Category Archives: Benefits

Collective Bargaining in the Aftermath of COVID-19

Source: Henry E. Farber and Nicole Mormilo, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 46, No. 2, Autumn 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The authors identify and explore issues stemming from COVID-19 that they expect to arise during labor negotiations. Those issues include: Management rights; Economics; Employer flexibility to adjust workforce; Benefits; Employee health and safety; and Force majeure clauses.

FAQs Clarify COVID-19 Testing and Diagnosis Requirements for Employer Health Plans

Source: Timothy J. Stanton and Kristine M. Bingman, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 46, No. 2, Autumn 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article reviews the key subjects covered by a federal guidance exploring requirements under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Emerging From the COVID-19 Pandemic: Returning Employees and Benefits Considerations

Source: Mark E. Bokert and Alan Hahn, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 46, No. 2, Autumn 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
…This column addresses some of the key legal considerations employers should keep in mind as they review their plan documents in preparation for bringing employees back from leave or layoffs. In addition, it addresses certain areas of benefits that employers may want to reconsider post-pandemic in order to properly incentivize employees.

COVID-19: What Every Employer Should Keep in Mind

Source: Rikki A. Sapolich-Krol, Samantha M. Beatty, and Briana M. Swift, Benefits Law Journal, Vol. 33, No. 2, Summer 2020
(subscription required)


From the abstract:
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic uncertainty, many employers and employees alike are searching for ways to be financially prepared in the weeks and months to come. This article highlights what employers should keep front-of-mind when making decisions regarding their retirement plans, health and welfare plans, and other compensation agreements, plans, and arrangements.

Employees’ Refusals to Participate in an Employer-Sponsored Wellness Program: Barriers and Benefits to Engagement

Source: Evan K. Perrault, Grace M. Hildenbrand, Rachel HeeJoon Rnoh, OnlineFirst Published January 7, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
While worksite wellness programs are generally designed to help employees realize better overall health, some employees may not see them in that light. The current study sought to better understand why employees refuse to participate in a new employer-sponsored wellness program. This study also investigated how participation in the program is related to employees’ self-perceived health, efficacy to be healthier and their perceptions toward their organization providing useful resources to engage in a healthy lifestyle. A survey of more than 1,500 employees at a large Midwest organization was conducted after their annual open-enrollment period. Open-ended responses from participants refusing to participate in the wellness program (n = 297) indicated privacy considerations as their primary concern. They also thought participation would take too much time, conceptually thought the program was unfair or not useful and felt they were already healthy and not in need of the program. Both participants and nonparticipants had no differences in self-perceived overall health. However, participants had greater self-efficacy, and perceptions that their employer offered useful resources to engage in a healthy lifestyle, than nonparticipants. Recommendations for communicating new wellness programs to employees are discussed.

Employers Seek New Strategies For Dealing With Health Care Cost Increases

Source: Employment Alert, Volume 36, Issue 23, November 12, 2019
(subscription required)

Curbing the cost of health care and increasing its affordability remain the top priorities for almost all employers over the next three years (93%), according to the Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey by Willis Towers Watson. Yet nearly two in three (63%) employers see health care affordability as the most difficult challenge to tackle over that same period.

Employers expect health care cost increases of 4.9%* in 2020 compared with 4.0% in 2019. Despite this cost increase, 95% of employees are very confident their organization will continue to sponsor health care benefits to active employees in five years. Moreover, employers’ longer-term commitment to sponsoring these benefits 10 years from now hit 74%, the highest level in the past decade. The rising cost of health care puts financial pressure not only on employers, but also their employees. In fact 89% of employers believe rising health care costs are a significant source of financial stress for their employees.

Union workers more likely than nonunion workers to have retirement benefits in 2019

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, TED: The Economics Daily, October 25, 2019

Ninety-four percent of civilian union workers and 67 percent of nonunion workers had access to retirement benefits through their employer in March 2019. Access means the benefit is available to employees, regardless of whether they chose to participate. Eighty-five percent of union workers and 51 percent of nonunion workers participated in an employer-sponsored retirement benefit plan. The take-up rate—the share of workers with access who participate in the plan—was 90 percent for union workers and 77 percent for nonunion workers.

Assessing Responses to Increased Provider Consolidation in Six Markets: Final Report

Source: Sabrina Corlette, Jack Hoadley, Katie Keith, and Olivia Hoppe, October 2019

From the press release:
Most employers are implementing few, if any, changes to their health plans for the 2020 plan year. That’s not surprising – employers are generally reluctant to make big or abrupt adjustments to provider networks or cost-sharing that could cause pushback from employees. But many health care experts believe that if we’re ever to truly tackle out-of-control health care costs in this country, the employer community needs to take the lead.

A newly released report from Georgetown CHIR finds, however, that there are significant challenges facing insurers and employers who seek to constrain the rising provider prices that have driven the annual family premium above $20,000 this year. In six market-level, qualitative case studies, we examined strategies that private insurance companies and employer-purchasers use to limit health care costs and how these strategies are affected by increased provider consolidation. We focused on the following mid-sized health care markets, all of which had recently experienced some kind of provider consolidation activity:

Detroit, Michigan
Syracuse, New York
Northern Virginia
Indianapolis, Indiana
Asheville, North Carolina
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Across the six markets, we found:
Hospitals are empire-building. Hospitals’ motivations for consolidation are similar, with stakeholders reporting a pursuit of greater market share and a desire to increase their negotiating leverage with payers to demand higher reimbursement.

Payers have tools to constrain cost growth, but they lack the incentive and ability to deploy them effectively. While payers in our markets identified several cost containment strategies such as narrow networks and provider-payer partnerships, all come with downsides. Furthermore, some third-party administrators for self-insured employers actually have incentives to keep provider prices high when they’re paid a percentage of the overall cost of the plan.

Employers’ tools to control costs are limited. Employers are frustrated with existing strategies to reduce cost growth such as the exclusion of certain providers or higher deductibles in the face of employee dissatisfaction and limited evidence of savings. However, emerging strategies that could be more effective may be challenging for many employers to implement, and employers lack access to basic data to inform their efforts.

Public policy strategies have had limited effectiveness. Anti-trust and other policies to limit the ill-effects of consolidation have had a limited impact in our study markets, but there are nascent state-level efforts to push back on provider prices that are worth watching.

Pension Reforms and Public Sector Turnover

Source: Evgenia Gorina, Trang Hoang, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Published: June 24, 2019

From the abstract:
Over the past decade, many states have reformed their retirement systems by reducing benefit generosity, tightening retirement provisions, introducing non-defined-benefit (DB) plan options and even replacing DB plans with defined-contribution plans. Many of these reforms have affected post-employment benefits that public workers will receive when they retire. Have these reforms also affected the attractiveness of public sector employment? To answer this question, we use state-level data from 2002 to 2015 and examine the relationship between state pension reforms and public employee turnover following the reforms. We find that employee responsiveness to the reforms was tangible and that it differed by reform type and worker education. These results are important because the design of public retirement benefits will continue to influence the ability of the public sector to recruit and retain high-quality workforce.

A correction has been published.

Could Free, After-Hours Child Care Be a Possibility for Restaurant Workers?

Source: Amanda Kludt, Eater New York, October 18, 2019

There may be a solution on the horizon for strapped restaurant-world parents and the people who employ them. Camilla Marcus, the owner of Soho cafe West~bourne, teamed up with a new venture-backed child care center Vivvi to offer her employees fully subsidized child care from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. It’s a striking new employee benefit as parents across America struggle with the rising costs of child care and as restaurant owners face an ever-tighter labor market. ….

…. Vivvi has one location, at 75 Varick Street, which opened this spring; it can accommodate 90 children. Expansion, however, is in the works. The company is taking over the Trinity Preschool downtown, which is set to open next year with a capacity for 130 kids. Other employer partners include law firms, health care providers, and Horizon Media.

Here’s how it works: Employers sign up for a minimum of 100 credits, each worth one day of care, and can distribute credits to employees. Instead of committing to a certain schedule, employees can use the credits at will, meaning they can use it every day or just as emergency or backup child care or just when a shift changes. They don’t have to be locked into a schedule.

Credits cost the employer around $200 each, but the real cost ends up closer to $50 to $75 when tax incentives — including the Federal Credit for Employer Provided Child Care Services, around since 2001, and a new state law going into effect in 2020 — are factored in. Vivvi promises to help employers file for the credits. ….