November 22, 2017

Business Brief

Cupid Brings Costly New Consequences To Businesses

Valentine’s Day is almost here! And like just about everything else, the office romance has undergone some major changes due to – you guessed it – the recession.

Productivity dips may be the least of your problems. Now your company could end up with a major legal nightmare when co-workers hook up.

Check out what employers are up against now, and what you can do to keep costly headaches to a minimum.

Let’s start with the small silver lining: The need for job security in a down economy has fewer people willing to flout anti-fraternization policies. The number of people saying they’ve been involved in an office romance has plummeted in the past few years.

But the cases that still exist may give you more costly troubles than ever before.

A new kind of love triangle: The couple and the co-worker who cries harassment. Legal trend watchers say there’s been a recent spike in hostile work environment sexual harassment claims.
The real kicker: Often, these suits are brought by people who aren’t even part of the office romance! Instead, they’re co-workers who claim others received special treatment, better assignments, more leniency, etc., because of whom they were romantically linked with.

The good news? These third-party claims like these are tough to prove.

The bad news? They’re easy as pie to launch. And many employees hoping to protect their own positions in tight times are jumping to raise these types of grievances.

So what’s a cost-conscious company to do? Start by spelling out what’s OK and what’s not as far as inter-office dating. It’s shocking how few workplaces have done so: A mere 13% of your peers have a written policy addressing such matters.

Business Brief

Healthcare Reform Is Officially Here

Just in case the date slipped your mind, the first wave of healthcare reform regulations became effective September 23, 2010. Here’s a quick refresher course on the new rules.

First, a caveat: If your company offers a calendar year plan, the changes have taken effect January 1.

A brief rundown of the new rules:

  • Plans can’t deny coverage due to a pre-existing condition to children under age 19. A similar provision for adults will become effective in 2014.
  • Insurers can’t rescind an employee’s coverage for virtually any reason, except when the worker has engaged in fraud.
  • Lifetime dollar limits on coverage are now prohibited.
  • OB/GYNs and pediatricians get primary care physician status. That eliminates the need for patients to get prior authorization from the insurance carrier.
  • No more prior authorizations for emergency room services.
  • Dependents must be covered until age 26. And those dependents no longer have to be students, or disabled; they can even be married.
  • Employers are on the hook for preventive care. Companies can’t impose co-pays or deductibles on such things as mammograms, colonoscopies and other measures designed to catch serious conditions early.
  • Insurers are required to set up a more patient-friendly claims appeals process. And while a claim is being appealed, the insurer can’t hold up payments on subsequent claims.

For the official word on the new requirements, check out www.healthcare.gov.

Business Brief

Are older workers worth the bother?

Their health insurance costs are higher, right? And they don’t need to work so they’re less committed, right? Those are among the conventional-wisdom drawbacks to hiring older workers. Then what’s the argument for hiring them?

According to some recent studies, there are plenty of good reasons to hire older workers, including that some of the perceived drawbacks just aren’t real, according to the studies done at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Center for Human Resources.

For instance:

  • “Because of declining health, older workers cost more than younger ones.” While older workers may take longer to recover from injuries, studies show that they use fewer sick days on the whole than their younger counterparts. And older workers’ healthcare costs are actually less because most no longer have small children as dependents on their health care plans.
  • “Productivity and performance drop as workers get older.” When it comes to job performance, older workers frequently outdo their younger colleagues, deal better with customers and have less absenteeism, less turnover and superior interpersonal skills.
  • “As people near retirement age, they have a ‘go to hell’ attitude about work.” The studies show the opposite to be true. Those who have worked past retirement age became more, rather than less, engaged and satisfied with their jobs. And in a study conducted in 2006, 60% of the 308 HR managers surveyed said that older workers are more reliable, and 59% said older workers have a stronger work ethic than younger ones.
  • “Older workers are more resistant to change and learning.” To the contrary, much of the reason older workers stick with their jobs is that they want to learn new things and avoid becoming stagnant. In the studies, older workers ranked “job challenge and learning” as a top source of satisfaction with their jobs.
  • “Older workers who stay in the workforce keep younger ones from getting jobs.” The belief is that older workers tend to jam up the career ladder for younger ones, and in general are a detriment to the success of younger workers. Except that when more people retire, governments and business are forced to finance rising pension costs and other retiree expenses, resulting in increased taxes and less money available to build businesses and hire and pay newer workers. In short, the idea that there is a fixed number of jobs is a false one.