Benefits Beyond Health Coverage for Ultimate Value

 

A benefits package can say a lot about a business and the relationship with its employees. Providing benefits that help keep your employees healthy and financially protected can be a key factor in employee retention and satisfaction. It can also be an integral part of attracting new talent and growing your business. 

Together, COSE and Medical Mutual understand the importance of high-quality benefits and outstanding customer service, while knowing that each business has unique needs. That’s why COSE MEWA groups have access to a wide selection of Medical Mutual specialty products to enhance health coverage, including:
 
Life and Disability
Dental
Vision
Accident
Critical Illness
Hospital Indemnity 

Working with a single carrier for your health and specialty coverage can provide you and your employees an enhanced experience at the best value. This means avoiding the need to coordinate customer service or employee resources with multiple providers. Plus, your employees will have consistent communications and tools that make it simple to understand their benefits. 

Supplementing health coverage with our specialty products provides your employees with fully integrated coverage at an affordable rate for you and them. As a reminder, all COSE MEWA groups who elect life coverage gain access to an employee assistance program (EAP) administered by HealthAdvocate at no additional cost. This provides 24/7 confidential and personal support for employees and their families for everyday challenges. 

For more information on these specialty product offerings, please contact your broker or Medical Mutual Sales representative. 

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  • Next up: "Best Benefits Decision I Ever Made…"
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  • "Best Benefits Decision I Ever Made…"

    “Joining COSE’s group-rated Workers’ Comp Program has helped me in my business in so many ways. Not only has COSE saved me money on premiums, but they understand my needs and can fight for me better than any other program. I’m not just another number among many other businesses to them. They provide individualized attention and navigate my problems for me, leaving me to continue focusing on what I’m passionate about – my restaurants.”  - Eric Williams, owner, Momocho and El Carnicero, and partner, Happy Dog and Jack Flaps

    “Joining COSE’s group-rated Workers’ Comp Program has helped me in my business in so many ways. Not only has COSE saved me money on premiums, but they understand my needs and can fight for me better than any other program. I’m not just another number among many other businesses to them. They provide individualized attention and navigate my problems for me, leaving me to continue focusing on what I’m passionate about – my restaurants.”

     - Eric Williams, owner, Momocho and El Carnicero, and partner, Happy Dog and Jack Flaps

    With his passion for good food and his desire to support his hometown and the local economy, Eric Williams has independently opened or partnered in some of Cleveland’s hottest restaurants in the last few years. He has encountered a few bumps along the way, with new and different challenges for each new operation, and relied on COSE’s workers’ comp team to help him navigate the obstacles.

    Get a free quote on COSE’s group-rated Workers’ Compensation Program.

    This article originally appeared in the March 23, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.



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  • Next up: Parting on Good Terms: Best Practices for Severance Agreements
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  • Parting on Good Terms: Best Practices for Severance Agreements

    Sometimes you have to say goodbye. When you need to let go of an employee, make sure the severance plan at your company is in top form by following these steps.

    We have previously written about employee terminations. However, once an employer has decided that it is proper to terminate an employee, what are the best practices to facilitate that termination? For starters, among other things, the employer should strongly consider asking the departing employee to enter into a separation and release of claims agreement—which is more commonly referred to as a “severance agreement.” In this article, we will explore a handful of the many important provisions that deserve very careful consideration when drafting an employee severance agreement.

    A severance agreement is a contract between an employer and a departing employee that sets out the terms of the employee’s separation. These contracts routinely include releases of legal claims that the employee may have against the employer in exchange for benefits that the employee would not otherwise be entitled to receive. They might also include protections for the employer’s confidential information, as well as restrictions on the employee’s ability to compete with the employer, among many other important items.

    Whether an employee’s departure is voluntary or involuntary, employers should consider asking departing employees to execute well-written, legally compliant severance agreements for three reasons.

    First: The releases contained in severance agreements can generally minimize the risk of post-termination litigation between the employer and the employee.

    Second: Severance agreements can serve as useful reminders of employees’ continuing obligations under any existing restrictive covenants (i.e., an ongoing promise to continue doing or refrain from doing something), and they can, moreover, provide a means for departing employees to reaffirm their obligations under these covenants.

    Third: Severance agreements also give the employer a chance to bind departing employees to new, post-termination restrictive covenants.

    Release of Claims

    As mentioned above, the departing employee’s release of claims in a severance agreement can help the employer avoid post-termination litigation. However, special care is required when drafting this portion of the severance agreement because certain kinds of claims under state or federal law (or both) can only be released if certain requirements have been met, while still others cannot be released at all—no matter what kind of consideration the employer offers in exchange for the release. In any case, special care is required to ensure that the release is consistent with applicable laws and regulations.

    For example, employees aged 40 or older are protected under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967[i] (the “ADEA”), and its various amendments, including a 1991 amendment called the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act[ii] (the “OWBPA”). These statutes provide specific requirements for releases contained in severance agreements presented to employees aged 40 or older. To be enforceable, releases of ADEA claims must specifically reference the ADEA. Further, they cannot release the employee’s right to file charges with (or participate in proceedings before) the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, nor can they release any claims arising after the effective date of the employee’s severance agreement. Furthermore, the release must confirm that the employee has been advised, in writing, of the right to consult with an attorney of the employee’s choice regarding the agreement before executing it. The employee must also have been apprised of the right to take at least 21 days to consider the whether to sign the agreement, as well as the right to revoke it for seven days after signing. These are just a few examples; this list of requirements is by no means exhaustive.

    Certain other federal claims likewise cannot be released except under a limited set of circumstances. For example, federal minimum wage and overtime claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938[iii](“FLSA”), generally cannot be waived or released—although this may not be true in all jurisdictions depending on the facts and circumstances of a case.

    As another example under Ohio law, specifically, employees cannot release claims for unemployment benefits[iv], or (with some limited exceptions) workers’ compensation benefits[v].

    Restrictive Covenants

    An essential restrictive covenant in most severance agreements will generally require departing employees to keep the employer’s valuable information confidential. The best definitions of “confidential information” are tailored to the employer’s specific needs and concerns according to what is customary in the employer’s business and industry. The specific categories of information that the employer intends to protect from disclosure or misuse should be explicitly referenced in the definition of confidential information. For example, certain kinds of employers may value actual or prospective customer lists, while others may value software source code or other valuable technologies.

    Another restrictive covenant, commonly referred to as a “non-compete,” is routinely present in severance agreements. A non-compete prohibits a departing employee’s ability to compete with the employer for a limited period of time and within a limited geographic area. Whether, and the extent to which, a non-compete is enforceable depends on the jurisdiction: not all jurisdictions recognize non-competes.

    In Ohio, courts analyze the facts of a particular case under a reasonableness test to determine whether a non-compete is enforceable. An Ohio employer seeking to enforce a non-compete will have to show that the language of the non-compete: (1) is not greater than reasonably required to protect the employer’s legitimate business interests; (2) does not impose an undue hardship on the departed employee; and (3) does not harm the public interest[vi]. Of course, the meaning of these criteria can change depending on the employer’s industry and the position and responsibilities formerly held by the departed employee.

    In addition to releases and restrictive covenants, severance agreements normally contain a number of other important provisions, any of which may or may not be appropriate depending on the facts and circumstances.

    If you have questions regarding what kind of severance agreement may be appropriate in a given context, you should contact an attorney. If properly drafted, a severance agreement can reduce the risk of post-termination litigation, help protect confidential information, and reduce or eliminate unfair competition. You should contact an attorney for additional information regarding the usefulness and advantages of severance agreements under different circumstances and in different jurisdictions.

    This article is for informational purposes only. It is merely intended to provide a very general overview of some of the reasons why severance agreements may be beneficial or appropriate. Nothing in this article is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. You should not rely on anything in this article without first consulting with an attorney. If you have questions about your particular legal situation, you should contact an attorney.

    Max Julian is an attorney at The Gertsburg Law Firm. His practice focuses on business litigation. He can be reached via email at mj@gertsburglaw.com or by phone at (440) 571-7541.

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  • Next up: Better Together: The Interconnected Nature of Today’s Workforce, Effective Leadership and Organizational Wellbeing
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  • Better Together: The Interconnected Nature of Today’s Workforce, Effective Leadership and Organizational Wellbeing

     

    A new approach to the pursuit of better organizational wellbeing is needed in today’s business environment. Operations, finance and HR can no longer function adequately in silos when success requires a strong connection between the company’s strategy and the executive team’s priorities and resources. The CEO’s vision and strategy execution, the CFO’s management of risk and financial sustainability, and the HR leader’s development and implementation of compensation and benefit programs have all become table stakes. When these abilities are closely aligned, they can effectively address the increased costs, shorter decision cycles and higher complexities of managing talent.

    To help organizations bring out their betterGallagher has created an approach to compensation, benefits, retirement and employee communications — Gallagher Better WorksSM — that addresses the interconnected nature of health, financial security, engagement and culture. Key areas of focus include assessing the effects of this relationship on productivity and turnover, and finding opportunities for improvement. From any starting point, any employer can drive progress toward better talent attraction and retention outcomes by promoting innovative, aligned programs.

    There is no single solution for attracting and retaining employees that works equally well for all employers, but there is a singular process for filling that void. Coordinated changes in the employee wellbeing investment portfolio, including the physical, emotional, financial and career dimensions, can resolve current challenges and promote the growth of the entire company.

    These investments are essential to remaining relevant and gaining ground in the markets for both business and talent. And they need the support of strong HR technologies, solid compliance frameworks and effectively targeted communications.

    Managing talent by aligning incentives

    Employers focused on growing their businesses are more clearly identifying what needs to be done better. Core to this conversation is a strong workforce planning framework that matches the right employees to the right number of required roles.

    These pairings should sync with changing business needs at an optimal level of labor cost and productivity. Often, improvement efforts also involve leveraging an effective balance between base salary and variable incentive compensation. This includes offering non-qualified deferred opportunities to help retain key talent, and addressing pay equity to support the employer brand.

    Driving engagement through culture

    If the goal is transforming organizational culture into a competitive advantage, strong values and a compelling vision for the future need to be shared with the workforce and aligned with their incentives. Key drivers of engagement include career wellbeing opportunities and personalized, consistent and comprehensive communications that reach employees with the right message at the right time. Transparent commitments to diversity, corporate social responsibility and a respectful workplace are often top selling points for both attracting and retaining employees. A strong culture can also be reflected in a strong employer brand, instilling pride in current workers and capturing the attention of future workers.

    Using employee preferences to prioritize total rewards

    Competition for today’s multigenerational employees is forcing changes in compensation and benefits plan design. Adding flexibility around the preferences of distinct employee populations produces a total rewards package capable of meeting diverse needs. And customizable options like student loan refinancing and pay-down plans, or voluntary insurance coverage are especially appropriate for the times. They can reduce financial stressors, create risk protection and stretch the value of employee earnings.

    Adopting new healthcare models to address costs

    More employers are turning to innovative healthcare tactics like telemedicine and cost-transparency tools to guide better employee decision-making, both cost-effectively and conveniently. Meanwhile, disease management programs offer help with chronic conditions, and value-based medical tactics such as designated centers of excellence promote more affordable, high-quality care. There’s also a trend toward reviewing healthcare approaches and evaluating funding strategies to better fit within the boundaries of cost, fees and risk.

    Opportunities in a fast-moving, ever-changing global economy wait for no one, but uncertainty about the future is conquered with confidence in the organization’s present leaders, strategies and state of wellbeing. Leadership models are evolving as CEOs, CFOs and HR leaders have begun to plainly see the need to evaluate real-time workforce metrics and employee wellbeing data. And they understand the importance of this process for all areas of current strategy and operational decision-making. When it becomes second nature for leaders to collaborate on linking employee health and engagement with organizational culture and outcomes, employers and employees alike will benefit.

    Gallagher is a global leader in insurance, risk management & consulting services helping clients face challenges and providing effective solutions. Our benefits team delivers effective and sustainable workforce strategies that will help organizations optimize one of their largest expenses—healthcare benefits. We make sure employee benefits strategies aligns with business goals and design a strategic benefit package that is sustainable in both the short and long-term, allowing organizations to attract, retain and engage employees for the organization’s wellbeing.

     

    William F. Ziebell CEO, Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc., oversees the strategic operation and management of Gallagher’s global benefits and HR consulting business. He brings more than 30 years of consulting and problem-solving experience to this role. As the chief driver of client-service excellence, Bill continues to guide and inspire top performance across the organization.

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  • Next up: BizConCLE Preview: The Power of Positivity and Diversity in Organizational Teams
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  • BizConCLE Preview: The Power of Positivity and Diversity in Organizational Teams

    Team-focused cultures are all the rage today, but what's the best way to organize such a team at your company? Here's a preview of a workshop session that will examine that topic during this year's BizConCLE.

    Given the team-focused culture that dominates organizations today, it’s becoming increasingly important for companies to put extra thought into how such organizational teams are comprised. More frequently, companies are looking to add diversity in the employees who make up these teams. In fact, a recent HerdWisdom study has found that diverse teams outperform homogenous teams by six times.

    But simply bringing together a mix of people and personalities isn’t enough on its own to guarantee success. This is a topic that ERC Senior Training Consultant Chris Powers will explore in-depth during his upcoming workshop at this year’s BizConCLE. Ahead of this session, Powers took time to preview some of the themes he plans to address and what attendees will walk away with following his talk.

    Stay positive

    At the end of the day, Powers said no one on the team wants to fail. Everyone wants to do their best work and add value. So, with that in mind, he said it’s important that leaders provide a healthy amount of positive feedback to team members.

    This is important because employees who feel appreciated and valued will want to work harder and they will be motivated to get more of that good feeling they experienced.

    Diversity and fresh ideas

    Diversity is also an important element in high-performing organizational teams. Studies have found that diverse teams are nearly twice as likely to be innovative than those that are homogenous.

    Powers said it’s crucial for companies to prioritize diversity in their workforces and on their teams. Otherwise, he cautioned, it’s easy to fall into group think.

    Putting these different personalities and backgrounds together on one team can be a struggle, however. So, how does Powers suggest that companies overcome this dilemma? During his workshop at BizConCLE on Nov. 1, Powers will outline strategies companies can use to ensure everyone on the team is working as one happy, cohesive unit.

    Don’t miss out on this workshop! Register today for BizConCLE by clicking here. And learn more about why this is a can’t miss event by clicking here.

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  • Next up: COSE WebEd Series: Building A Better Workplace with Policies & Procedures
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  • COSE WebEd Series: Building A Better Workplace with Policies & Procedures

    Learn how to build a better workplace in this webinar presented by Elizabeth A. Crosby from Buckley King.


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