Educating Employees on Voluntary Benefits

Offering voluntary benefits is a great way to enhance your benefits package, differentiate from competitors and increase employee satisfaction—all with little impact on your budget. But while employers may choose to offer numerous types of voluntary benefits that can deliver convenience and value for employees, many employees do not understand the advantages of these voluntary benefit options or are unclear how they work. Educate your employees on the advantages of these voluntary benefits so that you both reap the rewards.

Demonstrate the Value

When compared to employer-sponsored benefits, many employees may fail to see the value of voluntary benefits that they must personally finance. For example, one perk to voluntary benefits is that purchasing insurance through an employer group is often cheaper than buying individually, yet research shows that few employees are aware of this. When promoting your voluntary benefit options, discuss the benefits of having coverage, the risks of going without, and emphasize the convenience and value of purchasing through the company and paying through payroll deductions.

Coverage Education

It is important that employees fully understand their policy so that a misunderstanding does not lead to resentment toward the employer. For instance, if a consumer does not completely understand the nuances of property-casualty insurance and believes herself to be covered, it will come as a shock and possibly with misdirected frustration in the event of a major loss.

When offering any benefit option, employer-paid or voluntary, you should be sure your employees understand exactly how the coverage works. Here are a few ways to make sure your employees are sufficiently educated about their benefits:

  • Invite current employees to the monthly or quarterly benefits meetings provided for newly hired individuals.
  • Many voluntary benefits providers are willing to send a representative to discuss their coverage with employees.
  • While most benefits administrators don’t have time to meet individually with employees, consider scheduling small-group meetings with a few employees who have questions.
  • Enhance your existing benefits communication program with social media. Social media provides a convenient and effective way to reach out to your employees with educational information, tips and reminders.

Employer Advantage

In addition to boosting participation in your voluntary benefits programs, providing this meaningful education can position you as a valuable source of knowledge and strengthen employee satisfaction and loyalty to your company.

Talk to your The Unland Companies representative to learn more about available social media and employee benefit communication resources.      

8 Ways to Improve Your Culture

1. Recognize and reward valuable employee contributions.

According to Deloitte, the top 20 percent of companies with a recognition-based culture have a 31 percent lower turnover rate. Fifty percent of workers surveyed by CareerBuilder believe that recognition is a factor that drives retention. To effectively implement a rewards-rich work environment, be sure to do the following:

  • Identify specific behaviors and/or results aligned with your company’s values. Recognize those behaviors as frequently as possible.
  • Make it easy for everyone at your company to recognize and reward co-workers’ behaviors. Often, peer-to-peer recognition is the most effective way to infuse recognition into your culture.

2. Encourage employee autonomy.

It’s no secret that micromanaging your employees rarely produces favorable outcomes. Trusting your employees to manage their responsibilities on their own is not as simple as it sounds, though. Some simple, yet effective ways to inspire employee autonomy include the following:

  • Establishing autonomous work groups
  • Reining in bosses or co-workers who tend to hover over others
  • Creating decision-making opportunities

3. Incorporate flexibility into your organization.

Workplace flexibility can improve morale and reduce turnover. In fact, 51 percent of workers surveyed by CareerBuilder believe that a flexible schedule is a factor that significantly drives retention. Workplace flexibility programs are up to the organization’s discretion, but common ways flexibility is demonstrated include the following:

  • Telecommuting (work from home) opportunities
  • Flexible scheduling opportunities
  • Paid time off (PTO) policies

4. Provide regular and timely feedback.

Once-a-year feedback is a thing of the past. Younger generations thrive in environments where they know exactly how they are doing. Continuous, meaningful feedback provides employees with the tools they need to improve and grow. Opportunities to provide feedback outside of performance reviews could include the following:

  • Monthly or semi-monthly check-ins between a supervisor and employee
  • Peer-to-peer weekly check-ins
  • Mentoring programs

5. Embrace workplace transparency.

Trust is the foundation of a great company culture. Transparency can improve employees’ trust of upper management, give employees insight into a company’s operations and future, and improve cross-departmental collaboration. One way to improve your organization’s transparency is to share both the successes and challenges your organization and its employees face with everyone.

Another way to improve the transparency in your organization is to implement modern communication and collaboration tools. These tools make it easy for your employees to connect with one another and share crucial information. Listed below are popular tools used by other companies for chat and collaboration, video conferencing and project management purposes.

  • Chat and collaboration
    • Yammer
    • HipChat
    • Google Apps for Business
  • Video conferencing
    • Skype
    • Google Hangout
  • Project management
    • Jira
    • Trello

6. Promote strong professional co-worker relationships.

According to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, when individuals identify with and are invested in professional relationships with their colleagues, workplace productivity increases, employee morale increases and burnout levels decrease. However, building strong relationships takes time and effort. To help your employees, consider the following suggestions:

  • Encourage collaboration and peer-to-peer work.
  • Create “collision points” in your office. Collision points include areas like a communal coffee station or cafeteria.
  • Host events. No matter how small (think: team happy hour) or large (think: corporate outing), employer-sponsored events are a great way for employees to interact with peers that they normally would not on an average day.

7. Create a mentoring program.

Providing employees with professional development opportunities is a low-cost retention tool and a simple way to improve employee engagement and your company culture. A mentor is an individual in the workplace who shares his or her knowledge and expertise to help another employee grow professionally. Some companies use group mentoring, third-party mentoring or reverse mentoring, while others use peer mentoring, flash mentoring or one-to-one pair mentoring.

Mentoring programs provide benefits to all parties involved. Benefits include the following:

  • Skill development. Mentors teach mentees the skills and qualities necessary for success. Mentoring provides mentors with the opportunity to develop their communication and leadership skills.
  • Improved networking and teamwork. Mentoring allows employees to build a professional relationship over a period of time and teaches them about the value of networking. This also instills a sense of cooperation and teamwork at your company.

8. Improve your “soft” benefits offerings.

There are a variety of employer-sponsored programs that encourage employee engagement, increase employee morale and attract new talent. Workplace flexibility is a highly effective benefits offering. Other top benefits to offer are listed below.

  • Wellness incentives
    • Subsidize gym memberships.
    • Provide healthier food and beverage choices.
    • Sponsor company sports teams.
  • Trendy, new voluntary benefits
    • Identity theft protection
    • Student loan repayment programs
    • Financial counseling services
    • Pet insurance
    • Discount programs
  • Child care benefits
    • On-site child care
  • Fringe benefits
    • Company-provided beverages and food

A great company culture attracts the best workers, increases retention and improves employee performance. These eight suggestions can positively impact your existing or new company culture.

House Republicans Release Details of their ACA Replacement

The Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land…
BUT here are the changes that the House of Representatives just passed. Now it is up to the Senate …
Keeping you informed is an important part of what we do.

From the Desk of Larry Grudzien, Attorney at Law

House Republicans Release Details of their ACA Replacement

MAY 5, 2017 – Yesterday, the House Republicans released a summary of their replacement to the Affordable Care Act. It is called the American Health Care Act (the “Act”).

Please find below a link to this section-by- section summary of the Act This official summary incorporates changes to an earlier version of the bill (the changes being popularly known as the MacArthur Amendment and the Upton Amendment).

https://benefitslink.com/src/legislation/AHCA-Section-by-Section-Summary.pdf

If you have any comments or questions regarding any of the above information, please do not hesitate to call me at (708) 717-9638 or e-mail me at larry@larrygrudzien.com.

Thank-You,

Larry Grudzien
Attorney-At-Law

Healthcare and the Small Business Owner

Healthcare and the Small Business Owner:  Two Keys

Coffee shopSince Jan. 1, 2014, Americans have been required under federal law to purchase health insurance. Every employee of a small business in 2014 had to either maintain health insurance or pay a fine equivalent to 1 percent of his or her income, above the tax-filing threshold. In 2015 that penalty will jump to 2 percent of adjusted gross income. Open enrollment runs from Nov. 15 through Feb. 15 and is the time during which health insurance companies and HMOs are required by law to accept applicants without regard to health history. So how does this new healthcare landscape affect small business owners? There are two main things small business owners should know.

1. Businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees are not required to offer health insurance.

However, any small business with 50 to 99 full-time employees will have until 2016 to begin offering health insurance to 95 percent of their full-time employees or pay a fine. These businesses must still carefully track employee’s hours and report information to the IRS beginning in 2015. The timeline is accelerated for business with 100 or more full-time equivalent employees. These businesses must offer affordable health insurance to at least 70 percent of their full-time employees beginning in 2015 or pay a fine. That number increases to 95 percent in 2016.

2. There is no one size fits all for offering health insurance to employees.

Because each employer’s circumstances are different, owners should explore all options available—from providing group health plans to contributing defined dollar amounts to their employees monthly.

For small business not offering group health plans, Unland Insurance has developed the Smart Choices™ Marketplace. The Smart Choices™ Marketplace is a health insurance exchange where individuals can compare plans, select and apply for health insurance in a simple, stress free and intuitive online hub. This new health insurance exchange offers plenty of choices without overwhelming shoppers, and can help your employees find the right health insurance in as little as 12 minutes. Furthermore, because it’s not affiliated with any specific carrier, employees will be able to choose between well-known national and regional health insurance companies, as well as insurance plans on the public exchange.

Time is running out for employees to select their 2015 health insurance plan. Contact us today, or visit the Smart Choices Marketplace.

Are you fully prepared for new ACA form requirements?

There’s a big new change this year that may take many people by surprise.

Changes associated with the Affordable Care Act mean that most taxpayers will receive unfamiliar tax forms this year: either form 1095-A, 1095-B or 1095-C.

Confused by the difference?

  • Form 1095-A is a form sent by the Health Insurance Marketplace to individuals who enrolled in coverage there. The deadline for the Marketplace to complete that form is Feb. 1, and anyone who expecting to receive this form should wait to file their 2015 income taxes until they receive this form from the Marketplace.
  • Form 1095-B is a form sent by health insurance providers to the individuals they cover. The deadline to provide this form has been extended to March 31. Individual taxpayers will generally be able to file their returns as they normally would.
  • Form 1095-C is a form sent by certain employers, especially employers that offer “self-insured coverage.” The deadline to provide this form has been extended to March 31. Individual taxpayers will generally be able to file their returns as they normally would.

Do you need further information about the ACA and the new 1095 forms, or do you need help providing the 1095 to your employees?

Contact your Unland agent or account manager  for assistance.

Do you need help explaining the 1095 to your employees?

Because this form is new, many employees will not be expecting to receive it and may not understand its importance. Unland has a sample letter you can customize for your employees.

Featured Communications Digest for the Week

Workers’ Compensation Audit Checklist

This document provides a list of important items that business owners should do before, during and after a workers’ compensation audit. Download Here. 


Educating Employees on Voluntary Benefits

Offering voluntary benefits is a great way to enhance your benefits package, differentiate from competitors and increase employee satisfaction—all with little impact on your budget. But while employers may choose to offer numerous types of voluntary benefits that can deliver convenience and value for employees, many employees do not understand the advantages of these voluntary benefit options or are unclear how they work. Educate your employees on the advantages of these voluntary benefits so that you both reap the rewards.

Demonstrate the Value

When compared to employer-sponsored benefits, many employees may fail to see the value of voluntary benefits that they must personally finance. For example, one perk to voluntary benefits is that purchasing insurance through an employer group is often cheaper than buying individually, yet research shows that few employees are aware of this. When promoting your voluntary benefit options, discuss the benefits of having coverage, the risks of going without, and emphasize the convenience and value of purchasing through the company and paying through payroll deductions.

Coverage Education

It is important that employees fully understand their policy so that a misunderstanding does not lead to resentment toward the employer. For instance, if a consumer does not completely understand the nuances of property-casualty insurance and believes herself to be covered, it will come as a shock and possibly with misdirected frustration in the event of a major loss.

When offering any benefit option, employer-paid or voluntary, you should be sure your employees understand exactly how the coverage works. Here are a few ways to make sure your employees are sufficiently educated about their benefits:

  • Invite current employees to the monthly or quarterly benefits meetings provided for newly hired individuals.
  • Many voluntary benefits providers are willing to send a representative to discuss their coverage with employees.
  • While most benefits administrators don’t have time to meet individually with employees, consider scheduling small-group meetings with a few employees who have questions.
  • Enhance your existing benefits communication program with social media. Social media provides a convenient and effective way to reach out to your employees with educational information, tips and reminders.

Employer Advantage

In addition to boosting participation in your voluntary benefits programs, providing this meaningful education can position you as a valuable source of knowledge and strengthen employee satisfaction and loyalty to your company.

Talk to your The Unland Companies representative to learn more about available social media and employee benefit communication resources.      


2017 Cyber Risk Survey

Cyber attacks are becoming more common and more sophisticated, making cyber insurance a necessity. The 2017 Cyber Risk Survey provides a look at the current state of cyber coverage as well as the common exposures that businesses face. Click here to download.


8 Ways to Improve Your Culture

1.     Recognize and reward valuable employee contributions. According to Deloitte, the top 20 percent of companies with a recognition-based culture have a 31 percent lower turnover rate. Fifty percent of workers surveyed by CareerBuilder believe that recognition is a factor that drives retention. To effectively implement a rewards-rich work environment, be sure to do the following:

  • Identify specific behaviors and/or results aligned with your company’s values. Recognize those behaviors as frequently as possible.
  • Make it easy for everyone at your company to recognize and reward co-workers’ behaviors. Often, peer-to-peer recognition is the most effective way to infuse recognition into your culture.

2.     Encourage employee autonomy. It’s no secret that micromanaging your employees rarely produces favorable outcomes. Trusting your employees to manage their responsibilities on their own is not as simple as it sounds, though. Some simple, yet effective ways to inspire employee autonomy include the following:

  •  Establishing autonomous work groups
  •  Reining in bosses or co-workers who tend to hover over others
  •  Creating decision-making opportunities

3.     Incorporate flexibility into your organization. Workplace flexibility can improve morale and reduce turnover. In fact, 51 percent of workers surveyed by CareerBuilder believe that a flexible schedule is a factor that significantly drives retention. Workplace flexibility programs are up to the organization’s discretion, but common ways flexibility is demonstrated include the following:

  • Telecommuting (work from home) opportunities
  • Flexible scheduling opportunities
  • Paid time off (PTO) policies

4.     Provide regular and timely feedback. Once-a-year feedback is a thing of the past. Younger generations thrive in environments where they know exactly how they are doing. Continuous, meaningful feedback provides employees with the tools they need to improve and grow. Opportunities to provide feedback outside of performance reviews could include the following:

  • Monthly or semi-monthly check-ins between a supervisor and employee
  • Peer-to-peer weekly check-ins
  • Mentoring programs

5.     Embrace workplace transparency. Trust is the foundation of a great company culture. Transparency can improve employees’ trust of upper management, give employees insight into a company’s operations and future, and improve cross-departmental collaboration. One way to improve your organization’s transparency is to share both the successes and challenges your organization and its employees face with everyone.

Another way to improve the transparency in your organization is to implement modern communication and collaboration tools. These tools make it easy for your employees to connect with one another and share crucial information. Listed below are popular tools used by other companies for chat and collaboration, video conferencing and project management purposes.

·        Chat and collaboration

o   Yammer

o   HipChat

o   Google Apps for Business

·       Video conferencing

o   Skype

o   Google Hangout

·       Project management

o   Jira

o   Trello

6.     Promote strong professional co-worker relationships. According to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, when individuals identify with and are invested in professional relationships with their colleagues, workplace productivity increases, employee morale increases and burnout levels decrease. However, building strong relationships takes time and effort. To help your employees, consider the following suggestions:

  • Encourage collaboration and peer-to-peer work.
  • Create “collision points” in your office. Collision points include areas like a communal coffee station or cafeteria.
  • Host events. No matter how small (think: team happy hour) or large (think: corporate outing), employer-sponsored events are a great way for employees to interact with peers that they normally would not on an average day.

7.     Create a mentoring program. Providing employees with professional development opportunities is a low-cost retention tool and a simple way to improve employee engagement and your company culture. A mentor is an individual in the workplace who shares his or her knowledge and expertise to help another employee grow professionally. Some companies use group mentoring, third-party mentoring or reverse mentoring, while others use peer mentoring, flash mentoring or one-to-one pair mentoring.

Mentoring programs provide benefits to all parties involved. Benefits include the following:

  • Skill development. Mentors teach mentees the skills and qualities necessary for success. Mentoring provides mentors with the opportunity to develop their communication and leadership skills.
  • Improved networking and teamwork. Mentoring allows employees to build a professional relationship over a period of time and teaches them about the value of networking. This also instills a sense of cooperation and teamwork at your company.

8.     Improve your “soft” benefits offerings. There are a variety of employer-sponsored programs that encourage employee engagement, increase employee morale and attract new talent. Workplace flexibility is a highly effective benefits offering. Other top benefits to offer are listed below.

·       Wellness incentives

o   Subsidize gym memberships.

o   Provide healthier food and beverage choices.

o   Sponsor company sports teams.

·       Trendy, new voluntary benefits

o   Identity theft protection

o   Student loan repayment programs

o   Financial counseling services

o   Pet insurance

o   Discount programs

·       Child care benefits

o   On-site child care

·       Fringe benefits

o   Company-provided beverages and food

A great company culture attracts the best workers, increases retention and improves employee performance. These eight suggestions can positively impact your existing or new company culture.


Strong Leadership, Changing Roles

Strong Leadership, Changing Roles

Effective January 1, 2016, The Unland Companies continues to build upon its strong leadership, with some of the senior management changing roles.  Although duties may have expanded or changed slightly with some variation in titles, the shifts will be seamless for both customers and employees.

Afton Booth, CIC, CSRM, has become Chairman of the Board. The former President, Afton has been with The Unland Companies for over 35 years in various capacities, including sales, sales management, Vice President and President. Afton is continuing his long-term client relationships, while developing new business opportunities, mentoring existing agents and reaching out to the marketplace for acquisition possibilities that will assist with our non-organic growth plans. Afton is accessible in both the Pekin and East Peoria offices.

Patrick Taphorn, CIC, CSRM, has become President.  A 25-year employee and the former Vice President, Pat has excelled in insurance sales and management. His experience and proven accomplishments with the Unland sales force and other senior management equips him for this leadership position. Pat continues to oversee the growth and success that The Unland Companies has experienced over the last 75 years, while taking on some of the administrative tasks previously handled by Afton Booth.

Bill Shock, CBC, continues as Executive Vice President, but takes on more administrative duties while helping to ensure Pat’s shift is a smooth one. Bill joined forces with The Unland Companies in July of 1989, but also owned and operated The Shock Agency prior to that time. Bill continues his oversight of the Personal Lines Division and Benefits Division for the agency, including assisting and guiding current and future clients toward Affordable Health Insurance products during this challenging era of Healthcare Reform.

Nate Rugaard, CIC, has become Vice President.  Nate has been with the agency since 2013 and has demonstrated a very high level of success in enhancing his technical knowledge of industry policies and risk management while developing a solid client base in which to impart that expertise.  Nate will take over Pat’s responsibilities, wherein he will oversee the existing sales force and develop new talent, while monitoring the overall production for the agency.

“The Unland Companies has been a long-time insurance partner in Central Illinois over the last 75 years. Our employees are exceptional in what they do for our clients, and this service will not change. The shifts in titles and subsequent duties assigned those individuals will position the company very well for further growth, enhancing both our commercial and personal product expertise while expanding our geographic reach. This natural succession will assure that The Unland Companies remains a leader in the insurance industry here in Central Illinois,” Pat shared. “It’s an honor to continue the great work Afton has already begun, and I look forward to working even more closely with Bill, who continues to play a key role in the company’s growth. We are fortunate to have such respected leaders who have selflessly contributed to the company’s vision, along with dedicated, professional employees who have helped to create the superior service The Unland Companies provides to our many clients.”

An employee-owned company, The Unland Companies is a full-service, independent insurance agency providing broad personal and commercial insurance coverage, human resource services and financial services at an affordable cost, backed by superior service. For additional information, contact us to speak to a representative.

Affordable Care Act

Healthcare has seen many changes over the decades – none more significant than the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Unfortunately, the ACA hasn’t gone off without a hitch, least of all for small business owners.

How is the Affordable Care Act affecting small business owners?

Since its creation, new tax penalties have been brought into action by the ACA in an effort to enforce compliance. However, these penalties are still largely unknown and greatly misunderstood, even by small business tax advisors. This poses a serious problem for small business owners seeking to be compliant with new laws when they file their 2014/2015 federal income tax returns. Even more unfortunately, several insurance firms are even taking advantage of the situation, marketing non-compliant solutions and products through online media, resulting in more unnecessary penalties for small business owners.

Why are there so many penalties during this transition?

While it’s a safe conclusion that the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service have failed to effectively communicate the details of new ACA laws, the IRS believes that enforcing tax penalties is the best way to increase communication and compliance.

What happens if I unknowingly fail to comply?

While the tax penalties are generally severe for compliance failure, the law contains provisions for small businesses that do so unintentionally. The first tax penalties will be addressed in spring 2015 as business owners begin to file their 2014 returns.

What are the most common ACA compliance failures?

Among the most common compliance errors are:

  1. Reimbursing expenses paid out-of-pocket when the employee is not on employer group health insurance – this is an error rumored to affect more than a million small businesses.
  2. Using non-qualifying “skinny insurance” or “mini-med” insurance – This type of insurance will eliminate one excise tax penalty but not the other. This point only applies to businesses with over 50 employees. This type of insurance eliminates one type of excise tax penalty but not the other type of penalty.
  3. Expecting repeal of ACA or significant future changes – small businesses can’t rely on the news and opinions to run a business.
  4. Paying employees for or reimbursing individual health insurance – rarely should an employer have connection to individual insurance purchased through an exchange or direct from an insurance company.
  5. Not maintaining written documentation of health plans – employees are required to provide some health plan documents and notifications in writing for employees, and employers should maintain of their delivery.

Are there any resources to assist in compliance?

Fortunately, small business compliance is as simple as following a checklist. Download the ACA Compliance Checklist and use it as you file your return. As long as you can check off each item, you should be penalty free in 2015.

More questions about ACA compliance? Contact Bill Schock at bshock@unland.com, and find out how your small business can be compliant in 2015.

Sections 6055 and 6056 Forms Matrix

New Local Health Plan for Small Businesses

New Local Health Plan for Small Businesses

 

 

 

On January 1, 2015, Pekin Hospital and Pekin Insurance® formed a partnership to create a local health plan to serve the health care needs of their employees. This plan is now available to all local businesses with less than 100 employees!

Why a local health plan?

Pekin Hospital and Progressive Health Network have over 300 credentialed physicians and specialists and can provide more than 80% of all necessary health care services.

Pekin Hospital is an award-winning community hospital.

Pekin Insurance is a highly rated health insurance provider ranking in the top 15% of Life and Health insurance companies nationwide based on premiums written and rated at A- (Excellent) by A.M. Best.

The goal—create a health plan that: 

Delivers excellent value to employees by reducing out-of-pocket expenses through lower deductibles and copays (and meets all Affordable Care Act requirements).

Provides greater access to both primary care providers as well as specialists.

Offers the combined management expertise of medical professionals through Pekin Hospital and insurance professionals through Pekin Insurance.

How does the plan work?

The plan offers access to providers based upon a three (3) tiered platform:

Tier 1 – Pekin Hospital and Progressive Health Network—This tier offers the lowest deductibles, copays, and overall out-of-pocket.

Tier 2 – Unity Point Health Methodist—Services provided at this level are still paid using the lowest deductibles and copays as long as the service is NOT available from a tier 1 provider.

Tier 3 – Out-of-Network—Services provided via this tier will receive the highest deductibles, copays, and overall out-of-pocket expenses.

For more information on the plan or to inquire about an insurance quote, please contact Jennifer Gray, Network Coordinator at Pekin Hospital, at 309-353-0444 or jgray@pekinhospital.com. Jennifer will be happy to answer any questions you may have and to put you in touch with a local Pekin Insurance agency.

This plan is a win—for your business, your employees, your budget, and your community!