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Benefits Archives - Harbor America

Exploring Qualifying Life Events

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While open enrollment happens only once per year, qualifying life events can occur unexpectedly, in the blink of an eye. Qualifying events, such as having a baby, losing health coverage, or becoming a citizen, can change the eligibility status for a person allowing them to enroll in health insurance coverage outside of the normal enrollment period. This period is called a special enrollment period (SLP).

An SLP is triggered by a qualifying life event and can last up to 60 days from the date of the qualifying event.

Other than those listed previously, qualifying life events can include any of the below, and more:

  • Change in coverage of the employer’s plan.
  • FMLA leave of absence
  • COBRA qualifying events, such as employment termination, reduction in employment hours, death of a covered employee, or employer bankruptcy, among others.
  • HIPAA special enrollment events, which include marriage, birth, or adoption. (Read more here.)
  • Medicare or Medicaid entitlement

Children of covered family members could lose coverage due to:

  • Turning 26 years old
  • No longer being a dependent of the covered parent or guardian
  • Death of covered parent guardian
  • Family member cutting benefits for dependents

In the event an employee experiences a life-changing event, it is important that they reach out to their human resources representative as early as possible to ensure there is little to no interruption or error in benefits.

Qualifying life events do not cover situations like the insurance carrier dropping the insured due to nonpayment or voluntarily discontinuing coverage.

It is always preferred that a person elects benefits during open enrollment, however, qualifying life events can happen, changing the person’s circumstances making their election eligibility open outside of the normal enrollment period. Contact us to learn more about qualifying life events, improving your employee benefits options, or to speak with one of our licensed administrators.

Implementing a Qualified Transportation Benefit Program

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Commuting for work is a normal part of life for most employees. But shockingly, only nine percent[1] of workers carpool with one other person.

Qualified transportation benefits (QTB) or commuter tax benefits is a comprehensive way for employers to extend benefits to employees, and save on federal income taxes. As an employer-sponsored benefit program employees are able to set aside pre-tax income to help pay for commute-related costs, including mass transit, vanpooling, and parking expenses.

QTB, however, is subject to a monthly maximum contribution cap. In 2019, for example, the cap is $265 per month for parking and $265 for transit passes and vanpooling (combined). This is a five-dollar increase from the 2018 contribution cap. There are no reimbursement options for bicycle commuting.

Environmental benefits include:

  • Reduced congestion on surface streets and highway systems.
  • Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Improved quality of life for employees and surrounding communities.

To start a QTB program for your employees, consider the following steps:

  • Compile a team of stakeholders and employee members who are interested in assisting with the design and structure of the QTB program. Use this pre-announcement time to decide if the program will cover all transit passes or if employees will be limited to a specific transit system or payment method.
  • Communicate the QTB program’s why’s and how’s clearly and effectively. Post the same information in a public spot where employees can easily locate and reference the material, such as your company intranet.
  • Offer payroll deductions as a simple way of contributing to the QTB program.

Organizations that have adopted a QTB program have found improved job satisfaction among employee participants, along with healthier and more productive employees who are experiencing reduced stress. The QTB program gives employees a financial incentive to spend less time driving, and more time focusing on their lives and personal health.

In addition to standard employee benefits like medical and dental insurance, life insurance, and 401(k), Harbor America can assist you in offering your clients additional supplementary or voluntary benefits. Contact us to find out what else you can start offering to your employees. They deserve it.

[1] US News: How Commuting is Changing

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Designing a Benefits Package for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

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55% of employees would accept a position at a company with lower compensation for a more robust benefits package.[1] But how does one compile a more robust benefits package?

It is important to note that regardless of the size of your business, any organization can offer a substantial benefits package. A common misconception concerning small to medium-sized businesses is that they are unable to afford or will not even be considered for good benefit package offerings typically reserved for larger organizations.

In order to start offering better benefits, however, you need to make sure you have a good hold on your finances and have a strong financial planning foundation in place. In most cases, going without benefits for your employees may be a temporary cushion for your bottom line, the long-term effects will inadvertently keep your business from growing.

“Organizations that use benefits as a strategic tool for recruiting and retaining talent reported better overall company performance and above-average effectiveness in recruitment and retention compared with organizations that did not.”[2]

Partnering with a PEO can save businesses of any size from all the legwork of vetting providers and carriers, comparing plans, and pricing. As a PEO customer, you will have access to plans typically available for only enterprise organizations. Your employees will have a larger choice in doctors, hospitals, and will be able to see out of network providers, for an additional out-of-pocket fee.

If working on your own, you will find health insurance to be the most significant portion of your benefits budget. Dental and vision are traditionally not included in base health insurance plans. To include these you would need to source separate plans specific to dental and vision, respectively.

Retirement plans (401(k)s) are also highly sought-after benefits of employees of any age. You will need to decide if your organization will participate in employer-sponsored matching. This will make a difference in your budget at the end of the day.

Other plans that can be added to your benefits package could include life insurance policies, disability insurance, a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA), basic paid time off (PTO) or unlimited time off (a new trend in PTO).

Harbor America is committed to helping businesses of any size add time back into their day. Regarding employee benefits, Harbor America clients are greeted with a wide range of benefit packages to not only attract top talent but retain your top performers. Contact us to start designing a benefits package specific to your employees and your business.

[1] HR Daily Advisor: Research Shows Strong Job Satisfaction, Benefits

[2] LinkedIn: These 5 Employee Benefits are Trending

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Considering the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

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Aside from ensuring employee safety, employee happiness and morale is one of the most important elements of any business. It may seem like helping manage your employees’ personal happiness is outside of your realm of responsibility as an employer, however, personal issues may impact an employee’s performance, productivity, and focus.

Employee assistance programs (EAP) are delivered as a no-cost workplace wellness program that offers services to help employees deal with any personal problems they may be facing. This includes substance abuse, stress management, financial problems, and more.

Most EAPs offer 24/7 phone access to trained counselors. The counselors are trained to discuss sensitive issues while maintaining employee confidentiality. The EAP offers direct counseling and treatment rather than just referrals to other practitioners.

Employers will also find benefit from the EAP as they have provided employees access to a resource that can help to remedy personal issues that could cause a decrease in productivity, absenteeism, or eventually abandoning their position.

Harbor America’s EAP includes access to highly-trained and experienced clinical providers, financial consultants, and elder care or child care specialists. With the goal of assisting employees to resolve issues before they get worse, Harbor America has the best interest in mind for you and your business. Contact us today to add EAP to your employee benefits program.

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Key Person Disability Insurance FAQs

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Each company, regardless of size, employs persons who are essential to the continued success of the business. Key person disability insurance was created to protect the business in the event one of their key members suffers an illness, injury, or accident resulting in a disability. Investors, stakeholders, and business owners are able to continue operations and manage finances without major disruption.

 

How are Key Persons defined?

A key-person or employee is defined as someone who may hold either the most important relationships, accounts, or sensitive information, knowledge, or skills vital to the continued success of the business.

To whom is the payment dispersed?

If needed, coverage is paid to the employer or business.

How are these claim premiums taxed?

Generally, in the US the premiums are not tax-deductible.

Aside from finances, what is the benefit of Key Person Disability Insurance?

Planning for any unforeseen events allows the business to have a contingency plan in place for recruiting, hiring, and replacing the key person.

What types of companies should consider adding Key Person Disability Insurance?

Any business that employs someone whose contributions cannot easily be replaced should consider Key Person Disability Insurance.

Clients have come to rely on the Harbor America team for expert advice pertaining to the continued success of their businesses and protecting the future of their employees. Contact Harbor America to learn more.

Short-Term Disability (STD) Basics

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Front-loaded with a short waiting period, short-term disability plans are in place to assist employees in replacing all or part of their income due to temporary inability to work.

What You Need to Know:

  • Trigger events are any illness or injury that prevents you from working will initiate Short-Term Disability.
  • Depending on your policy, coverage will start anywhere from one to 15 days after the employee suffers a condition leaving them unable to work.
  • It is not uncommon for employers to require employees to use sick days and/or provide medical documentation prior to starting short-term disability as part of the terms.

Many states have varying rules about coverage. Contact Harbor America to understand your state’s mandatory coverage guidelines.

 

 

Long-Term Disability (LTD) Basics

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Employer management of disability benefits is an important aspect of the organization’s benefits package. This short video explains the primary elements of LTD coverage. In most cases, LTD works in tandem with the offered short-term disability (STD) coverage. Reach out to your HR Team to understand more about your organization’s LTD benefits and coverage.

What You Need to Know

  • Regardless of whether the injury was sustained at or away from work, covered conditions may include: stroke, pneumonia, and pregnancy complications.
  • LTD begins after a short-term disability policy runs out, typically between 90 -180 days after the initial event.
  • The length of coverage and rate schedule depends on the policy and the duration of benefits selected by the employer.

Certain industries or occupations can dictate certain coverage specifics. Contact Harbor America to learn more.

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Top 5 Reasons to Have a PEO Handle Your Benefits

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As the owner of a rapidly growing business, you may find that it’s hard to keep up with everything yourself. From the daily operations to your Human Resources management, it can be a lot to handle. And, since your expertise is in the business operations, you may not have the specific expertise necessary for your HR and benefits management efforts to truly thrive. That’s where a Professional Employer Organization, or PEO, can help. Here’s a look at the top five reasons why you should work with a PEO for managing your benefits and related HR tasks:

Eliminate The Time Demand Of Payroll Processing

Payroll can be a time-consuming and resource-demanding process, especially in businesses where staff works varying shifts and time cards must be manually processed each week. If you want to be able to focus more of your time on your daily tasks, work with a PEO. They will handle your payroll needs for you as part of the contract.

While you could contract these services out to a payroll-exclusive business, it’s to your advantage to work with a PEO instead. A payroll-exclusive business will do nothing but your payroll needs while working with a PEO brings you far more. You’ll get not only payroll management but also general human resources services and benefits administration, too.

Increase Your Benefits Package Options

Because a PEO is in the business of managing employee benefits, compensation, and resources, they have access to top-notch benefits packages that you may not be able to offer otherwise. They deal with larger volumes because of the number of companies they deal with, so you can take advantage of group discounts and pricing structures that allow your employees greater benefits options at a lower cost.

Reduce Your Time Investment For Benefits Shopping

When you first started hiring employees, you likely saw first-hand how complex and time-consuming it can be to sort through all of the benefits package options, including any retirement packages, insurance plans, and work-life benefit choices.

Working with a PEO saves you from having to spend your time dealing with the searching, the comparisons, the negotiations, and the selection. All you have to do is tell them what you’re looking to offer to your staff, and they will help you create the package that you envision. That frees up the time you would have spent so that you can better focus on your business profitability.

Reduce Your Legal Liability Risk

When it comes to handling employment taxes, workers’ compensation policies and audits, and other federal employer documentation, missing a deadline or filing incorrectly can have legal and financial ramifications. These types of documents and filings are part of what a PEO handles every day. This means your PEO representatives are up-to-date on any changes that may have happened since last tax season, they know the deadlines for filing, and they will ensure that everything is submitted accurately. In addition, you’ll have someone to fall back on in the face of an IRS or workers’ compensation audit.

Retain Your Top Talent

Having a PEO that handles your HR for you means having someone who is dedicated to offering the best benefits, ensuring employee retention, and following employer laws. When your employees see that you are working with an organization that’s committed to offering them the best benefits options possible, you are far more likely to retain your top talent and minimize staff attrition rates.

Learn More About How a PEO Can Help Your Business

These are some of the top reasons why you should work with a PEO. As a business owner, you need to balance the needs of your staff with the requirements of your business operation. Understanding how Harbor America can help you do this makes it easier to prioritize the investment. Contact us today to take advantage of these benefits and more.

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Should Your Company Offer Bereavement Leave?

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Benefits packages often highlight health insurance, parental leave, and retirement options. These are important, but bereavement leave is an often overlooked benefit that can boost employee morale and, ultimately, improve your company’s productivity.

Bereavement leave gives your employees the opportunity to take time away from work to grieve the loss of a loved one without being forced to use vacation time—or, worse, come to work despite their grief.

Benefits of Bereavement Leave

The death of a parent, grandparent, spouse, friend, or child comes as a shock, even if the loved one was sick leading up to his or her passing. It is a difficult time for your employee and work may be the last thing on their mind. Without bereavement leave, some of those employees may have no choice but to come to work anyway, fighting through grief to do their jobs in a half-hearted manner.

Bereavement leave boosts morale, not only for the grieving employee but for co-workers as well. It’s not easy for anyone to figure out what to say or do when someone is grieving the loss of a loved one.

The implication here is obvious: when employee morale is better, your company does better. A grieving employee won’t be able to do their best work, and may even develop feelings of resentment for being at work instead of with family. This is a slippery slope that could lead to decreased productivity long after the employee’s grief has subsided. It may even result in the employee ultimately leaving the company.

Perhaps most importantly, bereavement leave is another way to show how much you value your employees and understand they have priorities outside the workplace. That sort of acknowledgment and appreciation is how an employee develops loyalty to a company. Respecting their work-life balance is an affordable way for you to help keep your employees happy.

Making Your Plan

In the 2016 Paid Leave in the Workplace survey, the Society for Human Resource Management found that an average of four days of bereavement leave was given to employees following the death of a spouse or child. No time off was generally given following the death of an employee’s friend or colleague.

This article starts with the story of a CEO who gave his employees three days off to deal with grief—until his own daughter died and he realized the process of recovering can take months. He now gives employees as much time as they need. The article goes on to say that grief can cost companies in the United States billions of dollars in lost productivity, while, “Paradoxically, offering employees more time to deal with their grief—through longer bereavement leave, reduced hours and flexible schedules—could wind up costing organizations less….”

A PEO like Harbor America can help you create a benefits package that includes bereavement leave. Our HR solutions may also help you put a plan in place to keep your organization running smoothly when an employee takes time off after a loved one’s death.

How to Help Your Grieving Employee

Mayo Clinic recognizes the complexity of normal grief, which can last a few months after the loss, as well as complicated grief, “…an ongoing, heightened state of mourning that keeps you from healing.” Symptoms are generally the same for both types of grief, which means most of your employees who deal with loss will experience some or all of the following for at least a few weeks or even months:

  • Intense pain and rumination
  • Inability to focus on anything but the loved one’s death
  • Numbness and detachment
  • Lack of trust in others
  • Difficulty accepting the death

Everyone grieves differently, and even after a few days or weeks away from work, your grieving employee may still struggle. Here are a few ways to help your employees—the grieving employee as well as co-workers—in this situation:

  • Ask what is needed: Some employees might want to get back to their full workload; others may prefer to ease in slowly.
  • Teach co-workers what to say: Many people are uncomfortable with other people’s grief because they don’t know what to say. In a quick meeting or email, ask your other employees not to say well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful phrases like, “He’s in a better place” or “Everything happens for a reason.” Instead, give specific offers: “If you’d like to talk about her, I’d be happy to listen over lunch today.” Watch and listen to the griever for cues on what he or she needs from you: space or connection, conversation or quiet.
  • Recognize the symptoms of grief: When you understand the employee is struggling, you’re better able to help her.

Get Help From Harbor America

If you have questions about bereavement leave benefits, contact us. The team at Harbor America is happy to help you understand the importance of this benefit and work with you to make it a part of your employee benefits package.

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Benefits That Attract Gen-Zs and Millennials

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The workforce has changed dramatically in the past few decades. You now have a large number of millennials applying for jobs. Additionally, Gen Z is starting to enter the workplace, too. They often want different benefits than that of Generation X, which means that you need to take a close look at what you’re offering and how you’re operating your business.

Retirement

Baby Boomers admittedly were not the best at saving for retirement. However, the new wave of employees has learned from their parents’ and grandparents’ mistakes. They want to start saving for retirement as soon as possible because they have big dreams of being able to retire at 55 or 60 (or even earlier).

One idea is to provide a PEO-sponsored 401(k) to your employees. With the help of a PEO, you can offer your employees the ability to plan for the future without having to deal with the actual headache and audits involved with a 401(k).

Flexibility

Millennials and Gen-Zs want flexibility in the workplace. They value the work-home balance tremendously. They know how to use technology and they use it efficiently to be able to boost productivity and multi-task. They don’t want to have to sit in the office all day long if they don’t have to.

Instead, they want you to offer technology that allows them to work remotely. This includes everything from hosted telephony to hosted cloud services. If they can work from a coffee shop or home, they will be happier and likely more productive, too.

Career Development

This generation of employees wants to make sure that they are able to learn in the workplace. Many employees don’t have the same idea of past generations when it comes to longevity with a company. Many employees will only stay at a company for five years (and sometimes less) because they believe that they have more opportunities when they move around. As such, you want to offer career development so that they don’t feel as though they are growing stagnant. When you are able to promote from within, you will be able to reduce the turnover rate tremendously.

Additionally, when it comes to offering career development and education, you will also want to consider an Employee Assistance Program. Services can include financial advisors, lawyers, and even licensed psychologists. This will help employees resolve various issues that could impact their work-home balance or how they feel at the workplace.

Medical Insurance

Employees of every generation want to have great medical insurance. They know how expensive it is if they have to get it on their own. Millennials and Gen-Zs are no different. They want to know that they have the health care they need when they have a medical problem. Dental and vision benefits are a bonus as well.

Be sure to offer medical benefits from a company with a functional, mobile-friendly platform. This is ideal for the generation who would rather do everything using a mobile device. It ensures that they are able to continue multitasking and likely providing you with more productivity, even when they are sick.


Exploring the best options for small business benefits is one of the best ways to attract millennials and Gen-Zs. With the help of Harbor America, you have a PEO that helps you with benefits as well as compliance and other details.