HR Elements July 2014
Ideas and Information for Human Resources Professionals

So, Your Employees Want To Telecommute?

Does your company have employees who are tired of the daily grind that is commute to the office, perform duties with coworkers, and then commute home? Have you considered just how badly they may want to work from home -- or from any location for that matter? Maybe these employees are willing to work longer hours for the same salary or are willing to take a cut in pay.

According to an article on (the Society for Human Resource Management), Staples' third annual telecommuting survey found that more than 70% of telecommuters consider teleworking an important benefit when considering a new job and that 10% would take a pay cut in order to keep teleworking. In fact, the survey also discovered that more than a third of people would choose telecommuting in lieu of more money.

Why would people be willing to hinder their career advancement or current salary? It's simple. When it comes down to it, most telecommuting employees place a priority on striking a balance between work life and home life. This, in turn, may lead to happier and more productive employees. Telecommuting can also be used to leverage recruiting. As an employer, if you're flexible and are able to support staff with the tools they need to telecommute, then this easily translates into an advantage when recruiting top talent.

Something else to consider is the potential win-win for both employer and employee. That same Staples study cited reduced stress, less absenteeism, and happier employees as a major benefit of telecommuting. Of course, there are also challenges and pitfalls for employers to overcome.

For companies that have bring your own device (BYOD) policies for telecommuting employees, there is a need to educate these workers on security and the importance of using appropriate equipment and software including virus and password protection as well as data backup and encryption. Another obstacle is that many employers don't have a virtual private network (VPN) as a way for employees to connect. Perhaps the biggest challenge to employers is to ensure they're not playing favorites and allowing some employees to telecommute while barring others who may perform the same duties or be at the same position level. By having a uniform telecommuting policy, an employer can avoid a potential issue versus granting this on a case-by-case basis.

HR departments and senior managers who are willing to sift through all the details involved with allowing employees to telecommute are more likely to reap the benefits associated with this perk.


Handling "Bye" With "BYOD"

BYOD stands for bring-your-own-device and it's a concept that's gaining in popularity among most major companies, especially those that allow telecommuting. Most employer policies on BYOD cover productivity and ensuring the employees are using the right laptops, tablets, smart phones and relevant software to perform necessary tasks.

Understandably, these same employees will use their devices for personal use as well as business use. By doing this, the employee opens up the possibility that corporate data may be inadvertently shared, or worse -- hacked. By having a solid BYOD policy in place, employers can better protect themselves not only while an employee is with the company, but also once an employee leaves the company.

According to an article on, many companies have not thoroughly determined how to recapture company information once an employee walks out the door for good. If the technology isn't already in place, then the risk of the data being unrecoverable is fairly high. Even worse is if a former employee still has access to the company's intranet and abuses that access. Employers need to have policies and technology in place with BYOD employees and then regular audits to ensure that these policies are being enforced in order to keep data and network access secure.

Access to sensitive data can be restricted in many ways depending on the level of security a company wants, but one thing that should definitely be considered is technology that can remotely "wipe" this data instantly in real time. This technology could even be set up so that it's triggered automatically if a device is lost or stolen. However, while wiping can delete company data, it can also delete personal data. Legally and politically this is a delicate situation and the BYOD policy should explicitly state how that will happen. One way to keep company and personal data separate is by use of partitioned sections. That way, only data within that area is deleted.

There is definitely a balance between what data an employee can have on his or her device and what is considered off limits. A good BYOD policy that is strictly enforced will go a long way in ensuring that sensitive and valuable company information is kept as secure and protected as possible.


It's Called A "Day Off" For A Reason

How many times have you asked an employee about his or her stress level only to get the response that they are too busy to be stressed? Whether overworked, overstressed, or a combination of the two, employees keep putting off taking a day off to relax and recharge.

Taking a vacation means to vacate, leave, or go away. However, just because an employer offers vacation days and paid time off doesn't mean that employees are going to take them. And it appears that many employees are staying at work and not taking their available time off.

An article on said that 2,000 adult employees in the U.S., who responded to a survey by Glassdoor, revealed that they used only half of their eligible time off in the past year. Another 15% of the survey participants hadn't taken any vacation days in the past 12 months. Why? An expert at Glassdoor said it was fear of losing their job that kept employees from taking time off.

That same survey found that of the employees who did leave the office, more than 60% tended to continue working during their time off and almost 25% of the participants said they were contacted by coworkers concerning a work-related matter -- 30% were contacted directly by their boss. That means employees don't believe they are "allowed" to disconnect from the office.

A different, but similar article on stated that employees convince themselves that feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and not having time to take a day off is normal. But it's not normal. Plus, by not taking time off, the stress can become too much to handle and may cause employees simply to call in sick and lie to the boss. This creates its own level of stress for the employee.

An employee who feels the need to take time off, but doesn't, should be told that a way to maximize time off with a minimal impact to work would be to take a few days at a time instead of an entire week -- perhaps around a holiday to turn one day off into a three or four day weekend.

According to the story, employees can develop a "learned helplessness" that's self-defeating and dangerous because it can lead to an undervaluing of self-worth. While stress can initially improve performance, over time or if the stress is excessive, then performance is reduced and employees don't do things as well as they should. Obviously, chronic stress is bad for anyone's mental and physical health and stress can often sneak up on a person when they least expect it, thus compounding the problem. Reducing stress allows an employee to be more productive, think more clearly, and work at a higher level.

Supervisors and HR departments can reduce this problem by insisting that employees take time off and REALLY take time off. Employees should be encouraged to unplug completely from the duties and responsibilities of work such as not answering their phones, stop checking email, and making themselves totally unavailable. Supervisors can lead by example and set the standard for the rest of the office.


Getting Employees To Save More For Retirement

Brian Walker
VP - National Director, Business Development
The Principal Financial GroupĀ®, a UBA Strategic Partner

There's no denying it. The vast majority of workers won't be ready financially for retirement. Seventy percent are behind schedule in saving for retirement and half of all Americans have less than $10,000 in savings. Of immediate importance is the fact that nearly half of the oldest boomers are at risk of not having sufficient retirement resources to pay for basic retirement and healthcare costs! 

Why should you care about retirement readiness? The answer is simple: Because retirement delays can hurt your bottom line.

The majority of employers expect the cost of health care and other benefits to rise due to delayed retirements. And they're exactly right. In fact, for each employee over the age of 65, a plan sponsor could be paying $5,000 more per year for health care. (Source: EBRI estimates)

In addition, the cost of employees working beyond the normal retirement age can have potentially significant implications for your business as a whole.

So how do you know if employees are saving enough, and how do you measure success?

Simple plan design changes can have huge impacts on participant outcomes. Features like automatic enrollment and automatic deferral increases, for instance, use participants' inertia to their advantage.

In fact, 91% of participants stay in the plan when automatically enrolled. And 88% of employees participate in an automatic escalation program when it's a default feature--only 12% opt out. But when they have to sign up on their own, just 6% participate.

PowerPoint presentation slides on this topic were created by The Principal Financial Group.

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 In This Edition


Employer Webinar Series

Planning for 2015 - Open Enrollment and Other PPACA Issues

Tuesday, August 12, 2014
2:00 p.m. ET / 11:00 a.m. PT

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) continues to phase in. Many plan design requirements took effect in 2014 for both large and small plans. This next year will bring employer-shared responsibility ("play or pay") requirements for larger employers. PPACA has also affected the notices employers need to give as part of the open enrollment process and it affects COBRA. To help plan sponsors understand their options and obligations, this 90-minute intermediate level webinar will cover:

  • A review of the 2014 plan design requirements, including the eligibility waiting period rules
  • How group health plans and the Marketplace handle special enrollment and Section 125 change in status events
  • Upcoming fees
  • The health plan identifier requirement
  • Notices that should be included in your open enrollment packet -- and those that are no longer needed
  • A refresher on Summary of Benefits and Coverage requirements, including the transition and distribution rules
  • A review of the common law employee definition
  • A reminder of how to count workers correctly -- and why it matters
  • Recent developments, and what is in the regulatory pipeline

About The Presenter:
Joy M. Napier-Joyce is a Shareholder in the Baltimore office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She counsels clients in a broad range of benefit matters, including general compliance, administration of qualified retirement plans under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code, and welfare plan issues involving cafeteria plans, health plans, flexible spending accounts, group insurance products, COBRA and HIPAA. She is a member of the Jackson Lewis Health Care Reform Task Force and leader of the firm's Employee Benefits Practice Group.

Register here for the webinar. The presentation slides will be posted on the UBA website the day before the webinar.

Important News Regarding the Employer Webinar Series

Due to the UBA Fall Meeting & Expo, the September employer webinar will be on September 16, not September 9 (i.e., the third Tuesday, not the second Tuesday). Information about the topic and presenter will be forthcoming.


Pediatric Dental Benefits: Duplication of Coverage?

Josie Martinez
Senior Partner and General Counsel

EBS Capstone, a UBA Partner Firm

As of January 1, 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requires pediatric dental benefits to be one of the 10 essential health benefits (EHBs) that must be included in individual and small group medical coverage, as well as coverage offered through the Exchanges.

The EHB dental benefit applies to children up to age 18. It is estimated that as many as 5.3 million additional children will receive dental coverage as a result of PPACA. The services covered may include preventative and diagnostic services, basic and major restorative services. It also applies to "medically necessary" orthodontic services. Since "medically necessary" is subject to interpretation, prior authorization is recommended as there are pre-treatment requirements. The expectation is that pediatric dental procedures covered will be fairly similar to those covered today under separate commercial plans. Specific coverage provisions, however, are a state-by-state determination because each state has its own EHB packages [obviously guided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)]. Therefore, a state could choose to only cover semi-annual preventative visits with x-rays and sealants. Some states will include orthodontia; others may not.

Historically, the vast majority of dental benefits have been sold under a dental policy separate from medical. At a federally run Exchange, consumers will continue to have the option to purchase stand-alone dental coverage for themselves and dependents over 18. However, under the new rules outside the Exchanges, ALL medical policies offered to consumers in the individual and small group markets MUST include pediatric dental benefits.

Employers and employees that have pre-existing medical and dental insurance plans are finding this confusing... there may be duplication of dental coverage for children under 18 as of 2014 for employees that have both stand-alone dental coverage and medical coverage.

Which coverage applies? Who is covered? When should I use my dental plan?  In most cases, the medical plan coverage will be primary to any additional dental policy that applies. So, when a child under 18 visits the dentist now, the employee should be directed to show the medical plan ID card in addition to any dental plan coverage. If the medical plan includes pediatric dental coverage, the member may not need to take any additional action to process the claim.

To avoid duplication of premiums, employees can drop their children from their separate dental plans. However, before doing so, they should be advised to consider 1) the network of dentists and 2) the scope of services. Depending on the network size and scope of services provided by the medical plan, employees may want to keep supplemental dental coverage to ensure more comprehensive benefits.

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