impacts to benefits

We Should Applaud NY Mets’ Daniel Murphy for taking Paternity Leave

So many of you know, I’m not a “big” sports fan (Horns, tennis, boxing, and MMA is about all I follow .. and poorly at that), but we’ve got a big story with some HR implications coming out of sports news.

photo credit: Yahoo! Sports

Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy put fatherhood ahead of baseball, and now, some outraged New York Sports radio hosts are outraged.

Since 2011, Major League Baseball has allowed players up to three days paternity leave, but some outraged New York Sports radio hosts say that when you’re making millions, “one day off is plenty.”

“All right, one day, I understand,” said WFAN morning host Mike Francesa. “In the old days they didn’t do that. One day, go see the baby be born, and then come back. You’re a Major League Baseball player — you can hire a nurse!”

“You get your a** back to your team and you play baseball,” added WFAN’s Craig Carton. “That’s my take on it. There’s nothing you can do anyway. You’re not breastfeeding the kid.

Read more: http://www.wjla.com/articles/2014/04/mets-player-daniel-murphy-s-paternity-leave-causes-controversy-101816.html#ixzz2xv5D3JLk

You know me. I’m going to have to throw out my typical “girl in HR” catch-phrase, “seriously?!?” Three days is hardly extraneous… and I find the other comments just offensive. Just because a man doesn’t birth the baby doesn’t mean that he has any less right to have bonding time with the child. These radio hosts views are just off, imho. Do they think its ludicrous for the man to be in the delivery room, to go to parenting class — I border that their comments might lead someone who doesn’t know them better that they think that birth and raising children is “woman work.” We’ve moved SO far past that.

photo credit: bavia.com

So stepping off the soap-box and let’s make the HR connection. Paternity leave. In the US, women AND men can take up to 12 weeks off to care for a newborn if they qualify for FMLA leave. Some companies go beyond that and have added additional maternity and paternity benefits to help encourage employees to take that time off by helping to eliminate some of the financial burdens of staying home to care and bond for a child. I wish I could put my hands on some updated data, but the trend is that many men don’t take full advantage of benefits that may be available to them — now the reasons for that can be anything from financial to thoughts on their place on raising children — and every combination in between.  I think that one thing that we can do in HR is to help put programs in place that will help facilitate and encourage expecting parents, regardless of gender, to take the time off that they need… if they want to. We should also applaud and speak positively about examples, such as Daniel Murphy, of men who are taking the time off and using their benefits. Parental leave is not a “working woman’s issue” anymore… its an issue of work-life balance and that is bigger than either gender alone.  We don’t need to force the choice, but provide options for people to use and make their own decisions — and don’t talk crap or be negative when people take advantage of benefits afforded to them.

As an aside, on this story Daniel Murphy takes high road while Terry Collins fires back after Mike Francesa and Boomer Esiasion question Mets’ paternity leave from NY Daily News there is a poll for readers to partipate in that asks: Do you think Mike Francesa is over the line questioning Daniel Murphy’s paternity leave? When I took it the results showed 86% YES and 14% NO.

I’m interested to see where the story develops — from a work-life, parental leave, and HR perspective — I’m sure that the story will continue to be popular over the next few days or week — but let’s try to keep the underlying point of the story developing and out front.

Making the HR connection, yours,

 

 

 

Want to see more of the story — here’s a few more links and a videos:

 

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Weekend Shopping for Shoes and Benefit Plans

photo credit kenteegardin

As an HR professional I’ve spent a number of years helping to design benefit plans and countless hours explaining to employees (and sometimes even friends and family members) how they work. You’d probably think that making decisions for my own would be a piece of cake — but I actually go through all the same advice that I give to others when thinking about choosing what plan is best for you. Sometimes your employer doesn’t give you options, in which case, the decision is pretty easy :), but other times you may be presented with 2, 3, 4, 5, or maybe even 6 or more plans to choose from. Sidenote: I once worked for a company that did a “choose your own” plan which had dozens of combos and was great if you understood the plans and was hard to explain if you didn’t.

When you are looking at what plan is best for you, if you have a choice, you should make a look at the financial costs and what are your comfortable with. This is for an employer offered plans, although I’d like to think that this would still apply for any other medical plans you’d consider.

From A Financial Perspective Think About:

  1. What have you used your plan in the past? What kind of regular medical visits, costs for regular prescriptions, regular treatments have you had and plan to continue to have?
  2. Do you have any planned medical expenses in the next year? A pregnancy, a back surgery? Are you very active and likely to have an injury, ie twist an ankle playing soccer? (You should also a HSA – Health Savings Account or FSA – Flexible Spending Account if you have expenses that you know you’ll incur)
  3. What do you spend at “point of service” — how much would you spend for a doctor’s visit or a prescription on the plan?
  4. What is the deductible and out of pocket maximum’s for the plan — what does the worse case look like?
  5. Are your doctors in the network or do you have a doctor that you love and want to go to no matter what? Its always cheaper to stay in the network, but if you have a doctor or specialist you love, are you on a plan that allows you go see them out of network and are you comfortable with the cost?
  6. How much are you paying per pay period? People often forget about this cost since it comes out of their paycheck but its part of understanding what you are paying towards your medical costs.

From a Usability Perspective Think About:

  1. What do you want to pay at point of service if you need a doctor’s visit or a prescription — are you okay to pay the full cost of a prescription if you are on a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) until you reach the deductible or are you more comfortable with a co-pay? Are you considering using a Medical Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
  2. Do you have any life changes planned? Are you getting married, divorced, maybe changes with your custody agreements? If so, will that plan work after those changes are made?
  3. Do you have enough insurance and/or savings? Do you have another medical insurance policy that you’ll have to coordinate benefits with?

If you have a spouse, domestic partner, or dependents

  1. Think about how they use the plan and are there in-network doctors and providers in their area if they do not live near you?
  2. Do they have an option for health insurance at their job? If so, how do the plans compare? Is it better for you to be on one plan or for each to be on their own?
  3. If you have a domestic partner and they are on your insurance, keep in mind the IRS rules for an HSA — you can’t use your account to pay for their expenses so they’ll need to set up their own HSA and for them to start their savings or put away money for their medical expenses.

When you are looking at what plan is best for you, if you have a choice, you should make a look at the financial costs and what are your comfortable with. This is for an employer offered plans, although I’d like to think that this would still apply for any other medical plans you’d consider.

From A Financial Perspective Think About:

  1. What have you used your plan in the past? What kind of regular medical visits, costs for regular prescriptions, regular treatments have you had and plan to continue to have?
  2. Do you have any planned medical expenses in the next year? A pregnancy, a back surgery? Are you very active and likely to have an injury, i.e. twist an ankle playing soccer? (You should also a HSA – Health Savings Account or FSA – Flexible Spending Account if you have expenses that you know you’ll incur)
  3. What do you spend at “point of service” — how much would you spend for a doctor’s visit or a prescription on the plan?
  4. What is the deductible and out of pocket maximum’s for the plan — what does the worse case look like?
  5. Are your doctors in the network or do you have a doctor that you love and want to go to no matter what? Its always cheaper to stay in the network, but if you have a doctor or specialist you love, are you on a plan that allows you go see them out of network and are you comfortable with the cost?
  6. How much are you paying per pay period? People often forget about this cost since it comes out of their paycheck but its part of understanding what you are paying towards your medical costs.

From a Usability Perspective Think About:

  1. What do you want to pay at point of service if you need a doctor’s visit or a prescription — are you okay to pay the full cost of a prescription if you are on a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) until you reach the deductible or are you more comfortable with a co-pay? Are you considering using a Medical Flexible Spending Account (FSA)?
  2. Do you have any life changes planned? Are you getting married, divorced, maybe changes with your custody agreements? If so, will that plan work after those changes are made?
  3. Do you have enough insurance and/or savings? Do you have another medical insurance policy that you’ll have to coordinate benefits with?

If You Have a Spouse, Domestic Partner, or Dependents

  1. Think about how they use the plan and are there in-network doctors and providers in their area if they do not live near you
  2. Do they have an option for health insurance at their job? If so, how do the plans compare? Is it better for you to be on one plan or for each to be on their own?
  3. If you have a domestic partner and they are on your insurance, keep in mind the IRS rules for an HSA — you can’t use your account to pay for their expenses so they’ll need to set up their own HSA and for them to start their savings or put away money for their medical expenses.

So while I had a fabulous time on Saturday with a friend shopping for shoes and holiday gifts, today I sat down chatted with my sig-o about what 2014 holds. Not fun — it is kinda weird and sometimes even uncomfortable to have those discussions sometimes, but you’re talking about your future, your finances, life events, and what ifs — but its important to think about and get a plan (you know me and my plan).
I’m leaning towards a high deductible plan but still not sure — but will come back and let you know what I picked and some of the reasons why — or at least what things I considered.

Making the HR connection, yours,

PS. I’m not a tax adviser and can’t tell you what is the best plan for you, but happy to give you some resources for you to think about and to ask your tax professional or your HR person.

Retirement plans could get $3 million cap – Video – Personal Finance

Have you heard about this — if not, time to get into the game and start learning more about it. Retirement planning is no joke 🙂

Retirement plans could get $3 million cap

The proposed $3 million cap on savings could cost the government more in the long run if savers pull away from stashing money away for retirement.

via Retirement plans could get $3 million cap – Video – Personal Finance.

CVS To Workers: Tell Us How Much You Weigh or It’ll Cost You $600 a Year

CVS isn’t the first one to do this — but its since its recent new policy announcement, it brings up some old questions.

What do you think of this type of policy — would it work for your employees/company?

Is it fair to expect employees to have some more skin in the game by asking them to take a more responsibility for their health –either by being proactive or paying more money?

And finally — if you were a CVS employee – would you give the numbers, pay the 600 surcharge or find a new job?

Discuss! 🙂

Yours, thegirlinhr!

CVS Caremark has put its employees on notice that they need to reveal their weight or pay a monthly $50 penalty.

“Avoid the $600 annual surcharge,” CVS warns its employees who use the company’s health insurance plan. They’ve been told they are required by May 1 to show up to a doctor for an annual WebMD Wellness Review and submit to tests for blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass and body weight.

“Going forward, you’ll be expected not just to know your numbers – but also to take action to manage them,” the CVS policy states.

While many employers have been pushing its workers to get healthier, it’s usually through incentives rather than penalties. “This is about as coercive and blunt as I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Deborah C. Peel, the founder of Patient Privacy Rights, a nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas.

“Many employers want to do something for their workers, but very few of them are stupid enough to say give us the information and sign this form and say it’s voluntary,” Peel said.

Smokers working for CVS are also warned: “You must either be tobacco-free by May 1, 2014, or participate in the WebMD tobacco cessation program.” Defiant smokers can avoid penalties if they are healthy enough in other categories specified by the company.

Despite the company’s promises, Peel worries if CVS and WebMD will be able to keep the employee records completely private. Peel said people are already declining to get health treatment for issues ranging from psychiatry to sexual diseases, for fear the information will not be kept private.

In a statement, CVS said the employee health data will be kept private and it defended its new policy. CVS, which is based in Rhode Island, also said the company would never see the test results.

“The use of health screenings by employer-sponsored health plans is a common practice. According to a National Business Group on Health survey, 79 percent of employers offered a health assessment in 2011 and 76 percent of those employers offered incentives for completion. Also, 62 percent of large employers offered biometric screenings and 52 percent of those employers offered incentives for completion),’ the CVS statement reads in part.

“CVS Caremark is committed to providing medical coverage and health care programs for our colleagues and our benefits program is evolving to help our colleagues engage more actively to improve their health and manage health-associated costs. An initial step to accomplish this goal is a health screening and wellness review so that colleagues know their key health metrics in order to take action to improve their overall health, if necessary.”

WebMD did not immediately respond to a request to comment on its program.

The CVS policy was first reported Tuesday by the Boston Herald.

via CVS To Workers: Tell Us How Much You Weigh or It’ll Cost You $600 a Year.

Rebuild your nest egg after divorce

You probably never want to think about divorce — but its a very real reality for some folks. If you’re putting time and effort to look at how life and finances will look once you join up with someone — its worth the same look if you are looking at splitting up.

Its grim — but its something that I wanted to get out there for some of you — and for your peeps. This talks specifically about a divorce, but I know that now a days there are many people who are together in domestic partnerships or living arrangements that may want to take a look at parting ways and the what makes those situations different.  So stay tuned!

Making the HR connection, yours, thegirlinhr

The secret: Forget the house, go for the pension.

Retirement plans often go by the wayside when your marital status changes.

Divorce or having a spouse die young saps income and assets, making it much harder to continue saving the same way you did as a married couple.

A recent survey by ING found that the average divorced person had $10,000 less in retirement savings than the average married person, even though the divorced respondents were typically five years older.

Women often find themselves especially pressed: Household income drops 41% for women after a divorce and 37% in widowhood, compared with under 25% in both cases for men, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

Although family changes put a lot of immediate worries on your plate, it’s crucial to keep one eye on your long-term plan.

via Rebuild your nest egg after divorce – Feb. 18, 2013.

No — Not my flip flops! Not my flip flops!!! — Comfort and fashion impacting wellness? Indeed.

Its summer and its Texas — that means pedicures and more importantly — FLIP FLOPS. Who am I kidding, I live in central Texas, so that in and of itself means flip flops year round except for the handful of days that it gets really “cold.”

Flip Flops are a staple in my wardrobe, this CNN article discusses the harms of wearing flip flops too often. It made me think “ts not just about fashion, it may impact the wellness of your employees.”

I started my career in retail. Which meant long days on my feet. I had worked retail in high school and through college, but when I took my first job out of college, the ante was raised. As a manager, I couldn’t wear sneakers (“tennis shoes”) to work. After a few years of walking the store in heels and “fashionable” comfort shoes my feet had taken a beaten. I was in my early 20s and had already been to several foot specialists. Talk about a big cost to my pocket — even with my insurance. I had severe heel spurs and required physical therapy every week that left me in tears. Many of my co-workers from that job are still in retail and were too proud to go to a podiatrist. I wonder how the toll has taken on their feet — and legs and backs.

Fast forward to the present where my professional environment is all about being casual and comfortable — jeans and t-shirts — and flip flops. It took me almost 2 years before I broke down and accepted the fashion rules, but now I’m hooked on my flip flops. What used to be a staple as house shoes or quick trips to the mailbox now consume my closet in every color (to match all those t-shirts that I get my from my employer – and my sun dresses for the days that I want to “dress up”).

What I took as comfort I now see could have a serious impact to my health and well being – -and could lead me to those regular appointments again with the podiatrist.

Bringing it all together…

Not many employers are probably asking themselves if their dress culture promotes a culture of wellness. And if you don’t want to think about your employees and their health — let’s think about the bottom line — potential increasing costs of benefits as medical claims rise. If your employees are anything like mine at my retail gig, you may not see them as podiatry claims – but likely as leg and back plain — maybe even head, neck and headache pains — not understanding the connection between what is on their feet and the impacts that it makes to misalignment in the body.

I prefer to take the lens of the former — healthy employees! There is an opportunity to communicate to employees the impacts that their shoes could make to their health. Is it any different than helping educate people on healthy eating habits which also impact wellness?

Today as I get ready for work, I’m ditching the flip flops and grabbing the sneakers! And this weekend, I’ll be replacing my cheapo flip flops for some that offer more support — its Texas after all!