Posted by: Altura Benefits in Insurance Money
There’s a lot happening in employee benefits. As we head into 2022, here’s a look at some notable developments – from COBRA and FMLA laws to vaccine mandates, The Great Resignation and the evolving employment practices climate. Find out how these changes will impact Utah employers in the year ahead.
The American Rescue Plan included a provision that provided 100% COBRA subsidies for eligible individuals. The U.S. Department of Labor says that these subsidies have ended as of September 30, 2021. However, employers may still be waiting for reimbursement for the subsidies. Employers can be reimbursed by claiming the premium assistance credit on the federal employment tax return. This will usually be done on Form 941 and using Form 7200. For more details on claiming the credit, see the Form 7200 instructions on IRS Notice 2021-31.
Federal paid leave could be on the horizon. According to FMLA Insights, the Build Back Better Act includes provisions that would provide paid leave to most American workers. The law would establish four weeks of paid leave to bond with a newborn or newly placed child or to provide caregiving for oneself or a family member with a serious health condition. The law would also expand the definition of family members, and it would apply to both employed and self-employed workers.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act in November. However, the Senate did not pass the bill in December, and according to Politico, President Biden says that negotiations are expected to continue in 2022.
In the meantime, some states have passed their own notable benefit changes regarding family and medical leave. The National Conference of State Legislatures says that 30 states have passed laws establishing paid or unpaid family and medical leave in recent years.
In an attempt to get workers vaccinated against COVID-19, some employers have targeted employee benefits.
Delta Air Lines imposed a monthly $200 insurance surcharge for unvaccinated employees. According to CNBC, Delta’s chief health officer said that 20% of the air line’s unvaccinated workers got the vaccine in the two weeks following the announcement of the new policy.
The Wall Street Journal says that Kroger has announced a similar policy. The grocery chain will add a $50 monthly health plan surcharge for unvaccinated managers and nonunion employees, and it will stop providing two weeks of paid emergency leave for unvaccinated employees who contract COVID-19, unless required to do so under local jurisdictions.
Many employers may be waiting to hear the ultimate fate of the contested federal vaccine mandate. According to HR Dive, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments involving the court-ordered stays placed on the vaccine mandates on January 7, 2022.
Workers have been quitting at record-breaking levels. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there were more than 4.3 million quits in September 2021. In October 2021, that number went down slightly to about 4.1 million quits, but that’s still much higher than what we saw a year ago, when there were about 3.3 million quits in October 2020.
As a result, hiring and benefit costs have hit 16-year highs. SHRM reports that U.S. labor costs in Q3 2021, increased by the biggest margins since 2001 amid a severe worker shortage.
According to SHRM, many employers are adding new benefits and perks to counter what’s being called the Great Resignation. Key changes include flexible work arrangements, more paid time off, richer 401(k) matches, financial wellness perks, childcare benefits and student loan repayment. HR Dive says that fertility benefits in particular can help with employee retention.
With remote work and resignations both trending, some employers are rewriting their employee exit policies to address how equipment, devices and confidential information will be managed when employees resign while working from home.
There is renewed attention on employment discrimination legislation in many states and at the federal level as we head into 2022. A vote is soon expected on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) which would make it unlawful for employers to deny a pregnant person a reasonable accommodation, just as it is unlawful to deny a reasonable accommodation to a disabled person under the ADA. This bill has support from both sides of the aisle.
Relying on state disability discrimination laws, medical marijuana users around the country are filing lawsuits against employers for failure to accommodate, according to Seyfarth. Employers are advised to have clear policies and procedures for addressing accommodation requests from employees and job applicants who use marijuana medicinally.
Wage & hour actions were the most common type of employment practices litigation in 2021. Seyfarth reports that plaintiffs won roughly 81% of FLSA wage and hour decisions last year. These numbers are expected to rise further in 2022 with a more employee-friendly U.S. Department of Labor.
Over the past year, employers have seen a lot of notable changes. One thing is clear: An employee benefits plan that was designed five years ago may no longer meet the needs of today’s workforce.
If you need help creating a competitive employee benefit package or dealing with benefit administration and compliance, count on Altura Benefits.
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