Tag: COVID-19

Adapting to Changing Workforce Trends in a Post COVID-19 Environment

Coronavirus-19 forced us to time travel to a workforce that may have developed gradually over the next few decades but became the new norm almost overnight. We watched a rapid shift to virtual work and education as well. The recovery isn’t over, but businesses must continue to adapt to the changing workforce trends. 

Addressing Evolving Recovery Concerns

The workforce reacted and responded to the pandemic with unprecedented levels of flexibility, new partnerships and adaptability in just weeks. Businesses experienced rapidly evolving organizational priorities.

Given the severity, intensity and impact on both employees and business, the recovery for workforce strategies moving forward requires actions based upon informed and continuous reflection.

Reflection

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Index shows 65% of business owners were optimistic that the worst of the pandemic passed by mid-year 2021. But, employers’ are now reflecting on the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

The contagious virus is not necessarily the top concern for organizations looking forward. After almost a year and a half of quickly shifting and adapting to the situation, other issues like sustainability, navigating a hybrid work environment, and competing for talent are taking precedence.   

Employers are more vigilant than ever in reflecting on what has worked during the pandemic and which opportunities were missed. In reflecting upon the changing workforce, employers are bringing in the employees’ perspectives and concerns. 

Prioritize Human Resources

Looking forward, businesses are choosing different operational models and alternate resources to use dependent on the employer/employee situation. Businesses and employees are able to focus on addressing

  • Individuals or families contracting the Delta virus
  • Compliance with ever-changing laws and regulations
  • Job protection/reduced layoffs

These pressing business and workforce priorities pivot around human resource departments to address concerns regarding compliance for the safety and protection of their employees to increase productivity, so businesses can financially benefit. 

One of the major contributing factors to these concerns is financial stress and limited resources which affects employee productivity. A never-ending cycle of reflection on alternative options and prioritization is required to keep businesses moving in the right direction. It’s all cyclical. Cornerstone Insurance is here to help provide you with solutions and clear direction to create an exceptional HR team

Improving Employee Well-Being

Focusing on the physical, psychological, and financial concerns of your employees through employee well-being and benefits has a positive and significant impact on COVID-19 recovery. 

Flexibility

Employers need to recognize the diversity of workers’ individual expectations and support them in the transition to recovery, which includes being flexible. Workers may return to onsite work, but others may continue to work remotely. Some will adopt a hybrid approach.

Organizations need to help prepare employees with the skills and capabilities required for such a wide range of workforce approaches and practices to address a worker’s mental and emotional health.  

The evolving recovery will require a shift in focus to new priorities, new work routines and schedules. How organizations prepare and support their workforces will be a key driver to workforce performance and retaining talent. 

The Growing Importance of Benefits

Employers are challenged to attract and retain the workforce they need. Employee benefits can play a pivotal role because they provide protection and support when employees need it most. 

As we approach a new benefits enrollment period, now is the perfect time to reflect on what your employees utilize or require to address their concerns that could be impacting their productivity during this COVID-19 recovery period.

Custom Benefits Packages

Employers know  a benefits package that is customized to employees’ personal and household needs are: 

  • 18% more likely to be productive
  • 36% more likely to feel engaged
  • 37% more likely to feel resilient
  • 45% more likely to feel motivated
  • 54% more likely to feel valued/appreciated

Many employers can optimize their benefits strategy without significantly affecting the budget but reaping the tremendous impacts, and Cornerstone Insurance Group can help you find solutions

Clear Communication

Cornerstone values the importance of employee education of your benefits program. The value of traditional benefits like health insurance and retirement savings are well-known, but employees may need additional insights to help them recognize how other options can provide just as much support and enhance their financial security. 

Cornerstone Insurance can help you determine the best way to adopt an employee-centric approach to benefits as well as a clear communication strategy to help your employees reap the most from what you can and do offer. 

With a commitment to your team and your business, we can help you navigate the evolving recovery and to adapt to the continuous changes in workforce trends to emerge stronger than ever. 

Are you ready for your business to thrive on the “new normal?” Contact Cornerstone Insurance today with any questions or inquiries. We’re here to help.

COVID-19 Vaccination Programs in the Workplace

Now that eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine has expanded to all U.S. adults, many employers are trying to determine the best ways to disseminate vaccine information as well as face the decision of whether or not to hold in-workplace vaccination programs.

If you’re an employer considering holding a COVID-19 vaccination program, here is some additional information from the Employee Wellness team at Cornerstone Insurance Group that may help you in your decision.

Who Should Hold a Vaccination Program On-site?

While employers should strive to make vaccine information accessible to all employees, many workplaces should think about holding programs on-site. 

You may consider an on-site program if:

  1. A large number of your employees work on-site with regular schedules.
  2. You’re able to enroll within your jurisdiction’s immunization program as a vaccination provider (this may include conducting appropriate training).
  3. You have a workplace that’s large enough to accommodate a clinic while maintaining social distancing each step of the way.

How Do I Plan an On-Site Vaccination Program?

If you’re planning to hold a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at your workplace, there are a few tasks you need to prepare ahead of time:

Contact the Health Department

Your local health department will have the resources and information you need to set up the clinic properly and within guidelines. They can also offer guidance on how to make it efficient as well as eligibility requirements.

Consider Partnering with a Vaccine Provider

There are likely many vaccination providers in your community that help run events just like this one. They typically deliver worksite flu vaccination services but many have expanded their offerings to include COVID-19 vaccinations. These providers have trained nursing staff available, can take care of billing insurance for any administration fees and can also take care of reporting your workplace’s vaccine administration data to immunization registries.

Vaccination partners should also be aware of the warning signs of vaccine reactions, such as anaphylaxis.

Provide Easy Employees Access to Vaccines

If you’re thinking about hosting a vaccine clinic at your workplace, make sure it’s a day and time during which the majority of employees can attend (i.e. during work hours). You should also be mindful to make vaccine access easy for all employee types, whether they’re full-time, part-time, contractor or temporary. 

In addition, consider offering more than one opportunity for employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Mobile clinics should be able to return to your workplace multiple times on a rotating schedule.

What About Off-Site Vaccination Programs?

If your workplace is not eligible to host an on-site clinic — or if it’s not feasible or the best option — you might consider hosting an off-site vaccine program. This is also a good option for companies that:

  • Are small or midsize
  • Have mobile or remote employee populations
  • Have workers with varying schedules
  • Have a majority of employees who would prefer a community-run clinic than one in the workplace

If you’re planning an off-site vaccine program, you may consider working with a mobile vaccination clinic to set up at a community location. You can also work with pharmacies that are enrolled in the Federal Retail Pharmacy program, or local healthcare provider offices and health centers. 

How Can I Encourage My Employees to Get the Vaccine?

Whether your workplace is able to host a clinic on-site, partners with a community clinic or cannot do either, there are many ways in which you can encourage your employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

  • Allow employees to get vaccinated during work hours
  • Educate employees with the resources and information they need to know how, when and where they can get vaccinated as well as what they need to bring
  • Identify any potential barriers that are unique to your workforce that may prevent team members from getting the vaccine
  • Encourage your leaders to be vaccine champions and communicate with employees

Building confidence in the vaccine increases the likelihood of your workplace returning to a more normal state of being. Healthy workers are happy workers!

Still have questions about holding vaccinination programs through your workplace? Let the wellness specialists at Cornerstone help. Contact our team today.

COVID-19 Carrier Updates – UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

UnitedHealthcare is temporarily (through May 31, 2020) relaxing its requirement that employees be actively working to be eligible for coverage and will allow employers to cover reduced hour employees, as well as furloughed and laid off employees, as long as the employer continues to pay the monthly premium.  Please note that employers must offer this coverage on a uniform, non-discriminatory basis.

The rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19 will be waived.

Special Open Enrollment Period

UnitedHealthcare is providing its fully-insured small and large employer employers with a Special COVID-19 Enrollment Opportunity to enroll employees who previously did not to enroll in coverage. The opportunity will be limited to those employees who previously did not elect coverage for themselves (spouses or children) or waived coverage.

  • The enrollment opportunity will extend from March 23, 2020, to April 13, 2020, with an effective date of April 1, 2020.
  • Employers are not required to adopt the Special COVID-19 Enrollment Opportunity. Because of this, no opt out action is required on their behalf. UnitedHealthcare realizes each situation is unique, and each customer must make their own decisions on the enrollment opportunity.
  • Dependents, such as spouses and children, can be added if they are enrolled in the same coverage or benefit option as the employee.
  • Standard waiting periods will be waived; however, existing eligibility and state guidelines will apply.
  • For small employers (2-50), a wage and tax statement will be needed to validate the employee’s eligibility.

 

Please note that if a group has more than one plan option, this Special Enrollment Opportunity does not allow current members to change plans.

UnitedHealthcare All Savers

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

United Healthcare All Savers is temporarily (through May 31, 2020) relaxing its requirement that employees be actively working to be eligible for coverage and will allow employers to cover reduced hour employees, as well as furloughed and laid off employees, as long as the employer continues to pay the monthly premium.  Please note that employers must offer this coverage on a uniform, non-discriminatory basis.

The rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19 will be waived.

Special Open Enrollment Period

All Savers is providing its fully-insured small and large employer employers with a Special COVID-19 Enrollment Opportunity to enroll employees who previously did not to enroll in coverage. The opportunity will be limited to those employees who previously did not elect coverage for themselves (spouses or children) or waived coverage.

  • The enrollment opportunity will extend from March 23, 2020, to April 13, 2020, with an effective date of April 1, 2020.
  • Employers are not required to adopt the Special COVID-19 Enrollment Opportunity. Because of this, no opt out action is required on their behalf. UnitedHealthcare realizes each situation is unique, and each customer must make their own decisions on the enrollment opportunity.
  • Dependents, such as spouses and children, can be added if they are enrolled in the same coverage or benefit option as the employee.
  • Standard waiting periods will be waived; however, existing eligibility and state guidelines will apply.
  • For small employers (2-50), a wage and tax statement will be needed to validate the employee’s eligibility.

Please note that if a group has more than one plan option, this Special Enrollment Opportunity does not allow current members to change plans.

COVID-19 Carrier Updates – Blue Cross Blue Shield of IL

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

Blue Cross of IL is temporarily (through April 30, 2020) relaxing its contractual eligibility requirements. From now through April 30, 2020, employers can maintain employees on their respective plans even though they may not meet the eligibility definition stated in their plan. This includes reduced work hours, furlough, leave of absence or layoff. This does not create a scenario whereby employees that previously waived coverage who now drop below minimum eligibility requirements can be added to the plan. This only pertains to employee’s enrollment in the plan as of March 20, 2020. Payments are still required on a timely basis. The employer does need to do anything related to these eligibility issues. No paperwork or email is needed. If a group wants to change their eligibility guidelines beyond April 30, 2020 then a new BPA would be needed for a May 1, 2020 or later effective date redefining the group’s eligibility.

The rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19 will be waived for employees rehired by May 31, 2020.

Special Open Enrollment Period

Blue Cross Blue Shield of IL is offering groups an optional special enrollment period from March 30 – April 30, 2020 with an effective date of April 1, 2020. This would apply to eligible employees and their dependents who previously declined coverage and now want to enroll, or currently enrolled employees who wish to add an eligible spouse or dependent to their existing coverage.

Guidelines: Applicable enrollment changes must be received on or before Friday, May 2020. Effective date of coverage will be April 1, 2020. This enrollment event will be for medical/pharmacy and dental coverage only. Employers should notify their account representative if they plan to use this special enrollment option and use the standard eligibility process to add employees.

COVID-19 Carrier Updates – Anthem Blue Cross

Anthem Blue Cross

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

Anthem Blue Cross is temporarily (through May 31, 2020) relaxing its requirement that employees be actively working to be eligible for coverage and will allow employers to cover reduced hour employees, as well as furloughed and laid off employees, as long as the employer continues to pay the monthly premium.  Please note that coverage must be offered on a uniform, nondiscriminatory basis to all employees, and employee premium contributions must be the same or less prior to the reduction in hours/layoffs.

The rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19 will be waived for employees rehired by May 31, 2020.

Special Open Enrollment Period

Anthem Blue Cross is providing its fully-insured small and large employer customers with a Special Enrollment Period to enroll employees who previously did not to enroll in coverage. The opportunity will be limited to those employees who previously did not elect coverage for themselves (spouses or children) or waived coverage.  The enrollment period will extend from March 23, 2020, to April 3, 2020, with an effective date of April 1, 2020.  Employees are not required to participate in the Special Open Enrollment Period.  Dependents, such as spouses and children, can be added if they are enrolled in the same coverage or benefit option as the employee.

Anthem Blue Cross – MCF MEWA PLANS (Missouri Chamber Federation)

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

Anthem MEWA Plans are temporarily (through May 31, 2020) relaxing requirements that employees be actively working to be eligible for coverage and will allow employers to cover reduced hour employees, as well as furloughed and laid off employees, as long as the employer continues to pay the monthly premium.  Please note that coverage must be offered on a uniform, nondiscriminatory basis to all employees, and employee premium contributions must be the same or less prior to the reduction in hours/layoffs.

The rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19 will be waived for employees rehired by May 31, 2020.

Special Open Enrollment Period

Anthem MEWA Plans are providing its fully-insured small and large employer customers with a Special Enrollment Period to enroll employees who previously did not to enroll in coverage. The opportunity will be limited to those employees who previously did not elect coverage for themselves (spouses or children) or waived coverage.  The enrollment period will extend from March 23, 2020, to April 3, 2020, with an effective date of April 1, 2020.  Employees are not required to participate in the Special Open Enrollment Period.  Dependents, such as spouses and children, can be added if they are enrolled in the same coverage or benefit option as the employee.

COVID-19 Carrier Updates – Aetna

Aetna AFA (Groups with 2-50 Employees)

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

If an active, enrolled employee working 30 hours or more per week is furloughed or has hours reduced below normal full-time eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aetna AFA will allow employers to allow the employee to remain on the plan for the duration of the extended relief period – through July 31, 2020.  This is allowed  as long as fee and premium payments are made, the employees are not terminated from the plan and the reduction in hours/la off is a temporary measure resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Please note that employers must offer this coverage on a uniform, non-discriminatory basis, without regard to health status-related factors.

The rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19 will be waived.

Special Open Enrollment Period

At this time, there has not been an announcement by Aetna AFA regarding a Special COVID-19 Open Enrollment opportunity.  We will continue to provide updates as they are received.

Aetna – Fully Insured Plans and Large Groups

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs and Special Open Enrollment Period

At this time, there has not been an announcement by Aetna Fully Insured Plans / Large Groups regarding relaxed eligibility requirements or a Special COVID-19 Open Enrollment opportunity.  We will continue to provide updates as they are received.

What You Need to Know About COVID-19 Prevention in Your Workplace

After having lived in this pandemic for nearly one year, most of us are no stranger to the standard precautions: wash your hands and keep your distance. However, now that more and more people in non-essential industries are returning to work, there are health and safety standards that can keep your employees safe and productive. 

At Cornerstone, our loss control team helps companies of all sizes keep their workplaces as safe and healthy as possible, and COVID-19 has added a new layer to safety programs. Here is what you should know about mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace.

COVID-19 Prevention Programs in the Workplace

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently published guidelines for workplaces to help mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19. While these do not imply any legal obligations — though OSHA can cite workplaces under their General Duty Clause — they are standards that should be implemented to reduce transmission. 

Conduct a Hazard Assessment

See where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work. Involve employees in this process as they are often the most familiar with conditions within the workplace. Depending on your workplace, you may be able to classify workers as lower risk, medium risk or high risk. This will depend on their job description, their health status, and where they live and work. Consider additional protections for higher-risk employees.

Assess your occupational hazards to which your employees may be exposed, which may require the need for additional PPE or distancing measures.

Identify and Implement Tactics that Limit Spread

Go through your workplace and identify the measures that can be implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19. This may include:

  • Implement physical distancing in all communal work areas or install barriers where physical distancing can’t be maintained
  • Encourage or require the use of face coverings
  • Evaluate and improve (if needed) office ventilation
  • Offer applicable PPE to protect workers (this may be industry-dependent)
  • Provide necessary supplies for good hygiene practices
  • Conduct routine cleaning and disinfection of all spaces

Adopt Measures for Infected Employees

Unfortunately, you may encounter an employee who has been infected or potentially infected with COVID-19. Instruct those in that category to stay home and isolate or quarantine. Make sure your current policies do not encourage workers to come to work sick and that, when possible, your employees are set up for success at home or in isolated areas. If this is not possible, allow workers to use paid sick leave or consider implementing paid leave policies to reduce the risk for those in the workplace. 

If someone has been infected or exposed, conduct a more thorough cleaning and disinfection process in your facilities. 

Implement Protections from Worker Retaliations

Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits the discharging of and discrimination against an employee for participating in occupational safety and health activities. In terms of COVID-19, this may mean they have raised a reasonable amount of concern regarding infection control in the workplace. Ensure that workers know who they need to contact with questions or concerns about COVID-19 and safety measures. 

The COVID-19 landscape — as well as its accompanying rules, regulations and recommendations — are still changing. If you have any questions on how to create a safe workplace, please contact your Cornerstone Insurance Group representative today.

Returning to Work Post COVID-19

As more and more states begin to loosen their stay at home restrictions, the question many business owners have right now is, “When can we get our employees back to work, and how do we do so, safely?” Many companies were able to transition to a remote working environment and subsequently have seen their employees really step up to the plate and become very productive working from home. As a result, numerous businesses are making the decision to allow their employees to continue to work from home even as regulations begin to allow a return to work. St. Louis County specifically stated that if a business has been able to efficiently operate remotely, they should consider allowing employees to continue to work from home for a little longer.

Getting Back on the Job

However, not all businesses can operate remotely and may be eager to get their employees back to work as soon as possible. First and foremost, those businesses must follow the protocol outlined in the applicable reopening guidelines as directed by their states or counties. This could include limited staff or patrons in the building, or enhanced cleaning and employee health screenings. In order to effectively follow these guidelines, employers may choose to allow employees back in waves, or stagger office hours, thus, limiting the exposure each employee has to other coworkers. This may be a great solution for the manufacturing industry where employees work closely to one another.

Safety and Sanitization

Not only may enhanced sanitization be required, it can also help ease employee’s minds when returning. Sanitizing shared or frequently used work surfaces multiple times per day will help reduce potential exposure to the virus. We recommend providing access to hand sanitizer or hand washing stations for employees. Many companies are requiring all employees who return to work, wear masks and/or gloves to help protect themselves. Though it is not a requirement, it’s recommended that if the organization is requiring employees to wear masks and gloves, those should be supplied by the company. Furthermore, management should also consider putting new policies in place for all employees returning to work, so staff is aware of these expectations and mandates prior to returning to work.

Health Screenings and Considerations

As businesses reopen, they may be required to perform daily health screenings under applicable legislation, or they may choose to do so in an effort to protect staff. These screenings can include daily health questions to confirm the employee is not exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 and has not been around anyone with those symptoms. It could also include taking the temperatures of staff or visitors. This may cause an issue with privacy concerns, so employers should take great caution with those administering these tests and protecting the data. Employers do have the right to refuse work to anyone who is sick with COVID-19-like symptoms.

Adjustment Period

The environment employees are returning to may look very different from the environment they left a few months ago. The dynamic in the office will be a little foreign and helping employees get back into the swing of things and adjusting to the changes, is important. Reminding and enforcing guidelines on sanitization, masks, social distancing, and health screenings can help ease concerns of employees apprehensive of returning. However, there may be employees who are simply too scared to return, and these situations should be handled carefully. Overall, employers should strive to provide peace of mind to know staff and remind them the primary concern is employee safety.

As we continue to navigate this uncharted territory as a society, we will start to learn more about what works best and create new best practices for our businesses. Below are some helpful links from the CDC and OSHA that will help you make informed decisions on how to proceed with safely opening your businesses and getting back to work. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

https://www.osha.gov/pls/publications/publication.html#c19
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-small-business.html
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/general-business-faq.html
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html

How To Support Your Employees in a Time of Uncertainty

WellnessTo say these are uncertain times is an understatement. COVID-19 has our nation on edge and your employee’s well-being and safety is your top priority.  Many employees are teleworking for the first time, isolated from co-workers, friends and family.  Disruption of their daily routine can cause anxiety and stress – physically, mentally, and financially.  It is imperative that business owners and managers step back, remain calm, and show support for their employees.
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