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September is National Preparedness Month. Take this opportunity to educate your employees with these and many more employee communication safety resources.
More than 40 percent of businesses never reopen after a disaster, according to FEMA. Making sure your employees are prepared for emergencies not only ensures their safety, but also safeguards your business. September is National Preparedness Month. Take this opportunity to educate your employees with these and many more employee communication safety resources available from The Unland Companies:
- Emergency Contacts and Emergency Response Training Questionnaire
- Safety Spotlight – Preparing for Emergency Evacuations
- Be Prepared: Fire Emergency
- Employee Emergency Preparedness Survey
- Quiz: Emergency Action Plan
- Playing it Safe: Medical Emergencies on the Job
Shape Up is a program designed to encourage healthy, fit and active lifestyles through an increased focus on aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching. Physical activity can lead to many benefits:
- Weight maintenance
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved glucose (blood sugar) regulation
- Stronger bone density
As a participant in the Shape Up Program, you will be encouraging yourself and your co-workers to incorporate aerobic, strength training and flexibility exercises into your daily routine. This guide will provide informational and introductory guidance for each of the three exercise program components.
Get the details and encourage your employees to start the Shape Up Program here.
Mentoring programs can be a valuable tool for recruiting, retaining and developing top talent.
A mentor is an individual in the workplace who shares his or her knowledge and expertise to help another employee grow professionally. Mentoring programs can benefit not only the mentees, but also the mentors and the company as whole. The following are some of the benefits of a mentoring program.
Benefits for the Mentee
Mentees can achieve the following benefits through a mentoring program:
- Skill development—Mentors teach mentees the skills and qualities they will need to succeed, along with familiarizing them with the company’s protocol and procedures. This, in turn, can teach mentees how to do their jobs more efficiently.
- Continual growth—Mentors provide ongoing feedback to their mentees and teach them how to take constructive criticism and apply it to their jobs. This type of feedback can feel less intrusive than regular performance reviews and employees may respond better to it as a result.
- Networking—Mentoring allows employees to build a professional relationship over a period of time and teaches them about the value of networking.
- Talent development—By providing mentees with the skills and support they need to succeed, mentees will be more prepared to advance to new positions within the company and to take on leadership roles.
Benefits for the Mentor
Mentoring programs can also reap significant benefits for the mentors themselves, including the following:
- It gives mentors the opportunity to help someone else out, which may increase mentors’ self-worth.
- It helps mentors re-energize their careers, which may increase their commitment to your company.
- It allows mentors to fine-tune their communication and leadership skills, which can be valuable as they continue to grow in their own careers.
Benefits for the Company
In addition, there are significant benefits that can be realized by your company:
- Retention—Mentoring helps employees feel more engaged in their work and more in control of their careers. Employees will feel like the company cares about them and may be more loyal as a result—in turn, reducing turnover-related costs.
- Recruitment—Advertising a mentoring program can help recruit qualified candidates and establish yourself as an employer of choice within your industry.
- Productivity—Because employees have the skills they need to do their jobs effectively, this can increase productivity and reduce the number of errors made on the job. Employees may also feel more confident in their work and spend less time second-guessing themselves.
- Company Culture—By encouraging employees to build positive relationships with one another, you can promote a sense of cooperation and teamwork at your company.
Mentoring programs can be a low-cost way to increase retention, attract new talent and improve employee morale—all of which can help protect your bottom line for years to come.
For more information on recruitment and retention strategies, contact The Unland Companies today.
Self-funding has always been a potential cost-saving option for larger employers, particularly as health care costs have risen and the employee benefits system has gotten more complex with the introduction of ACA. Self-funding offers many potential benefits for employers:
- More cost flexibility and often lower costs, as employers simply pay for medical expenses as they come rather than paying a premium to a health insurance carrier, in addition to lower administrative costs
- More flexibility in plan design, rather than having to find a plan through an insurance carrier that fits the needs of their employee group and budget
- Less regulation, because self-funded health plans are regulated differently than fully insured plans
Traditionally, self-funding was thought to be most feasible for larger employer groups, as they could assume the risk necessary with managing their own health care claims. However, today self-funding is moving down market as costs rise and regulations increase for small groups. Self-funding has become more of an attractive option for groups of all sizes, and the protection of stop-loss insurance helps mitigate the financial risk.
But due to the common perception that self-funding is for large groups only, many small groups don’t realize it’s even an option for them. Even many larger groups have never considered self-funding simply because they are familiar with traditional fully insured plans.
If you’ve never considered self-funding, or simply thought it wasn’t a good fit for a group of your size, this ebook is for you. Read on to learn more about self-funding and how it may be able to benefit you in this time of rising health care costs and increased regulations.
More Plan Design & Cost Flexibility
Self-funding has become an attractive option for employers of all sizes, as it offers more flexibility with plan design and can be an opportunity to manage soaring costs.
Self-Funding Isn’t Just for Large Employers Anymore
Employers of all sizes are starting to explore self-funding as a cost saving option—even smaller groups who traditionally never considered self-funding in the past. Why this move toward self-funding? It’s no secret that health care costs have continued to rise, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has only added costs for many groups of late, especially for smaller groups. Self-funding offers a way to avoid many of the costs associated with ACA, while designing a plan that prevents some of the extreme cost increases that groups are facing today.
Plus, ACA actually makes self-funding a less risky option for small groups than in the past, due to the guaranteed issue provision. In the past, smaller groups may have worried about choosing self-funding, in case they couldn’t get a reasonable quote if they chose to go back to a fully insured plan at some point. With the guaranteed issue provision, groups need not worry about that risk, as insurers cannot deny individuals or groups coverage under ACA.
Self-Funding Allows Flexibility Not Found with Fully Insured Plans
One of the central benefits of self-funding is that employer groups have more options in terms of plan design, because they are not limited by the plans the health insurance carriers offer in the area. This allows more plan design and cost flexibility than shopping on the fully insured market. Self-insuring allows employers to get creative with their plan design to choose one or more plans that fit their budget as well as their employee needs.
This creativity in plan design is an important tool for employers looking to manage increasing costs while still providing a competitive plan to their employees. In the fully insured market, employers are limited by plan designs offered by health insurers, but can be much more flexible and creative when designing their own self-insured plan. Though self-funding is not for every group, many small companies are finding this option a good alternative as it allows them to tailor a plan that fits the unique needs of their small employer group.
In addition, rather than paying a premium each month, self-funded groups only pay medical claims as they come in—which can be a significant benefit for groups with healthier employee populations and active wellness programs. Plus, there are generally fewer administrative costs, which make self-funding more cost effective in many situations.
Fewer Regulations to Comply With
Not only has ACA increased costs, as mentioned in Chapter 1, but it has also introduced many new regulations with which to comply. In addition to increasing costs, these provisions add complexity and extra work to managing employee benefits. However, many of these provisions apply only to fully insured plans, which is another reason that self-funding has become more appealing for employer groups of all sizes. In this chapter, we’ll discuss some of the more prominent ACA provisions that have negatively impacted employer groups.
Adjusted Community Rating caused costs to increase for many small groups, in some cases significantly. In addition, quotes for smaller groups are now much longer and more complicated due to the Community Rating changes, making benefits planning more of a headache each year.
For this reason, small groups who many never have considered self-funding before are exploring that option to avoid the complexity of Community Rating.
Another part of the Community Rating provision addresses wellness, and applies to employers of all sizes. It specifies that employers with wellness programs no longer get lower premiums for their healthier employee populations. Previously, investing in a wellness program and achieving a healthier employee population would pay off in the form of a lower premium in the fully-insured marketplace. Now that Adjusted Community Rating is in play, the employer no longer gets benefits for their wellness accomplishments and pays the same as any other company, negating the efforts of their wellness program.
Self-funding offers these companies the opportunity to take full advantage of the improved health of their employee population and design their health plan how they chose, without needing to comply with the Adjusted Community Rating provision—for example, they can offer lower premiums as incentives based on their wellness program.
The Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) provision states that insurers can only spend a certain percentage of their profits on “administrative” costs. For that reason, insurers have streamlined their operations in a variety of ways, with many insurers offering fewer plan options to small groups to keep operations lean and costs down. The result for small employer groups is that it is tougher to find a more tailored health plan to meet the unique needs a small group has, which makes self-funding an attractive alternative.
Employers who choose to self-fund are not limited by the plan design options provided by health insurers, and can design a creative plan that fits both their budget and employee needs.
What You Need to Know About Self-Funding
Self-funding is an attractive option to many employers because it offers more flexibility than traditional fully insured plans. However, there are other important factors to consider when self-funding.
- ERISA: Self-funding frees you from some regulations, such as ACA, but is governed by ERISA, which is a federal law. This means that employers who self-fund have certain documentation and reporting requirements under ERISA.
- Stop-loss insurance: Stop-loss insurance is a vital part of self-funding, particularly for a smaller group who cannot afford to take on too much risk. This helps the employer manage costs and offers a safety net for large claims.
- Wellness: Self-funded plans can benefit significantly from an effective wellness program; the healthier an employee population is, the fewer claims there are likely to be. For employers who already have a wellness program, this is a benefit of self-funding. Otherwise, employers want to considering implementing a wellness program if they explore self-funding.
- Administration: Administration is different for self-funding, so this needs to be a consideration. Many employers choose to work with a third-party administrator (TPA) to administer their plan.
- Financial impact: Moving to a self-funded plan requires a much different budgeting and forecasting model, as claims must be paid when they occur, as opposed to paying a monthly premium. So while self-funding can certainly save money, it can also have a significant financial impact on an employer’s budget. It’s important to plan ahead for this change in budgeting and forecasting of costs.
- Discrimination testing: Another important regulation on self-funded plans is that they are not discriminatory, so discrimination testing is a must.
Self-funding isn’t for everyone, but it isn’t just for large employer groups anymore. With the implementation of ACA and perpetually rising health care costs, self-funding is becoming another cost-saving option for many employer groups searching for the ideal benefit plan solution.
Insurance carriers realize that offering additional lines of coverage to an existing customer is less expensive than trying to attract new customers. They also know that the more lines a given customer has, the longer they’re likely to stay with them.
While bundling policies is beneficial to insurance carriers, it is also highly beneficial to their customers. Similar to how bundling your personal home and auto policies may give you a discount, bundling your business policies can provide benefits way beyond cost savings.
Most businesses require a number of insurance policies in order to properly insure their operations, including:
- Workers’ compensation
- General liability
- Commercial property
- Professional liability
- Commercial auto
- Business interruption
- Cyber liability
- Directors and officers
Keeping up with that many policies isn’t an easy task for business owners. Therefore, bundling multiple policies with the same carrier simplifies things for bookkeeping purposes. Besides having fewer bills to keep track of every month, it also makes it easier come renewal time if the bundled policies renew at the same time each year.
Your HR department will also appreciate having one number to call when you’re hiring a new employee, have claims questions, are adding a location or making any other business decisions that impact your insurance.
Fewer Agents to Educate
Properly insuring your business requires explaining to your insurance agent exactly what your business does and the exposures that come with it. But without bundling your policies, you have more agents to educate, which takes time. The fewer agents you have to work with, the better equipped they’ll be to help identify and address your exposures.
Assurance That Your Policies Work Together
There may be circumstances when two of your business insurance policies have to work together. For example, you may assume that something not covered by your commercial auto policy would be covered by your commercial umbrella policy. However, many umbrella policies will only extend above an auto policy if the insurance company offering it has a specified financial strength rating. If your carrier’s rating falls below a certain grade, your umbrella policy may not cover an auto loss. That’s just one type of problem that could arise if you keep your policies under separate roofs, with separate agents.
Less Security Risk
When obtaining insurance, business owners are required to divulge sensitive personal information about their
employees, as well as financial information about the business itself. When dividing your policies among multiple agents, you’re basically providing all that information to more people than you would have to if you’d bundled your policies with one agent. And in doing so, you’re increasing the risk of highly sensitive information ending up in the wrong hands.
Bundling your business’s insurance policies allows your insurance professional to give you access to multiline discounts that help boost your bottom line. Contact The Unland Companies to see if any of your insurers offer multiline discounts. We can give you estimates for bundling your policies with each carrier.
Your business depends on the productivity of your employees, and one way to maximize your employees’ potential is to acknowledge and address problems that cause decreased productivity. You may not realize it, but fatigue in the workplace is a serious issue in America today—one that is costing employers big in lost productivity.
According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 38 percent of American workers surveyed experienced “low levels of energy, poor sleep or a feeling of fatigue” during their past two weeks at work. Workers who are fatigued in the workplace are less productive, less focused, experience more health problems and are more likely to be involved in a job-related safety incident. In addition, fatigue causes more absences from work, both from the tiredness itself and also from accompanying medical problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25 percent of Americans report not getting enough sleep, and 10 percent suffer from chronic insomnia.
Many people beyond those with a medical condition regularly struggle with lack of sleep, trouble sleeping and/or fatigue. The study estimated that lost productivity due to fatigue is costing American businesses about $136 million annually.
The Effects of Fatigue
Obvious signs of fatigue in an individual include drowsiness, moodiness, loss of energy, loss of appetite, and a lack of motivation, concentration and alertness. Often, men tend to become angry when experiencing fatigue, whereas women may be more sad and moody. In addition, fatigue can cause or be a result of other medical conditions, such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and diabetes.
What Can You Do?
Any problem that causes decreased productivity and increased absenteeism is one that you want to address in your workforce. There are several ways that you can tackle the issue of fatigue within your company:
- Educate employees. Many people who struggle with getting adequate or quality sleep could improve their situation by making a few habit and lifestyle changes. Offer them information about the importance of getting enough sleep each night, the safety concerns of coming to work tired and tips for getting better sleep. Also remind employees that a healthy diet and regular exercise can contribute to better quality sleep.
- Include fatigue in your wellness program. Include questions about sleep and tiredness on your health risk appraisals, and incorporate fatigue management into your wellness initiatives. Once you identify how many employees experience fatigue and/or have sleep disorders, you can offer further education, programs or referral services to address the specific problems among your employees.
- Change company culture. Ask employees when they are most tired during the day, and consider offering extra break time to alleviate those fatigued times. This is particularly important for workers in safety-sensitive or decision-making positions. Try to make your workplace more amenable to alertness, with proper lighting, quiet break areas for employees to rest or re-charge, adequate break time and healthy food options.
A key to understanding your workers’ compensation premium is the experience modification factor, also known as your mod. Understanding your company’s mod and the data used to obtain it helps you identify ways to minimize your workers’ compensation premium.
Who calculates the mod factor?
Most states use the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) to collect data and calculate the experience modification factor. The NCCI is a private corporation funded by member insurance companies. The remaining states either operate an independent workers’ compensation bureau or have set aside a state fund for workers’ compensation. These states may or may not use the NCCI’s classification system to determine experience modification factors.
How is a mod calculated?
The process of calculating the experience modification factor is complex, but the underlying theory and purpose of the formula is straightforward. Your company’s actual losses are compared to its expected losses by industry type. The formula incorporates factors that account for company size, unexpectedly large losses, and the incidence of loss frequency and loss severity to achieve a balance between fairness and accountability.
How does my mod affect my premiums?
The mod factor represents either a credit or debit that is applied to your workers’ compensation premium. A mod factor greater than 1.0 is a debit mod, which means that your losses are worse than expected and a surcharge will be added to your premium. A mod factor less than 1.0 is a credit mod, which means losses are better than expected, resulting in a discounted premium.
What is the experience rating period?
The mod is calculated using loss and payroll data for an experience rating period. The experience rating period typically includes data for three policy years, excluding the most recently completed year. For example, if your anniversary rating date is Jan. 1, 2017, the experience period is 2012 to 2015. 2016 would be excluded.
Three years of data is used to provide a more accurate reflection of the losses, smoothing out the impact of an exceptionally bad or good year for losses.
Both actual and expected losses are divided into a primary and an excess portion in what is called a split rating method. Primary losses are designed to be an indicator of loss frequency (the number of losses) and are used at their full value in the mod formula. Excess losses are an indicator of loss severity (the amount of each loss) and are weighted in the formula so that they are less important. The emphasis of loss frequency over loss severity in the formula reflects the fact that loss frequency is a more significant indicator of risk and can be improved through proactive loss control programs.
In July 2011, the NCCI announced a proposal to raise the split point from $5,000 to $15,000 over a three-year period to better correlate with claims inflation. The process of transitioning to the new split point began in
2013, with an increase in the split point from $5,000 to $10,000. In 2015, the split point included an additional increase as a result of claims inflation, and the NCCI now makes annual adjustments to the split point based on inflation.
In 2017, the NCCI’s rating system will use a split point of $16,500. This means that the first $16,500 of every loss is considered a primary loss, and any amount over this point is considered an excess loss. For example, a $9,000 loss would have no excess losses, as it falls below the current split point of $16,500. However, a loss of $25,000 would have $16,500 in primary losses and $8,500 in excess losses. Additionally, medical-only claims figures may be reduced by 70 percent in approved states.
Expected losses are calculated using your payroll data by state and class code and applying the expected loss rate (ELR). The ELR is provided by each state’s rating bureau. These figures are also broken down into expected primary losses and expected excess losses.
How do your losses compare?
The final mod calculation compares your actual primary and excess loss figures to those expected for a company of the same size and industry type. To understand how workers’ compensation losses at your business compare to state industry averages, contact The Unland Companies to review your experience modification worksheet.
How can you control your mod?
Your mod factor has a direct impact on your workers’ compensation premium. The key to controlling your insurance costs is accident prevention.
- The mod is calculated based on data reported to the rating bureau by past insurers. Incorrect or incomplete data can cause incorrect mod factors. Review loss and payroll data to ensure the calculation is complete and accurate.
- Losses remain in the experience rating formula for three years. The experience modification factor is influenced more by small, frequent losses than by large, infrequent ones.
- Safety programs, return to work programs and appropriate prevention procedures can help to reduce loss frequency.
- An effective self-inspection and accident investigation program are critical to managing claim frequency.
- Claims management programs can help your business manage outstanding reserves and focus on efficiently resolving open claims.
- Any claims should be reported to your carrier immediately.
- All injured employees should be provided with light duty upon their release from treatment so you can close claims and ensure the health of your employees.
- Supervisory roles should have set safety performance goals. Success in achieving safety goals should be used as one measure during performance appraisals.
- Employees should be trained on their responsibilities for safety, and should know to enforce violations.
- You should frequently communicate with employees on a formal and informal basis regarding the importance of safety.
How can your experience rating save you money?Establishing a proactive safety program is an effective way to reduce losses, positively impacting your mod and workers’ compensation premium. Contact us today at (309) 347-2177. We have the loss control experience to help you promote safety and control your workers’ compensation premium.
Accidents can happen at any time in the workplace, often when you least expect them. However, many on-the-job accidents can be avoided by focusing on safe practices and taking necessary safety precautions.
Know the Hazards
The cause of accidents can almost always be traced to a dangerous act, an unsafe condition or a combination of the two. In most instances, an accident could have been avoided by following proper safety precautions.
In order to avoid accidents, it’s important to understand what can cause them. There are countless unsafe acts and conditions that can lead to accidents, but some common hazards include:
- Using defective or broken equipment
- Performing tasks without training
- Failing to wear proper PPE
- Unsafe handling, storage or disposal of materials
- Injuries due to poor housekeeping
Safe Steps to Avoid Accidents
The first step to keeping yourself and co-workers safe is to stay alert on the job and not let routine or familiarity lure you into carelessness. Always observe safety precautions before and during a task, even if those precautions make the task more inconvenient or take longer to complete. Cutting corners may not seem like a big deal, but doing so is a primary cause of accidents.
Next, know your job. The more you know about your job, the safer you’ll be. Know the proper procedures and safety precautions for any task you do, and if any questions arise during your work day, be sure to talk to your supervisor.
And finally, make a personal contribution. A good way to start this is to follow safety rules. Certain rules in the workplace are made for your protection, so follow them. Just because an unsafe act is not specifically listed as being prohibited, it doesn’t mean you should do it. Use your common sense when evaluating if an act is safe or not – there may be a very easy way to make it safer if you stop to think it through.
Focus on Good Habits
It’s human nature to work yourself into habits, and when you break a safety rule, you’ve taken the first and most influential step in forming a bad habit — a habit that can lead to an injury. Good habits, such as following safety precautions and noticing unsafe conditions, are just as easy to form.
Develop a safe attitude. This is probably one of the most difficult things to recognize because most of us have the mistaken notion that it’s always someone else who gets hurt, never us. If we all do our share in observing safety rules and staying alert for unsafe conditions, everyone will benefit.
If you are looking for an easy and inexpensive way to stay healthy or lose weight, you need nothing more than your own two feet. Walking is an ideal form of exercise—it’s free, and you can do it almost anytime and anywhere. Walking is also a great way to maintain a healthy weight or to shed those extra pounds.
The First Step: Good Shoes
Whether you walk outdoors, on a treadmill or at the local mall, you will want to invest in a good pair of walking shoes. Walking shoes are designed to give you the flexibility, support and proper push off needed for walking. Everyone’s feet are different, but look for shoes that are light, flexible and immediately feel comfortable. Walking shoes should not require a “breaking in” period.
Setting the Pace
You can walk to maintain your health or as part of a weight-loss program. To get moving, experts advise beginners to start with a 15- or 30-minute walk daily, adding five or 10 minutes to the walking session time per week. More specifically:
1.) To maintain your health, walk 30 minutes a day most days of the week at a “talking” pace, which means you are able to carry on a conversation comfortably while walking.
2.) If you are walking for weight loss, walk 45 to 60 minutes a day at a medium to fast pace. In addition, do not skip more than two days per week.
3.) For aerobic and cardiovascular fitness, walk 20 minutes at a very fast pace (you should be breathing hard), three to four days a week.
After walking, gentle stretching can help keep your muscles from being sore. It is also wise to warm up before walking fast or going a long distance.
Make sure to be safe while walking outside:
1.) Always walk on sidewalks (or on the left side of the street facing traffic if there are no sidewalks).
2.) Be aware of traffic.
3.) Carry identification and your cellphone in case of emergencies.
4.) In the evening hours, wear reflective gear and/or carry a flashlight in front of you.
Going the Distance
Once you get started, you will want to stay motivated. Consider finding a walking friend, joining a walking club or registering for a challenging walking event. Remember that you will not notice immediate physical changes to your body, but by adding walking and a healthy diet to your daily routine, it won’t be long before you look and feel better.
Note: Before beginning any walking program, consider discussing your exercise plans with your doctor, particularly if you have health issues such as diabetes.