Yearly Archives: 2020

  • Expansion of Family Medical Leave Act – Affecting Organizations with Five or More Employees

    December 31, 2020

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    Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 1383 into law, which will take effect on January 1, 2021.

    This takes the federal bill for Family Medical Leave, which has been on the books since 1985 for groups of 50 or more employees, and expands it in California down to 5 employees.


    Basic Rules

    Any employee who:

    • is working within a 75 mile radius of the employer’s central location;
    • has worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 month period;
    • is entitled to 12 weeks of leave where the employer will pay the portion of the health insurance premium for which they were responsible prior to the employee taking leave.


    The Leave

    For employees to take care of themselves or anyone in their immediate family who has a serious health condition. Immediate family includes:

    1. Child
    2. Parent
    3. Spouse or Domestic Partner
    4. Adult children
    5. Children of Domestic Partner
    6. Parents in Law
    7. Siblings
    8. Grandparents
    9. Grandchildren


    Differences with Federal Law

    • Expanded definition of eligible family member.
    • Employer may not exempt a key employee (someone in top 10% of pay).
    • Parents working for same employer used to only have leave of 12 weeks cumulatively. Under the California statute, each employee of the same employee may take 12 weeks.
    • Adds qualifying “exigency leave” when someone is on active duty.

  • How to Improve Your Job Postings

    December 16, 2020

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    A job posting is often the first impression a prospective job applicant has with your organization. It’s important for that impression to be an informative one. Your job postings should convey why someone would want to work for your company, what distinguishes your workplace from others, what’s exciting about your mission and vision, what you have to offer, and what the job is and requires. Here are a few ways to get better results from your job postings:

    Highlight the company’s strengths. Part of the purpose of a job posting is to sell your organization to prospective employees. It’s a sales pitch that conveys your culture and brand. Be sure to include both traditional benefits (e.g., insurance offerings, retirement plan) as well as less common, more exciting perks (e.g., unlimited PTO, remote work options, product discounts). You should also mention company awards, notable achievements, and career development opportunities.

    List the minimum requirements and essential functions of the job. You can also include the full job description, if you have the room for it. The requirements and functions you mention should be accurate and clear. You don’t want to scare away great prospects with unnecessary requirements, but you also don’t want a lot of unqualified people applying for the job.

    Include the pay range. Posting the pay range of the job will get you 30% more applicants. It will also save you and potential applicants a significant amount of time by allowing them to self-select out of the running if the range is too low for their needs or if it clearly indicates that you are looking for a more experienced employee. It will also promote transparency and help create a more equitable workplace, but it’s not a requirement.

    Analyze the results of previous job posting locations, especially if you paid for them. Consider not only the upfront fee, but also whether you received a good number of applications specifically from that source. Were the candidates qualified? Have you ever hired candidates from this source? There’s no sense paying to post job ads that aren’t bringing in good candidates.

    Consider alternatives to where you’ve posted in the past. Here are a few options:

    • Overlooked talent pools (e.g., websites geared toward certain populations or groups)—these can be especially helpful for increasing diversity in your workplace.
    • Community events and job fairs in your area—being able to answer questions about your company and your open positions can help weed out those who may not be a good fit or might not be happy in the role.
    • Local schools—many colleges guarantee a certain job placement rate and have an entire department to help their students become employees in the industry of their education. Oftentimes the coordinators of these programs will come to you for jobs as well, which is another direct talent pipeline. Reach out to your local community colleges or local universities and talk with them about any students that they might have who would fit your job description needs. They often also have an internal communication system that can get your job posting in front of a lot of students (or even alumni) in a hurry.
    • Previous applicants—even those you interviewed who might have been a second or third choice. You already know they’re interested in your company, and you may even have met them face to face. Even if it’s been half a year since they applied, reach out. What’s the worst that can happen?

    By Marisa Stoll

    Originally posted on ThinkHR

  • 4 Things to Consider When Comparing Medicare Plans

    December 9, 2020

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    Comparing Medicare health and prescription drug plans can be complicated. Keep in mind these 4 things to make your plan choice easier with the Medicare Plan Finder.

    1. Total cost for care. It’s important to think about your total out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, maximums, and drug costs, that you’ll pay with a Medicare health or drug plan. When you compare plans with Medicare Plan Finder, we’ll explain these costs and help you find plans with the lowest costs. We’ll also automatically show you plans with the lowest drug and premium costs first.
    2. Provider choice. Some plan types have a network of providers you’ll have to use if you want to pay less. Medicare Plan Finder lets you filter your results by plan type, and explains how each plan type lets you choose providers. If you have a particular doctor or pharmacy that you prefer to go to, see if that plan has a network. If it does, check that your provider is in the plan’s network. You might also want to make sure that your plan’s network has providers to choose from that are convenient to you.
    3. Benefits. Many Medicare Advantage Plans include prescription drug, vision, hearing, and dental coverage. Maybe you travel a lot, or spend part of the year in a different state. If you do, see if your plan will cover you when you travel. When you use Medicare Plan Finder, you can view, filter, and compare these benefits.
    4. “Overall Star Rating.” Medicare Plan Finder features a star rating system for Medicare health and drug plans. The “Overall Star Rating” gives an overall rating of the plan’s quality and performance for the types of services each plan offers. A plan can get a rating between 1 and 5 stars. A 5-star rating is considered excellent. If a Medicare Advantage Plan, Medicare drug plan or Medicare Cost Plan with a 5-star rating is available in your area, you can use the 5-star Special Enrollment Period (once a year) to switch from your current Medicare plan to a Medicare plan with the 5-star rating.

    Visit the Medicare Plan Finder to start comparing 2021 Medicare health and drug plans now.

    Originally posted on

  • Virtual Holiday Parties

    November 30, 2020

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    Building camaraderie between your employees is essential for employee engagement and retention. In fact, employees with close work friendships report 50% higher satisfaction with their work, according to Gallup. Hosting parties for your office this season may not be possible, yet they are still important. We’ve gathered some fun alternative ways to celebrate together while apart this holiday season.


    Gingerbread House Building Contest

    • Mail a box of the components to your team ahead of the party date.
    • Host a video call with background music while everyone constructs their house so they can see the progress of their co-workers’ build.
    • Post pictures of the finished houses on your company Facebook page and take votes for different categories. Your team can share the page with friends and family to try to drum up votes and, in turn, your page will get some new visits! Win-Win!
    • Send gift cards to winners to online merchants.

    Virtual Holiday Bingo

    • Mail bingo cards and dobbers or stickers ahead of the party date.
    • Host a video call and ask your most outgoing and beloved team member to be the bingo caller.
    • Email e-card prizes to winners.

    Winter Cocktail Party

    • Mail a “mix-kit” of cocktail components to your team ahead of the party date.
    • Hire a mixologist to teach via video call how to make a couple of cocktails with the ingredients you have sent out ahead of time.
    • *Optional: take votes on a short menu of cocktails to see which ones the team is most interested in learning how to make.

    Virtual White Elephant Party

    • Some people consider a “white elephant” gift to be something chosen from their home that is still in good/new condition, a cheap purchased gift, or a joke gift. Make sure you determine what type you want people to give so that everyone prepares the same.
    • Have your team prepare their gift at their home ahead of time and take a picture of their item. Each person should email the pre-designated “Santa” the picture so he/she can prepare the game.
    • Prepare a PowerPoint presentation with images of gifts and follow the instructions on this site to host the party.

    General Tips

    • Mail “party supplies” two weeks early.
    • Make a party playlist and share it before the party to get people in the holiday party mood.
    • Consider mailing party food such as flavored popcorn, chips, candy, and even a meal-delivery gift card for eating during the virtual event.

    Even though we are apart this holiday season, there is no need for us to be disconnected. You can still be the “host/ess with the most/est” by preparing the best party for your team. Show them you care by spending the extra time and care to keep your team engaged during the holidays.


  • IRS issues updates on a variety of benefit rules – take effect January 1 | by Jordan Shields, Partner

    November 13, 2020



    Flexible spending account Keeps current allowance of $2,750 annual salary reduction
    Keeps current allowance of $550 for employer contribution
    Adoption Assistance Amount raised from $14,300 to $14,440
    401k Contribution Employee amount remains at $19,500
    Health Savings Account Employee contribution raised from $3,550 to $3,600
    Family contribution raised from $7,100 to $7,200
    Affordable Care Act Affordability threshold raised from 9.78% to 9.81%
    Penalty for failure to offer is now $2,700
    Penalty for lack of affordability is now $4,060
    San Francisco HCSO Base increases from $2.05 to $2.12 groups of 20+
    Base increases from $3.08 to $3.18 groups of 100+
    State Disability This is real – the amount to be taken from employee pay is increased from 1% to 1.5% – the Paid Family Leave Act went to 8 weeks in July 2020

  • They have a plan – the Republicans have a plan | by Jordan Shields, Partner

    November 11, 2020

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    We are non-partisan here and would not presume to take sides in the debate over the future of health care in America.  Mr. Biden said he has a plan but did not elaborate during the debates, so we are not sure what it is except to continue the Affordable Care Act or make it stronger. Mr. Trump keeps saying he has a plan and the Republican Party has a plan, but they are not promoting it…but…Mr. Trump did come out with an “America-First Healthcare Plan” on October 4.  Here are the highlights, which is more of a recap of what Mr. Trump has done since taking office.  There is definitely some planning here:

    • Signed a repeal of the individual mandate in 2017
    • Increased availability of short-term medical plans (though they’re banned in California)
    • Expansion of Health Reimbursement Arrangements
    • Expansion of Health Savings Accounts
    • Increased access to telehealth plans following the COVID 19 pandemic
    • More plan options and reduced benchmark inflation
    • Reduction of drug prices and more generic approvals
    • Reduction of some drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries
    • Repeal of ACA medical device tax, annual fee on health care providers and Cadillac tax
    • Increased transparency in hospital/insurance coordination (effect remains to be seen)
    • Announcement of four principles to avoid surprise medical billing
    • Protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions
    • Improved access to health plans
    • New orders to support small community and rural hospitals
    • Demonstrated dedication to protecting and improving care for those in need
    • Modernization of Medicare – but where and what?
    • Substance Abuse Disorder Prevention

    Not sure who did what and when and how, but it’s out there.

  • Data Drop: Workforce Surveys Reveal Effects of Pandemic

    November 9, 2020

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    How 2020 will be remembered is largely going to be shaped by the pandemic, both for larger society and the workplace. There is no industry that hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19 and thus, no segment of the workforce that hasn’t felt its impact.

    We can see this playing out in the data we collect. Perhaps more than any other crisis before it, data is telling its own story around COVID-19. A fair amount of this data comes straight to our inbox and we regularly review it.

    Sharing is caring as they say, so with that in mind, here are some of the latest workforce surveys that have caught our attention and statistics that may help you understand and address the issues within your own organization.

    Less Screen Time = Better Health

    The folks over at Aetna International recently surveyed 4,000 employees at mid-to-large size businesses in the U.K., U.S., UAE and Singapore about their relationship with workplace technology and what effect it had on them. While the majority of respondents say that technology makes them more effective at their jobs and at managing time, particularly at a time where remote work is so common, there was a cost associated with their health.

    Employees feel that sitting at their computer for long durations have hindered their physical health with 70% of those surveyed agreeing that they would exercise more if they spent less time at their computer.

    Additionally, 76% of employees feel that reduced or restricted out of hours technology use would help them manage their physical health better if provided by their employer. Many find themselves checking their emails and Slack or Teams accounts when they normally wouldn’t.

    The impact goes beyond the physical, however. The majority of employees from around the world agreed that the overuse of technology in the workplace has had negative effects on their mental health, with 75% agreeing that restricting the use of screen time during the workday would help them to better manage their mental health. More than half, 56%, said that the overuse of communication platforms and internal emails increases their stress levels.


    Recent surveys from JDP asked 2,000 U.S. employees a range of questions about working from home during the pandemic. Among the most unanimous responses was centered on trust, with 92% of respondents saying they believe their bosses trusted them. Additionally, 86% say they feel they have taken advantage of the increased freedom work from home provides.

    More than three quarters of respondents say they are working different hours and two-thirds say they are more likely to work on the weekend now. Different hours didn’t translate to more hours, however, with only 33% of respondents saying they were working more.

    Whose Been Hit Hardest?

    Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown the top careers to be most affected by COVID-19 and it’s a list that won’t surprise you. Retail, hospitality, the performing arts, dental office staff and film and TV production crews have taken the biggest hit. Air transportation and real estate offices also had notable losses.

    The news isn’t necessarily a death sentence for the career of people working in those industries though. The fact is, many of them have soft skills that are becoming more important in a workforce that is taking on a human focus. The folks over at online resume builder Zety performed an analysis of more than 130 thousand resumes created between 2017 and 2019 to find which alternative career paths were most popular amongst people who held jobs in industries that are now struggling.

    By comparing the soft skills many in those industries listed on their resumes to the soft skills needed in other positions, they came up with a list of alternatives that might just help some people get back on their feet. You can see the full list on the Zety blog.

    The Visibility of Productivity

    Everyone wants their employer to know that they’re using this time at home to get work done and broadly speaking, it has shown as data suggests people have been more productive in remote work settings. But, according to recent surveys from Prodoscore, employees are even more open to the idea of productivity monitoring than you might expect.

    The company commissioned the research to put fresh numbers to trends they had been noticing for a few years as work from home arrangements gained traction and that were recently amplified in the wake of COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, around 61% of the survey participants worked from home at least part time. Now that number has increased to 77%.

    A byproduct of this is an increase in the desire to show and see productivity by both employees and employers. For employees, the motivation was clear. They want the monitoring so they can structure their day in ways that have proven to be effective, showcase their efficiency and have their efforts recognized. In all, only 10% of respondents said they didn’t like the idea.

    The survey was conducted in July 2020 in partnership with Propeller Insights. It polled 1,000 U.S.-based workers across diverse industries and included a mix of micro, SMB and enterprise businesses. Most respondents were white-collar workers (79%).

    The Need for People Data and Performance Communication

    At a time where we talk a great deal about employee engagement and experience, asking the question what employees want can trigger a wide variety of responses. A recent survey from Reflektive sought to answer that question and arrived at some conclusions that you probably already suspect.

    The survey was completed by 445 HR professionals and business leaders and 622 employees. Interestingly, employees indicated that they need more coaching and want more recognition from their managers.

    From HR and business leaders, there’s a great deal of interest in employee productivity. HR leaders indicated that they are invested in measuring the health of their performance management practices, which will be music to employees ears as it could lead to more of that coaching they seek.

    People data is a big area of interest as 60% of leaders agree that people analytics efforts are more important to them now than a year ago. Nearly three quarters of those respondents believe that they have a firm grasp of why people leave, but only 50% of them are using analytics to predict employee performance and turnover.

    Employees also expressed frustration with how to acquire feedback. One-in-four say they don’t know how to request feedback and 30% say they don’t feel empowered to initiate those conversations.

    “When tools aren’t used regularly, employees may forget what’s at their fingertips,” Rachel Ernst, CHRO at Reflektive said. “On a quarterly basis, communicate the process for requesting feedback. Additionally, when managers regularly ask for feedback, employees will start mirroring this behavior as well.”

    Originally posted on HR Exchange Network

  • New California Family Medical Leave Law – effective January 1, 2021 | by Jordan Shields, Partner

    November 5, 2020


    Senate Bill 1383 was passed and signed and put into law the California Family Rights Act.

    This Family Leave Act now applies to organizations with as few as five employees, following.

    Federal guidelines.  For larger employers, the new law covers additional categories of leave that go beyond the FMLA that may end up being layered on top of the state law.  For example, if an employee takes 12 weeks of leave to care for a sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or domestic partner under the new CFRA, the same employee can take an additional 12 weeks of leave under the FMLA for their own medical condition or to care for a relative.

  • End of Year Healthcare

    November 3, 2020

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    As the weather turns cooler and shopping centers get busier, it’s easy to surmise that it’s nearing the end of the year. Are we all ready for 2020 to be over?! Yes, please! Since we are closing in on 2021, it’s time for you to maximize your healthcare plan by taking advantage of end-of-year healthcare benefits.



    Before you continue reading, look over your insurance plan details and check your deductible amount. Then, check with your HR advisor and see where you are with your benefits per their records and the insurance company records to ensure you have all the information you need regarding these details. Now that you have all your ducks in a row, let’s look at some ways to make sure you are maximizing your healthcare benefits before year-end.



    • Refill prescriptions—maybe get 90-day supplies so they last beyond the start of the new year
    • Schedule lab work
    • Schedule imaging
    • Visit the dermatologist
    • Visit the optometrist—get new glasses or contact lenses
    • Schedule preventive screenings like:
      • Endoscopy
      • Colonoscopy
      • Prostate cancer
      • Lung cancer
    • Schedule elective surgeries like:
      • Hysterectomy
      • Gallbladder
      • Joint replacement
      • Weight loss
      • Thyroid
      • Eye
      • Back
    • Go to physical therapy for an injury
    • Visit your PCP for preventive care
    • Visit the dentist



    Before you go whole-hog on scheduling these appointments, you need to consider some things first.

    • Think about the additional costs associated with procedures like physical therapy post-surgery. You should calculate the cost of having the surgery this calendar year and starting PT after the new year begins and your deductible resets versus doing everything next year.
    • Many dental plans have yearly maximums so it may be better to split up some dental procedures between this year and next.
    • Make sure you stay in your network when you schedule these appointments or else your insurance coverage won’t be as robust as you thought.
    • Use your FSA money before the end of the year because these funds are “use it or lose it.”
      • The IRS does give you a grace period of 2 ½ months to spend your money.



    As a couple of bonus tips:

    • Check your plan’s terms about coinsurance so you know if this will come into play even after meeting your deductible.
    • Increase your HSA contributions to max out your account before the end of the year. The IRS, again, gives you some extra time in the following year to keep contributing to the prior year’s account. But, not maxing out your contribution amount means that you aren’t reaping the benefits of this tax-free money.

    Making sure you are fully utilizing your healthcare plan at the end of the year is a smart move for every healthcare consumer. Begin crossing things off this “To-Do List” today!

  • Three Surprising Benefits to a Virtual Open Enrollment

    October 21, 2020

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    With many enrollments being forced to go virtual this year, you may feel at a disadvantage. But, there are actually plenty of reasons to believe a virtual open enrollment could be even more effective for you and your clients.


    People only tend to remember 10% of what they hear and only 20% of what they read. However, people actually recall 80% of what they see. As you prepare your virtual enrollment presentations, make sure you work on integrating images to communicate your message. An image has a higher chance of evoking an emotional response in a person than a set of words, written or spoken and with that emotion comes retention. Leverage every opportunity to use graphs, charts, and images to relay your message.


    As you communicate with your employees regarding education on benefits offerings or deadlines for enrollment, use a form of communication that is natural for most people—text messaging. Texting for employee communication results in a 98% open/read rate and a 45% reply rate. Compare these percentages to basic email open rates of 20% and a reply rate for email of only 6% and you’ll plainly see that texting has a far greater reach. So, if it worries you that virtual enrollments will result in less communication, don’t let it!

    Another great way to leverage this time of virtual open enrollments for the good is to get online with your enrollment paperwork by posting it all via an online portal or company intranet.  Employees can read through the information at their leisure from anywhere—phone, tablet, or laptop. They can also easily share it with family members who can read it at their convenience. More people will be able to digest the information than if it had only been available at a physical enrollment meeting.


    Work on creating a solid foundation of communication for the entire year by introducing it during Q4’s virtual enrollment meetings. Use your company’s social media to stay in contact by posting educational infographics, animated videos on health and wellness topics, and invitations to webinars. Then, by the time 2021’s enrollment period approaches, your employees will be conditioned to look at your social media for company announcements and you will be set up for success as you post info on your different channels.

    Even though open enrollment looks starkly different than in years’ past, it does have its benefits. Improved communication, a greater reach, and new, open lines of communication are all byproducts of this innovative, virtual environment. What a great surprise!

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