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  • 25 Mar 2022 2:34 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    DOL Warns 401(k) Plans Against Allowing Crypto Investments

    Guidance stops short of a blanket cryptocurrency prohibition

    By Percy LeeMarch 22, 2022

    The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is warning 401(k) plan fiduciaries to "exercise extreme care" before considering whether to include a cryptocurrency option in a plan investment menu.

    The sternly worded guidance, in Compliance Assistance Release No. 2022-01, published March 10, reveals heightened skepticism of 401(k) cryptocurrency investments and predicts new DOL enforcement activity for fiduciaries who permit 401(k) participants to invest in cryptocurrencies.

    Crypto's Lukewarm Reception by Retirement Plans

    Cryptocurrencies are digital currency created and exchanged over a decentralized computer network. Although Bitcoin is the first and best-known cryptocurrency, thousands of cryptocurrencies now exist.

    Created to facilitate transactions free from governmental and third-party interference, cryptocurrencies have gained notoriety as volatile investments. Large institutional investors have been circumspect in investing in cryptocurrency, with defined benefit pension plans showing greater reticence than university endowments and family offices.

    Investment in crypto assets by defined contribution plans remains uncommon, and most leading 401(k) record keepers do not permit cryptocurrencies to be traded directly on their platforms. Recently, however, several companies have begun to market services that would allow 401(k) plan participants to invest in cryptocurrency using specialized cryptocurrency exchanges.

    Simmering DOL Wariness

    The guidance follows President Biden's March 9 executive order directing federal agencies, including the DOL, to coordinate in developing a national policy that promotes the "responsible development and use of digital assets." However, Ali Khawar, acting head of the DOL Employee Benefits Security Administration, indicated as early as summer 2021 that the agency found 401(k) plan investment in cryptocurrency "very troubling" because of the volatility and lack of transparency of crypto investments.

    In a March 10 blog post accompanying the new guidance, Khawar repeated the DOL's concerns about exposing plan participants to direct investments in cryptocurrencies and related products, such as non-fungible tokens, coins and crypto assets.

    A Warning to Fiduciaries: Five Concerns

    Plan fiduciaries must follow duties of prudence and loyalty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which courts have described as the "highest known to the law." Citing the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hughes v. Northwestern University, the guidance reminds fiduciaries that they must select and monitor each investment option made available to plan participants to ensure its appropriateness. The guidance identifies five areas of concern facing 401(k) plan investment in cryptocurrency:

    • Volatility and speculative nature of crypto investments.
      The guidance attributes the extreme price volatility of cryptocurrency investments to uncertainties in valuation, speculative conduct, fictitious trading, theft/fraud and other factors.
    • Difficulty of enabling informed decisions.
      Cryptocurrency investments have dominated headlines for large gains and losses. The guidance states that this exposure can make it challenging even for experts to separate the facts from the hype and can attract participants who expect high returns without appreciating the risks. The difficulty is exacerbated if participants construe the availability of such investments in a plan investment menu as fiduciaries' endorsement of them.
    • Custodial and record-keeping concerns.
      The guidance notes that unlike traditional plan assets that are held in trust or custodial accounts, readily available to pay benefits and plan expenses, cryptocurrencies generally exist as lines of computer code in a digital wallet and are susceptible to loss and theft.
    • Valuation concerns.
       The guidance describes concerns about the reliability and accuracy of cryptocurrency valuations, noting expert disagreements on valuation models and the lack of consistent accounting treatment and reporting, as well as data integrity requirements, among cryptocurrency market intermediaries.
    • Unstable regulatory environment.
      The guidance states that the rapidly evolving regulatory landscape for cryptocurrency markets poses considerable risks of noncompliance with respect to issuance, investments, trading and other activities. The DOL further cites cautions by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) that cryptocurrencies have been used in illegal activities. Consumers who invest in cryptocurrency could be affected if law enforcement agencies shut down or restrict the use of platforms and exchanges.

    Based on these concerns, the guidance issues a direct warning to 401(k) plan fiduciaries who allow participants to invest in cryptocurrencies and related products, concluding that the DOL expects to conduct an investigative program aimed at protecting participants and beneficiaries of plans that offer such investments.

    Fiduciaries of such plans should expect to respond to questions about their compliance with ERISA duties of prudence and loyalty.

    Departures from Previous DOL Guidance

    The DOL has taken an aggressive position. First, the guidance takes the unusual step of singling out a specific asset class for additional enforcement scrutiny, even if it falls short of imposing a blanket prohibition on offering crypto assets to 401(k) participants. Fiduciaries may note that the DOL's position is more stringent than the ones expressed in the June 2020 information letter and December 2021 supplement statement regarding private equity investments in 401(k) funds, which are permissible as part of a diversified fund that is properly vetted and contains features designed to alleviate the liquidity and valuation concerns of private equity investments.

    In contrast, the guidance on cryptocurrencies leaves little room for doubt that the DOL discourages crypto investments in 401(k) plans. It offers no concession for diversified investments similar to those described in the June 2020 information letter.

    Brokerage Windows

    The guidance on cryptocurrencies also appears to extend its warning not only to plans that offer crypto through the plan's menu of designated investment funds, but also to plans that let participants invest in stocks, bonds and other securities through an open platform referred to as a brokerage window. This suggests, contrary to prevailing guidance, that the DOL may expect plan fiduciaries not only to prudently select a brokerage window provider, but also to monitor the underlying investments made available through a brokerage window.


    As cryptocurrency investments grow in popularity and mainstream consciousness, fiduciaries of 401(k) and similar plans may face questions from participants about the availability of cryptocurrency investments. The latest DOL guidance makes clear that an abundance of caution is warranted.

    Fiduciaries who are considering adding cryptocurrency investments to 401(k) plans should reconsider their decision in light of this guidance and proceed only after weighing the risks of DOL investigation and fiduciary litigation and documenting the decision-making process.

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    Source: The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

  • 25 Mar 2022 2:27 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Pay is a pain point for Google employees | Fortune

    By: Colin Lodewick | March 15, 2022

    The results of Google’s famous annual survey are out, and it seems that employees aren’t as happy about their compensation as they used to be. 

    The “Googlegeist” measures employee satisfaction with regards to things like leadership, compensation, diversity, and company values. The company conducted its 2022 survey in January, and the results were obtained by CNBC.   

    Around 53% of Google employees said their pay is competitive — a drop of 5 points from last year, while 56% said their pay is “fair and equitable” — down 8 points, according to the survey. In the company’s cloud division, the number of participants who described the promotional process as fair declined 2 points, to 54%.

    Competitive pay has become a major issue for companies big and small across all industries, as they fight to attract and retain their workers.

    More workers are quitting jobs than ever before, in a movement that has been dubbed “The Great Resignation.” At least 4 million workers have left their jobs every month since July 2021, peaking in November with the highest number of quits ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics since it started keeping track in 2000. 

    Tech companies—a traditionally hot sector—are scrambling to keep up. In February, Amazon announced that it was doubling its maximum base salary to $350,000 in the face of a competitive labor market.

    Alphabet CEO Sundhar Pichai told employees in an email announcing the results that the survey is “one of the most important ways” the company gauges workplace satisfaction, CNBC reported. 

    "We know that our employees have many choices about where they work, so we work to ensure that they are very well compensated," said a Google spokesperson in a statement shared with Fortune. "That's why we've always provided top of market compensation across salary, equity, leave, and a suite of benefits. Getting employee feedback is important and we'll continue to ensure we pay competitively everywhere our employees work and help them grow their careers at Google.”

    Leadership and Google’s overall mission received relatively high scores; Pichai received a favorability rating of 86%, while the company’s mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” was rated at 90%. Employees gave the company’s values an 85% favorability rating.

    The Googlegeist survey also comes at a time when more companies, including tech giants, are navigating return-to-office plans. Google plans to bring its workforce back April 4, while Meta is slated to return March 28—both companies are offering their workforce hybrid schedules. 

    But not all the tech giants are requiring a return to the office. Twitter, LinkedIn and Salesforce are all offering employees the opportunity to work from home indefinitely.This year’s survey is not the only sign of employee dissatisfaction at Google. In January of last year, a coalition of Google employees announced the formation of the Alphabet Workers Union to advocate for workplace equity and the ideal of tech being used only for good.

    Source: Fortune

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    Google employees say its return-to-office plan is unfair

    Googlers said the company enforces remote work policies for some, but not others.

    By: Lizzy Lawrence | March 16, 2022

    Some Google employees are calling out the company for unevenly applying its remote work policies, Business Insider reported Tuesday. Google is bringing Bay Area employees back to the office at least three days per week starting April 4. But while some team members are spared from in-person work policies, others are no longer allowed to work remotely, employees say.

    Employees raised their complaints at a company all-hands last Thursday, submitting questions through a system called Dory. Two popular questions involved remote work, according to Insider.

    "Google made record profits through the pandemic (and WFH), traffic has already increased (at least in Bay Area) with gas prices at record high, and people have different preferences for WFH vs work from office," one question said. "Why is the RTO policy not 'Work from office when you want or when it makes sense to?'" Another submitter said some teams "blanket ban" remote work, with Google rejecting applications "even if managers are supportive."

    Workers told Insider that Google's remote work policies felt arbitrary. One employee said a colleague was barred from remote work even though their manager was allowed to work from home. Bay Area employees who wish to work remotely from other states might face pay cuts: Google will lower pay if employees relocate to cities like Durham, North Carolina, and Houston, Texas.

    This isn't the first time Google's remote work plans have upset its employees. In July, CNET reported that employees were angered by "hypocritical" remote work policies, allowing senior executive Urs Hölzle to work indefinitely from New Zealand while lower-level employees had to go through an application process.

    Other big tech companies are also opening their offices for corporate employees in the coming weeks. But not everyone's requiring in-person work. Twitter will let employees work from home forever, if they want. The pandemic has made workers accustomed to a flexible work environment, and many find required, in-person work unappealing.

    Source: Protocol

  • 25 Mar 2022 2:21 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    By: Ryan Golden | Published March 23, 2022

    Dive Brief:

    • 2021 marked a large increase in CEO pay package rejections by shareholders, according to a report by As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy nonprofit. Last year, 16 companies saw their CEO pay packages rejected by more than half of shareholders, up from 10 in 2020 and seven in 2019.
    • The organization found that CEO compensation does not typically correlate with past stock return performance and that, instead, companies with the 100 most overpaid CEOs underperformed the equal-weighted average S&P 500 company for each of As You Sow's annual reports going back to 2015.
    • The report ranked those 100 CEOs using a formula based on indicators including pay compared to organizational performance, CEO to worker pay ratio and the percentage of institutional shareholders who voted against a pay package. CEOs from Paycom, Norwegian Cruise Line, General Electric, T-Mobile and Nike held the top five spots on As You Sow's list.

    Dive Insight:

    Executive compensation has become a contentious topic among members of the public, in part due to the wide gaps between CEOs and the average worker at a given company.

    Last year, a study by job search website Lensa revealed a 2,202% wage difference between the average CEO of a large U.S. company and the average worker at such a company. In dollars, that equated to more than $1.2 million annually. Other entities, including the Economic Policy Institute, have found that this gap widened since the 1970s.

    Organizations instituted pay increases on a broad scale in late 2021 and early 2022, including for workers below the executive and managerial levels. But recent fears regarding inflation have caused financial departments to pump the brakes on future increases.

    More recent increases in executive compensation also may be reflective of a candidate-friendly hiring market that favors leadership candidates. In January, data analytics and consulting firm GlobalData said it found a 35% increase in the number of job listings for roles such as CEO, CHRO and CFO in 2021 compared to 2020.

    That shareholders are increasingly rejecting pay package proposals may be reflective of frustration with how executives are compensated relative to company performance, particularly during the pandemic, according to the As You Sow report.

    "Some boards acted as if pay for performance didn't matter when COVID-19 was involved, and shareholders angrily rejected those packages," Rosanna Landis Weaver, executive compensation program manager at As You Sow, said. "But it is time for more shareholders to vote against the quantum of pay, not just particular bad practices. The growth in CEO pay is unjustified and not in the best interests of shareholders."

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    Source: HR Dive

  • 03 Mar 2022 12:02 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Published March 2, 2022 | Ryan Golden

    In the past, fear of potential reputational or liability risks may have thwarted efforts to address pay equity internally. But that calculus has changed in recent years.

    In July 2019, the U.S. women's national soccer team successfully defended its 2015 FIFA World Cup championship title. By all accounts, the athletes' victory cemented their status as top performers in their chosen field.

    Months earlier, however, members of the team argued in court that their pay did not reflect that status.

    A March 2019 collective and class action brought by players on the women's national team, also known as the USWNT, alleged that the U.S. Soccer Federation, the nation's governing body for the sport, failed to promote gender equality by paying USWNT players less than it paid members of the U.S. men's national team. white paper

    "The USSF admits to such purposeful gender discrimination even during times when the WNT earned more profit, played more games, won more games, earned more championships, and/or garnered higher television audiences," per the filing.

    The case made waves before, during and after the team's 2019 championship run, making its way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit after a California district court ruled in favor of the federation. Last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the athletes.

    Nearly three years later, the end of the legal saga may be in sight. USWNT players reached a $24 million settlement agreement with their employer in February, according to Mayer Brown, a law firm representing members of the team. In a joint statement, U.S. Soccer and USWNT said the settlement was contingent upon the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement.

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    Source: HR Dive

  • 03 Mar 2022 11:58 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Target increases its starting pay for some jobs to $24 an hour as part of a $300M investment on its workforce - ABC13 Houston

    By Parija Kavilanz, CNN Business | Tuesday, March 1, 2022 6:11AM

    Target announced Monday that it is raising its starting wage for workers in some positions to up to $24.

    The Minneapolis-based retailer said the increase will apply to hourly workers at its discount stores, supply chain facilities and headquarters.

    Target in 2020 set its minimum wage at $15. That will remain in place, but Target said some workers will qualify for higher starting pay based on the nature of their job and the prevailing competitive wages in their local market.

    Target, which employs more than 350,000 workers and has over 1,900 US stores, said the hike in some starting wages is part of its plan to spend an additional $300 million on its workforce. That investment also includes expanding access to healthcare benefits for hourly workers, beginning in April.

    Under the plan, Target's hourly employees who work a minimum average of 25 hours a week will be eligible to enroll in a company medical plan. That's down from the previous requirement of 30 hours per week.

    The retailer is also shortening the waiting period for eligible hourly team members to enroll in a Target medical plan. Depending on their position, employees will be able to get comprehensive health care benefits three to nine months sooner. Employees will also get faster access to 401(k) plans.

    The changes come as more retailers and restaurant chains have moved to a $15 an hour minimum rate.

    Amazon raised its starting wage to $15 in 2018, while Best Buy bumped up its minimum to $15 in 2020. Walmart, the largest US retailer, said in September that its workers who handle the front end of the store, food and general merchandise units will get at least a dollar an hour increase to $12. The pay raise would cover 565,000 Walmart workers.

    Target's move comes amid an ongoing worker shortage in the retail industry, partly triggered by the pandemic, as companies across the board struggle to retain and hire more workers.

    "Alongside the health risks, uncertainty and stress of working during a pandemic, many service-sector workers continue to contend with chronically unpredictable and unstable work schedules," according to a recent report from the Shift Project, a joint venture by Harvard University and the University of California, San Francisco.

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    Source: CNNWire

  • 03 Mar 2022 11:55 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Brian Niccol, CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill

    UPDATED THU, MAR 4 20219:25 AM EST |  Amelia Lucas


    • Chipotle is tying executive compensation to annual targets aimed at improving the company’s internal diversity and sustainability.
    • Investors have been pushing publicly traded companies to make more commitments to improve their environmental, social and corporate governance.
    • Chipotle plans to publish its carbon emissions footprint by the end of the year

    Chipotle Mexican Grill said Thursday that executive compensation will now be linked to hitting targets tied to the company’s environmental and diversity goals.

    The burrito chain is following in the footsteps of Starbucks and McDonald’sboth of which recently announced that performance for racial and gender diversity goals will impact executive compensation plans. Individual investors and large asset managers like BlackRock are increasingly picking stocks with strong environmental, social and corporate governance in mind, pushing companies to make changes to become a more attractive investment.

    “I think the increased focus on performance around ESG and investor feedback was definitely behind our decision to go public with this,” said Laurie Schalow, who oversees sustainability and ESG reporting for Chipotle in her role as corporate affairs chief and food safety officer.

    Starting this year, 10% of Chipotle executives’ annual incentives will be tied to their progress toward achieving company goals.

    “It’s very important for us to be transparent and to be held accountable. We can say a lot of words, but we want to make sure that we have the actions to back it up,” Schalow said.

    Those targets include increasing the pounds of organic, local or regeneratively grown or raised food from the previous year. Last year, Chipotle hit 31 million pounds of local produce under this umbrella, and it has set a goal of 37 million pounds by the end of 2021.

    The company plans to publish its carbon footprint, including all indirect emissions along its value chain, by the end of the year, faster than its prior expected publication date of 2025. Schalow said the company will announce new sustainability goals stemming from those learnings when the report is released.

    Chipotle is also seeking to maintain racial and gender pay equity and promote more women and people of color above the restaurant level. It has created a training academy with online courses that teach a wide range of skills, from conflict resolution to setting goals, with the aim of helping employees of all backgrounds climb the corporate ladder. The company employed nearly 88,000 people, as of Dec. 31.

    Shares of Chipotle have risen 91% in the last 12 months, giving it a market value of $39.6 billion.

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    Source: CNBC

  • 03 Mar 2022 11:52 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Infographic about salaries in job ads in the US, supported by the following blog post

    Being at the forefront of Meeting room hire means that we meet real people from real businesses all the time. And we know when trying to find a new job, one of the biggest frustrations is job adverts missing one of the most important pieces of information: how much you'll get paid. According to some surveys, nearly 7 in every 10 job seekers consider the salary the most important factor when choosing a new job, and it's been found that job ads without a salary get clicked up to 35% less. And yet you still won't always be able to find it when looking at job adverts.

    In fact, when Meetingo analyzed US jobs being advertised on job site, less than 3 out of every 10 jobs (29% of jobs advertised in US cities) were advertised with a salary. Of the cities we looked at, adverts were the least transparent in New York, where only 12% of job listings had a salary. Los Angeles (15%) and Boston (17%) didn't fare much better.

    At the other end of the scale, the most salary transparent cities were Denver and Colorado Springs, where 68% and 72% of jobs respectively had a completed salary field. This is unsurprising, as both are in the state of Colorado, which has recently passed laws to make the inclusion of salary in job adverts mandatory.

    The type of job you're looking for has a big impact on whether a salary will be advertised - the majority of ads in sectors like Personal Service (76%), Transport (67%) and Travel, Attractions & Events (61%) make it clear what you're likely to be paid. At the other end of the scale, less than a fifth of jobs in Technology (16%), Architecture & Engineering (18%), and Healthcare (20%) listed a salary. Only just behind were Marketing, Advertising & PR jobs (23%) and Science & Research jobs (26%).

    Of the salaries that were listed, by far the highest were found in tech, where jobs were advertised as paying over $39,000 on average, followed by Architecture and Engineering ($84,111). The lowest-paid sector was Cleaning & Ground Maintenance followed by Food & Beverage (both paying approximately $32,000 on average)

    Comparing the average salary and transparency rates showed that lower-paid sectors were more likely to list a salary than higher-paid sectors, though it's hard to say for sure that this is truly the case reality as many job ads in some sectors failed to include salary information.

    Looking at average salary by city, San Francisco and New York came top (unsurprisingly given the number of tech firms in each) with an average salary listing of over $67,000, followed by Los Angeles ($56,000) and Seattle ($55,000)

    The cities with the lowest salaries in their job adverts were El Paso, Texas ($34,000 - about $13,000 less than the US average), then Louisville, Kentucky ($38,000) and Virginia Beach, Virginia ($39,000).

    These results show that the US has some way to go in the area of salary transparency - similar research we conducted in the UK found that 71% of jobs ads - more than double the number in the US - featured a salary. But this isn't true across the country, as we can see from the example set by Colorado setting it into law that ads have to include details of pay (one of the few such laws in the world - a similar mandate came into effect in the country of Latvia in 2019). Though the value of salary disclosure is still the subject of much debate for employers, for would-be employees the making pay transparency more common than it currently is in the US could only be a good thing.

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    Source: Meetingo

  • 31 Jan 2022 3:59 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Labor Department Publishes Guidance on Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave | Representative Kelly Armstrong

    Note: On January 24, 2022, the DOL removed Fact Sheet #84 from its website. For more information please see our follow-up Alert

    The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued Fact Sheet #84 (available here) addressing the compensability of time spent undergoing COVID-19 health screenings, testing, and vaccinations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Fact Sheet addresses how the OSHA Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) factors into the DOL’s analysis of whether such time is compensable under the FLSA. The U.S. Supreme Court has stayed the ETS from going into effect, determining that OSHA likely lacked the authority to impose the ETS.

    The DOL stated that employees must be paid for time spent going to, waiting for, and receiving medical attention required by an employer or on the employer’s premises during normal working hours. Specifically, if an employer requires an employee to get a COVID-19 vaccine dose, undergo a COVID-19 test, or engage in a COVID-19 related health screening or temperature check during the employee’s normal working hours, the time the employee spends doing so is compensable. This is the case regardless of where the activity occurs.

    The DOL also addressed activities that occur outside of normal working hours. The DOL stated that employers are required to pay employees for time outside of normal working hours if the task employees are required to perform is necessary for the work they are paid to do. Time spent engaged in employer-required activities that are necessary for employees to safely and effectively perform their jobs is “integral and indispensable” to their work and therefore must be paid. As an example, if an employer has implemented a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy and requires employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations after their shifts or on weekends, then the employer must pay employees for the time spent doing so because the vaccine is necessary for them to safely and effectively perform their jobs.

    Where an employer has a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, but an employee is unable to receive a vaccination (e.g., due to a disability or sincerely held religious belief) and is required instead to undergo testing, any time spent outside of normal working hours undergoing regular employer-required COVID-19 testing is “integral and indispensable” to the employee’s work and therefore compensable. The employee must be paid for the time spent going to, waiting for, and undergoing the testing.

    Where an employee is able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as an alternative to regular COVID-19 testing but has voluntarily declined to be vaccinated, the employer is not required to pay the employee for time spent undergoing regular COVID-19 testing. Since the employee chose not to get vaccinated, the time spent undergoing testing outside of normal working hours is not “integral and indispensable” to the employee’s job.

    Where neither vaccination nor testing is required by an employer, an employee’s choice to engage in such activity outside of normal working hours is generally not compensable.

    This Fact Sheet is the most recent guidance by the DOL regarding the compensability of time spent undergoing COVID-19 health screenings, testing, and vaccinations under the FLSA. It should not be considered in the same light as official statements of position contained in regulations. Employers should consult with legal counsel to ensure their COVID-19 related policies and practices comply with the FLSA’s requirements.

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    Source:  JD Supra

  • 27 Jan 2022 11:35 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Published Jan. 19, 2022 | by: Ryan Golden

    Dive Brief:

    • Amid ongoing churn in the U.S. labor market as well as inflation in the broader economy, employers continue to build salary increases into their compensation budgets, according to a recent poll of compensation professionals by WorldatWork.
    • The HR management association's more than 200 respondents reported an average salary budget increase of 4% at their organizations, or a median 5%, in 2021. These figures sit below the 5% average, or 6% median, increase that respondents said they would need to retain and attract talent, WorldatWork said. But they exceed the average of 3.3% and median of 3% planned budget increases for 2022 that the organization recorded in a separate survey of CEOs, CFOs and HR professionals.
    • Despite more than half of respondents to the compensation professional poll stating that they had increased their organizations' salary budgets in the past six months, 71% said attracting and retaining talent was "somewhat difficult" and 23% said it was "very difficult."

    Dive Insight:

    All signs point to higher compensation budgets in 2022 for the vast majority of employers. XpertHR's November survey of employers bore similar results to WorldatWork's research; the company found employers planned salary budget increases of 3% this year, with retention, recruitment and economic factors commonly cited to explain the trend.

    Earlier 2021 research by advisory firm Willis Towers Watson revealed employers particularly had sought pay increases for those at the executive level, with comparatively smaller increases for management, professional employees and support staff. Across sectors Willis Towers Watson found employees in technology and pharmaceuticals were in line for the largest 2022 pay increases, while those in oil and gas or leisure and hospitality were set for the lowest increases.

    Overall, the news may in part represent the reversal of currents impacting U.S. workplaces during the first year of the pandemic, when 45% of employers in a November 2020 Gallagher survey reported that COVID-19 had disrupted their salary increase plans. However — as WorldatWork's researchers noted — 2022's planned increases might not keep pace with inflation, according to a report published in December by HR consulting firm Mercer.

    Then there is the worker sentiment piece of the puzzle. Even at the height of the Great Resignation last autumn, nearly half of U.S. workers surveyed by Robert Half between March and April of 2021 said they believed they were earning less than they deserved. Though younger workers and women were the respondent demographics most likely to say they felt underpaid, according to Robert Half, 31% of all respondents said they would consider quitting their jobs by the end of 2021 if they did not receive a raise.

    While pay increases land at the top of employee asks in some research, HR teams may need to take a broader perspective at the benefits space in order to gain an advantage in attracting talent. Sources recently told HR Dive about the importance of focusing on topics such as flexibility, caregiver support and mental health throughout 2022.

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    Source: HR Dive

  • 29 Dec 2021 2:45 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Cost Management No. 1 On The List

    by Renee Cocchi | December 7, 2021

    Want to know what your peers’ top priorities are when it comes to their benefits plans for 2022?

    Cost management, new services and offerings, and employee engagement.

    Cost management is a top priority because 94% of respondents to a Maestro Health survey believe costs will continue their upward trend as high as 20% more.

    Switching providers

    OK, so maybe that’s not a huge surprise. But what’s surprising is that 71% of the respondents said they’re contemplating switching health plans or administrators in 2022.

    Reason: They’re unhappy with their current plan’s flexibility and customer service. And with costs rising, Benefits pros are looking for ways they can counteract it. Switching to an administrator that is more in tune with their wants and needs is one way to do that.

    The report surveyed 600 U.S. HR professionals who manage their company’s health insurance benefits. It revealed Benefits pros are wanting to take back control of their plans.

    “It’s not surprising that a majority of HR professionals are looking to change insurers or plan administrators in the new year,” said Brandon Wood, CEO of Maestro Health, a tech-enabled third-party health and benefits administrator. “The demand for flexibility has significantly increased and with companies’ priorities shifting in 2022 as a result of the pandemic, HR-decision makers will be focusing on new cost-saving tactics that provide the best quality of care for their employees.”

    Cost savings

    Other cost-saving strategies on the table for 2022 are:

    • penalties for people who “do not receive proactive COVID-19 care” (52%)
    • alternative reimbursement strategies (52%)
    • pharmacy benefit management for specialty, mail and retail pharmacies (51%), and
    • care access solutions (45%).

    The report pointed out that out-of-network repricing management, provider network partnerships, and quality and cost transparency tools are often overlooked when it comes to cost management strategies. But not only do they provide a lot of savings, they also end up expanding and personalizing health services for employees. And since they’re often found in self-funded or level-funded plans we’ll probably see a growth in them in 2022.

    As for what services and offerings they’ll be expanding, 59% said telehealth services, 56% said mental health services and 53% said health plan member enrollment.

    Unused services

    Another cost saving strategy is not paying for services employees aren’t using.

    While 94% of the respondents feel they communicate “often enough” with employees about their health benefits, 78% say 11% to 20% of the services they pay for go unused. And 14% said that number is closer to 31% or higher when it comes to unused services.

    Reasons for this:

    • employees don’t actually need those services
    • they might not know about them or understand them, and/or
    • Benefits may not have the proper support or tools effectively engage members.

    So if you’re administrator isn’t providing the proper tools and support, maybe it is time to switch.

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    Source: HR Morning

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