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October 2022 Deadlines

October 3 QSEHRA Notice Deadline (for QSEHRAs that begin January 1, 2023)

 

RDS Application Due to CMS

(for plan years beginning in 1/1/2023)

October 10 Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day
October 14 Medicare Part D Notice of Creditable Coverage Delivered to Plan Participants

October 15 Retirement Plans Due (if filed extension)
October 17 National Boss’s Day (observed)
October 31 Forms 720 and 941 Due

 

Halloween

Diversity and Inclusion in the Hybrid Workplace

Don’t let out of sight mean out of mind when it comes to working from home.

Women and people of color show a preference for remote work in order to escape workplace microaggressions. What are microaggressions? Microaggressions are actions/comments that indirectly and possibly inadvertently convey prejudice toward a member of a marginalized group. 

Research shows that “about 42% of supervisors say they sometimes forget about remote workers when assigning tasks, and nearly ¾ say they would prefer all their subordinates to be in the office.” Those working from home have a promotion rate half that of in-office workers according to a Stanford economist study, despite having higher productivity compared to their in-office peers. This leads to proximity bias and those working in person might also receive more promotions. White men hold 62% of C-suite positions, white women 20%, men of color 13%, and women of color 4%, according to McKinsey % Co. with LeanIn.org in a 2021 survey. If more women and people of color are working from home and more white men are working in the office, then men are being disproportionately promoted, which impacts leadership diversity.

How can your organization curb proximity bias?

  • Train managers to better integrate remote workers.
  • Upgrade company technology.
  • Require senior leadership to work remotely occasionally. 

Also, contemplate creating a “head of hybrid work effectiveness” position. This person will oversee remote worker integration, such as if someone attends a meeting virtually, everyone does for inclusivity. The “head of hybrid work effectiveness” will intentionally be sure all contribute to work-product. Finally, this position will check-in regularly with all employees. Consider a standardized set of office/work-from-home days for all employees, including senior leadership.

Organizations should also think of remote work as an opportunity to accomplish DEI initiatives. Potential employees are no longer limited by geography, extending your reach to generate a more diverse team and expanding the diversity of mentors through virtual meetings. Additionally, employees can be evaluated on work-product without social exchanges clouding judgment. 

Click here to contact us for more ideas on maintaining diversity in your hybrid or fully remote workforce.

Health Equity in Employee Benefits

Health equity came out of the COVID-19 pandemic unveiling the healthcare imbalance. Hidden barriers encountered by employees who are people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and disabled individuals came to light. 

Health initiatives have been redefined to promote equity. Has your company reimagined your health initiatives to be more inclusive? Are you actively measuring the success of these new inclusive initiatives?

Need help developing inclusive health initiatives and measuring their success? Let’s set up a free consultation to discuss how we can help!

Federal Judge Blocks Guidance on LGBTQ Workers

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of TN blocked guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Title VII protection from discrimination of LGBTQ employees. The U.S. Supreme Court expanded the legal definition of sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity in employment situations. The guidance was blocked as it interferes with current state laws.

Transgender employees can still sue their employers for discrimination (such as failing to call them by their correct pronouns and/or blocking access to appropriate bathrooms).

Monkeypox and Your Business

We are in the midst of a new outbreak, monkeypox. Monkeypox was declared a public health emergency of international concern (highest warning level) by the World Health Organization (WHO) and a public health emergency by the United States. First COVID-19 and now Monkeypox -these are good nudges for employers to implement general policies to address communicable diseases. These policies will help limit disruptions in business operations and communicate what employees are accountable and qualify for when they are sick.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox is a rare disease spread through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or bodily fluids. It also spreads via respiratory droplets during “prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex.” It is contagious from the start of symptoms until the bumps are healed with a new layer of skin over them.

Since close and extended contact are required for spread, it is improbable monkeypox will rapidly spread in the workplace. According to the CDC, you should clean frequently touched areas with “EPA-registered disinfectant in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.” Require everyone to wash their hands regularly “with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching” their face and after using the bathroom. Current guidance is available at https://www.cdc.gov.

The CDC recommends if an employee tests positive (or starts displaying symptoms), that they should leave work, isolate, and contact their healthcare provider. They should continue to isolate until their rash completely heals and all scabs fall off with a new layer of skin over them. The WHO says this contagious period lasts 2-4 weeks. The entire workplace will not need to shutdown during the isolation period unlike what we saw at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, there are no federal monkeypox-specific leave requirements. However, state or local sick/earned paid leave laws, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), state- and local-level medical leave entitlements, and/or employer leave policies might apply to an employee positive for monkeypox. Also, you might consider expanding your COVID isolation/quarantine leave to accommodate employees impacted by monkeypox. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) might apply to provide short term reasonable workplace accommodations for unpaid leave and/or remote work where applicable.

You cannot reveal an infected employee’s identity/identifying information to other employees just like with COVID according to the ADA. You can notify your workplace of a positive case including only essential particulars. You should seek legal consultation, as those who might have been infected need to test and potentially quarantine. 

In addition to updating your policies regarding communicable diseases, consider sending an update to employees with relevant information about monkeypox, how to minimize transmission, and your company’s response plan.

 

Need help understanding how monkeypox and its policies impact your business? Let’s set up a free consultation to discuss how we can help!

Say What? Workplace Communication

Every member on your team has an important role to play and their own set of responsibilities. We think of your business as a wheel and your employees as individual cogs. If someone does not complete their responsibilities, then the wheel can jam. Effective communication can help prevent those “clogs” and keep your business running smoothly and efficiently. Successful communication in the workplace helps improve morale and ultimately productivity. 

There are 3 main types of communication that you should focus on between your team members/departments: written, verbal, and non-verbal. Both written and verbal communication can be used to accomplish tasks. Active listening through non-verbal communication builds relationships, which can in turn enhance company success.

Poor communication, including discomfort with giving feedback to employees, negatively impacts efficiency and employee morale. If office communication runs smoothly, then so does everything else from turnover rates to your bottom line.

Focus on quality communication in the workplace. If everyone on the team feels heard and understands their role, the wheel, aka your  business, runs smoothly.

Click here to contact us for more ideas on how to improve communication in your business.

MA Passed the “Crown Act”

On July 26, 2022, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, the CROWN Act. The law went into effect immediately.

The CROWN Act prohibits discrimination against a person for wearing “[n]atural or protective hairstyle[s],” including, but not limited to “braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots and other formations” in workplaces, school organizations, and places of public accommodation. The law was inspired by the experience of twin sisters who were barred by their school from participating in or attending school sponsored events while wearing braids with long extensions, which school officials stated violated school policy. Massachusetts joins seventeen other states that have passed similar laws, and comparable legislation is being considered at the federal level as well.

The CROWN Act adds “natural or protective hairstyle” to the enumerated list of protected categories in a number of existing Massachusetts state laws, including the laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and lending (M.G.L. c. 151B, § 4), in public school enrollment (M.G.L. c. 76, § 5), in school bullying and prevention plans (M.G.L. c. 71, § 370), in charter schools (M.G.L. c. 71, § 89), and in places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, stores and hotels (M.G.L. c. 272, § 92A). 

The law prohibits denial of employment and educational opportunities in places of work, schools, and school-related organizations on the basis of one’s “natural or protective hairstyle.” The law aims to eliminate discrimination against individuals from underrepresented groups based on stereotypes regarding natural hairstyles that are not related to the necessary qualifications for a position.

Violations of the CROWN Act may result in a Charge of Discrimination or a subsequent civil lawsuit. Employers should review and update their EEO and nondiscrimination policies to include this new protected class. Dress code or appearance policies should also be reviewed to ensure compliance with the new law. Employers may want to consider training for managers and supervisors to ensure compliance with the law.

 

If you need help understanding this law and its impact, contact us.

“Willing-to-lend a hand” Wednesday August 31

What is your organization doing to recognize and celebrate “Willing-to lend a hand Wednesday”? Employees want to be a part of organizations that give back. One idea is to give your employees the day off to volunteer locally. Develop a policy that allows for this day off for all employees to give back to their community. Many employees want the opportunity to improve their social well-being. Your company can provide time and resources for them to participate in local volunteer opportunities outside of the office. Put together a suggested list of local volunteer opportunities, such as cleaning up at a local park, sorting food at the local food bank, or helping at a blood drive.

Click here to contact us for more ideas on how to incorporate volunteer opportunities in your business.

Are your employees taking time off to recharge?

During the height of the pandemic, stress and burnout increased, while overall well-being decreased. Also, employees took less vacation/personal time off, exacerbating these. Increased hybrid work blurred the lines between work and home. Even when employees do take time off, it isn’t as relaxing as it used to be due to technology allowing us to be “always on”. It is all too easy to check email and complete quick-task requests. 

 

Companies have tried to solve this issue in varying ways. One approach that some have tried is a company-wide shut-down for a week which forces employees to disconnect and reduces the guilt of enjoying their time off, since no one is working. Employees return re-energized and excited to share vacation stories from their shared time away.

 

Another approach companies are taking to encourage employees to take vacations is a pause or removal of “use it or lose it” policies. The thought behind this policy is it forces employees to take time off instead of accruing a large amount of PTO. However, it can create large absences at the end of the year, which tends to the busy season. Allowing for a set number of roll-over vacation days should alleviate the flood of vacation requests in the last months of the year. An alternative to the “use it or lose it” policy is an unlimited PTO policy. Studies show that most employees do not take advantage of this policy, and actually need pressure to take days off. This may lead back to the original issue of employees not taking enough time off. 

 

If you want help to strike a balance with your PTO policies, contact us.