Health and safety Tips for Baby Boomers in the Workplace

Q:  What’s a Baby Boomer?

A:  A person born between 1946 and 1964.

Q:  What percentage of Boomers make up the American work force?

A:  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it will soon be about 25 percent and that will continue to grow through 2020.  Boomers can expect to be working 4-5 years longer than their parents.

Q:  What advantages do Boomers bring to the work environment when it comes to risk?

A:  According to the National Research Council, they:

  • Are safer, having fewer work-related lost-time injuries that younger workers.
  • Have significantly lower incidences of short-term disability claims.

That said, Baby Boomers do bring some risk to the work environment that employers should be aware of.  Knowing what these risks are can help control business costs.  Improving health and safety initiatives will reduce claims.

Older workers (age 35 and above) are more susceptible to rotator cuff and knee injuries than younger workers as a result of lifting, carrying, slipping and falling.  To minimize these risks, common strategies could include: increased lighting, installing skid-resistant matting for floors, rugs and stair treads.  Whenever possible rotating light-duty tasks for manual-labor jobs helps to reduce fatigue, a leading cause of accidents.

The next time you need to “re-arrange the furniture” consider placing popular items and stock on shelves designed to minimize bending and reaching.

Instead of those two 15-minute breaks, what about three 10-minute breaks?  More frequent rest breaks help sustain employees in more physically demanding work, according to studies performed by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) Holdings, Inc.

Make sure there’s a good match between each worker’s capabilities and job demands.  Another study by NCCI Holdings shows that job rotation or job accommodation, particularly in more physically demanding work, minimizes accidents and injuries. It is best to do this before a disability has occurred.

As we age, our vision may slip a bit.  Poor vision can also lead to accidents.  What to do?  In addition to providing adequate lighting, promote eye screenings.  And when purchasing sings, consider text size and color contrast.

Certain health risk factors such as smoking, obesity and lack of sleep have a strong correlation with injury rates at work and home, contributing to longer return-to-work times.  Include components in your wellness programs that address these concerns to improve your bottom line.

Whether a Boomer, Millennial, Gen X or the up-and-coming Gen Z, everyone will benefit from health and safety efforts to reduce the frequency and severity of accidents and injuries at work and at home.

If you need help with this topic or other employment matters, contact BCN at 1-800-891-9911 or click here to be directed to our contact page.  Let BCN handle that!

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Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

March brackets may boost office morale, but consider how to minimize distractions

March Madness is upon us and you may have noticed the bustle around your office involving which teams made the tournament, filling out brackets and what time the games start.

While you may dread this time of year as a manager, you should know that a recent survey by OfficeTeam shows that this annual event may not be as detrimental to office productivity as we have traditionally thought.  The survey of 1,000 managers and 400 workers employed in office environments found that eleven percent of the managers said they find March Madness activities to be a welcome diversion stating that it can increase teamwork and boost morale.

Fifty-seven percent of the managers admitted that while they do not encourage March Madness activities in the workplace, they find said activities to be okay in moderation. The survey also found that only 1-in-5 employees are distracted at work by the inherent excitement that forms from watching major sports competitions.

While this is good news for employers, there can still be legal and human resources related issues surrounding the activities of the tournament.  Consider the following tips to help you capitalize on team building and minimize distractions:

  • Establish an office pool with no entry fee; this sends a clear message that the company does not encourage employee gambling but still allows them to participate in the fun.
  • Place a television or computer with Internet access in the lunch room to allow workers to catch up on scores during break times rather than at their desks.
  • Make sure your Internet-use policy is up-to-date; if your policy states that Internet access is for work-related purposes only, it may not hurt to remind employees of the policy before the tournament begins.
  • Offer a casual dress day in the office where employees are encouraged to wear T-shirts and sweatshirts to show the support of their favorite team.

Do you need help developing an Internet-use policy or are you looking for someone to handle your Human Resources questions and needs? Contact BCN Services  at 1-800-891-9911 or click here to contact us electronically.

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Alicia Jester, Manager-Benefits and Payroll

Employers may send an employee home for minor illness or other reason

In all 50 states in the U.S., an employer has the right to ask a sick employee to go home.  Employers are under no obligation to allow a sick employee to stay on the job and infect their co-workers. In fact, an employer can send an employee home at any time for any reason, or without reason.  However, the employer must be careful that they do not engage in illegal discrimination against an employee based on race, color, sex, pregnancy, religion, national ancestry, or violate any written contracts.

A few examples or reasons an employer may send a worker home include:

  • There is little work for him or her to do.
  • The employee seems too ill to be productive.
  • The employer fears that the employee is contagious.
  • The employer has reason to believe that the employee is not physically fit for duty. In this case the employer may require a doctor’s release for the employee to return to work.

When an employer sends an hourly employee home, the employee must be paid for any time worked. There is no federal or state law requiring that the employee be paid for time not worked. An exempt employee who works a portion of the day must be paid his or her usual salary for the entire day, regardless of whether they have, or do not have sick leave or paid-time-off benefits.

Finally, employers must be aware that different rules apply if the employee has a permanent disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) or a serious health condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), rather than a minor illness.

The experts at BCN Services can offer guidance in specific employment situations.  Contact us at 734-994-4100 or toll free at 800-891-9911 or visit our website at www.bcnservices.com.

 

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Lisandra Quinones, HR Administrator

Collective Bargaining Thoughts for Owners

Many employers don’t know how to address the topic of unions in the workplace. The National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from a few items. Remember the acronym of TIPS of what you cannot do:

  1. Threaten – Employers cannot threaten employees with adverse actions if they support a union. An example would be telling employees that the company would close a location or lay people off if a union were supported or elected by the employees.
  2. Interrogate – Employers can discuss unions with their employees but they may not Interrogate, or question, their employees about their union activities, whether they support the union or if they signed a union authorization card.
  3. Promise – Employers may not promise benefits (raises, for example) to employees if they don’t vote for the union or if they campaign against the union.
  4. Spy – employers may not spy or place employees under surveillance to identify union activities.

Beyond these specific limitations, employers and company managers may discuss facts, experiences and opinions about unions.

You or your management team can inform employees of the process of a union campaign, that they may be forced to pay union dues and initiation fees, that a union contract would limit or eliminate employees coordinating their hours, wages, benefits and working conditions with individual managers.  Share that the union cannot promise anything to your employees since everything would be negotiable. You can discuss your past experiences with unions, facts about union strikes and other similar issues.

That said, employers should note that most union campaigns are no longer about economics. Employees that do not have a voice in the workplace, that don’t feel respected and appreciated or feel that they are not treated are more likely to gravitate to a union. These emotional issues are the forces that drive many to join unions today. If you and your management team keep your employees engaged, seek their thoughts and input in ways to improve business and make the employee feel valued, you have a taken a huge step in preventing union activity in your workplace.

Here is a common-sense approach:

  • Be pro-employee, not anti-union!
  • Treat employees fairly.
  • Maintain open lines of communication with your employees.
  • Survey employees, formally or informally, to ask whether they are being treated respectfully and fairly.
  • Explain unpopular company decisions. Employees may not like something, but understanding your reasons for actions will earn the employees respect.
  • Maintain an open door policy and listen to employees that have complaints or concerns. Ensure that employees understand that their concerns are taken seriously.
  • Maintain competitive wages and benefits within your industry and market.
  • Beginning with the orientation of new employees, make it clear to your employees that you prefer to deal directly with your employees. A position statement regarding unions can be included in the company handbook, if desired.

Should you discover that your employees are exploring a union, the National Labor Relations Act limits your actions during a union campaign. For example, if you discover employees are signing or being asked to sign union authorization cards and you offer raises during that time, you might face an Unfair Labor Practice charge. If you need help with this topic or other employment issues, contact BCN for further discussion and guidance.

 

 

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Jeff Walsh, Partnership Manager

Tips for coordinating Medicare with group health plans

Advances in healthcare and the drive towards healthier lifestyles have many Americans living and working longer than ever before.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in the past decade the number of employees working past the Medicare eligibility age (currently 65) has increased by 52 percent.  Many of them are opting to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance group plan and coordinate it with their Medicare benefits.  Confusion often arises as to which plan will pay for which claims.  Following are some tips for knowing how to use the employer-sponsored plan in conjunction with Medicare.

  • Medicare consists of three parts.  Medicare Part A (hospitalization), Part B (medical insurance), and Part D (prescription coverage).  All eligible Americans are entitled to elect Medicare Part A at the age of 65 at no cost.  Medicare Parts B and D have additional monthly charges.  Elections for Parts B and D can be deferred to a later date provided the employee is covered by another creditable health plan, which means as good or better than Medicare.  If the group-sponsored plan is not creditable, the employee will pay a lifetime penalty for late enrollment into Parts B and D when they actually enroll.
  • Because Medicare coverage is not all inclusive and can involve substantial out-of-pocket costs for services, many people opt to either supplement their Medicare coverage with a “gap” policy which fills in where Medicare does not provide full coverage.  There are many insurance plans through multiple resources that a Medicare eligible subscriber may elect.
  • Another option is to elect Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage Plan, which is a wrap of Parts A, B, and D plus the gap coverage.  The difference between electing Parts A, B, D, and a gap policy versus electing Part C/Medicare Advantage is that with the a-la-carte method, Medicare coverage is offered and administered through the federal government.  If someone elects Medicare Part C/Medicare Advantage, all parts are administered through a private insurer sanctioned by Medicare.
  • If the employee opts to continue with the employer-sponsored plan, they have the right to do so.  The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from forcing an employee over the age of 65 to leave to plan, or to take a plan with lower benefits than what the rest of the group is offered.  The employee may opt to enroll in Medicare Part A (free plan) and use the group-sponsored plan to fill in additional coverage needs.
  • For groups with 20 or more employees, the group health plan will be considered primary, and Medicare Part A secondary.  The employee would not be required to elect Medicare Part B in order for the group insurance to pay claims for office visits.  For groups of less than 20, Medicare would be considered Primary.  Claims would be processed through Medicare first, then through the group health plan as secondary.  In this instance, the employee would be required by the health plan carrier to elect Medicare Part B before paying claims on a secondary basis.

As you can see, there are many variables that come into play for employees over the age of 65.  Confusion often occurs when those employees are faced with making those coverage decisions.  BCN Services can help your employees navigate through the sea of Medicare options. Please feel free to contact us at 1-800-891-9911 or click here to be directed to our contact page.

 

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Frank Lewandowski, Partnership Manager