHS website provides a list of all U.S. counties which meet or exceed the 10% threshold.   If you send a claims or appeals response to an address in a county that meets the 10% threshold, you must include a one-sentence statement in the relevant non-English language indicating how to access language services. You must also provide oral language services (such as a telephone customer assistance hotline) and, upon request, a notice in any applicable non-English language.
  • The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 (WHCRA) requires group medical plans to provide an annual written notice to participants and beneficiaries of the availability of medical and surgical benefits under the plan with respect to mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Including the WHCRA notice as part of your open enrollment materials is one way to fulfill your annual notice obligations.
  • Sponsors of group medical plans must notify employees annually concerning the availability of state premium assistance through Medicaid or CHIP.  The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) imposes this notice requirement, which can be met by including the DOL’s model “Employer CHIP Notice” as part of your annual open enrollment materials.  For calendar year plans, the Employer CHIP Notice must be provided no later than January 1, 2013.
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10-Step Company Holiday Party Planning Checklist

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Most companies have a holiday party for their employees each year. In our 2012 ERC Holiday Practices Survey, nearly three-quarters (73%) of 186 Northeast Ohio organizations surveyed are planning a holiday party for 2012 and the majority (66%) are budgeting the same or more than in 2011.

Holiday parties are ideal for gathering all of your staff, showing appreciation, and celebrating the year's success. Nonetheless, putting on a great party also requires thoughtful coordination and planning. To help you plan your company's next holiday party, we've developed a checklist of critical tasks.

1. Determine the type of event.

Luncheons are generally the most common type of company holiday party (51%), and evening parties are the second most common (38%). The type of holiday party can affect the date you select. For example, evening parties are often hosted on Saturdays nights (83%) while luncheon parties are most commonly hosted on weekdays. Also, luncheons tend to be a budget-friendly alternative for holiday parties, while evening parties tend to be more costly.
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10 Ways to Give Thanks to Your Employees

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This week, we commence the season of giving thanks not only with our families and friends, but also of showing gratitude to our vendors, customers, and employees.

Many of us forget to say "thank you" to all of the people that make our organizations successful, but it's important to step back and acknowledge their contributions, accomplishments, and hard work. This season, in particular, is an ideal time to show thanks to all of your employees and let them know how much you appreciate them and how valuable they are to you.

There are countless opportunities to show your thanks to others in the workplace. Here are some ideas for recognizing people during this upcoming holiday season:
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3 Guidelines When Terminating an Employee

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Unfortunately, some employees don't work out - their behavior or poor performance escalates and they eventually need to be terminated. Many organizations have questions about properly carrying out terminations, including what to do to address the problem, when it's appropriate to terminate an employee, and how they facilitate the termination itself. Here are 3 guidelines when terminating an employee.

1. Address the behavior or performance problem.

Directly address the problem before you terminate an employee, whether it be a behavioral issue such as attendance, tardiness, conduct, attitude, or inappropriate behavior; or poor performance. Approach termination with fairness by bringing the problem to the employee's attention, counseling or coaching them on understanding the problem and disciplinary consequences if they do not change, and providing the necessary training and support for improvement.
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The Power of Social Media in the Workplace

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As social media expands into every aspect of our lives, including the workplace, striking a balance between leveraging social media as a business tool and managing it’s use by individual employees across your organization and can be a challenging balancing act. In an effort to help shed light on how Northeast Ohio employers are handling this difficult issue, ERC recently released the 2012 Social Media in the Workplace Survey report.

Policies

The 2012 survey reports that slightly less than half (47%) of all organizations currently have a social media policy in place. Several organizations indicate that although they do not have a formal social media policy, they do address issues regarding social media use under the larger umbrella of “electronic communications” or “IT” policies. These policies, in whatever form, are most commonly communicated to employees via their employee handbook or through some other form of internal communication (e.g. email, intranet).
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