Preventing Turnover Post-pandemic

The wake of COVID-19 leaves in its path a tattered and disheveled global supply chain in nearly every industry sector imaginable.  Everything from high end computer processors to basic building supplies like lumber to commodities as fundamental as toilet paper have been impacted.  As the vaccinated slowly begin to emerge and life resumes, a new supply chain shortage emerges – that of human capital. 

The need for a capable and willing workforce is evident in every corner of commerce. One impactful way for an employer to address this need is to retain the employees they already have.  To this end, I share with you the following HR Insights article published by Zywave on Preventing Turnover Post-pandemic. 

A pdf of the article can be downloaded by clicking here. 

Preventing Turnover Post-pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is finally getting under control. As more Americans get vaccinated, states are gradually lifting restrictions, and life is returning to pre-pandemic normalcy. Finally, individuals can get to the tasks they’ve been postponing for more than a year. Unfortunately for employers looking to retain employees, some employees are now ready to find new jobs.

Current Job Market Outlook

Turnover is a common occurrence throughout any given year. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, year-over-year turnover trends drastically reduced. Workers instead clung to their jobs as a way to maintain financial security, having seen countless others get furloughed or laid off.

Now, as the economy opens back up, employers are pushing for employees to return to the workplace. But, a significant number of employees are unwilling to return to the status quo that was established pre-pandemic.

Instead, they are taking stock of their current positions and contemplating what they truly want out of their jobs. For some, the most direct path toward their goals is to find a new employer.

That’s why experts are predicting a “turnover tsunami” coming in the latter half of 2021; all the turnover that would typically take place in a given year is expected to come virtually all at once.

What Employees Want Post-pandemic

Each organization is unique, and its employees may have varying opinions about what’s most important to them. However, workplace survey data from the past year illuminates some commonalities between worker desires across industries. The following are some of the most coveted changes workers are looking for post-pandemic.

Remote or Hybrid Work Models

Many employees were forced to work from home at the start of the pandemic. As businesses reopen, employees are reluctant to return now that they’ve tasted greater flexibility and autonomy.

In fact, 47% of employees said they would leave their current jobs if their employers forced them back into the workplace, according to an Envoy survey. Additionally, 41% of employees said they would take a job with a slight salary cut if it meant having a hybrid work model (working some days in the office, others from home).

Given this and other data from countless surveys conducted in the past year, it’s apparent that employees want at least some remote work opportunities. And they are willing to leave their current employers to get it.

While remote or hybrid work is perhaps the most desired workplace perk at the moment, it’s not all that employees want.

Protection From Burnout

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many employees feeling burned out and overworked. According to an Indeed survey, 52% of employees are experiencing burnout, and 67% say burnout has increased during the pandemic.

Worse yet, now that businesses are reopening in full force, employee workloads are likely to increase rather than reduce. This increase is spurring employees to lobby for greater mental health benefits, time off and other resources for reducing stress levels.

Greater Compensation

Compensation has been an employee motivator well before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s particularly salient now. Across the country, the most recent example of this has been among fast food and retail workers. These segments have been working throughout the pandemic amid strict constraints, reduced staffing and elevated dangers.

Now, many industry workers are demanding better pay and benefits as compensation for their continued efforts—even walking out or quitting when their efforts are disregarded. In fact, 35% of surveyed employees said they would leave their current jobs for better compensation and benefits, according to an Achievers Workforce Institute report.

Turnover Prevention Considerations for Employers

At this point, it’s clear that a significant number of employees are feeling restless in their current roles. According to that same Achievers Workforce Institute report, only 21% of employees feel very engaged at work. Additionally, nearly half of respondents (46%) said they feel less connected to their workplace now than at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To combat these trends and avert a “turnover tsunami,” employers will need to look inward toward their unique employee populations. This inquiry may include directly asking employees about their current mindsets (i.e., whether they’re considering quitting) and what concessions would make them stay with the organization.

Generally, employers can also consider implementing some of the changes employees are looking for, such as:

  • Providing remote or hybrid working arrangements
  • Expanding employee assistance programs to help with mental health and burnout
  • Increasing compensation or bonuses
  • Having managers meet more frequently with employees about engagement levels and ways to improve them

While these methods may be sufficient for the majority of workplaces, they are not silver bullets. Even higher compensation may not be enough to prevent turnover if other problems exist. That’s why employers should consider surveying employees about their individual opinions. Doing so can help identify unforeseen opportunities and potentially give employers ideas for improving retention without breaking the bank.

Reach out to Libertate Insurance Services, LLC for additional retention strategies.

This HR Insights is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as professional advice. © 2021 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Week in Review

We hope you had time this week to review some great posts by Paul Hughes and James Buscarini. 

On Tuesday, James shared with us some great tips on how smaller employers can attract and retain talent when competing with larger firms.  Check out his post on 6 Benefits to Attract and Retain Small Business Employees.    

On Thursday, Paul reminded us of the ongoing trends which are playing out in the realm of cyber Insurance.  According to content sourced from AM Best, we are witnessing an increase in both frequency of events as well as average cost per event in the cyber space.  This trend will, no doubt, bring about not only marked increases in cyber insurance premiums, but more rigorous requirements in cyber security by carriers willing to continue offering products in this space.  For full details, check out his post Annual Growth of Cyber Claims is Double Growth of Cyber Premiums.  

On this day, June 11th in 1776 the Continental Congress created a committee to draft a Declaration of Independence with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston as members.  Thomas Jefferson primarily penned the original draft which was dived into five sections, including an introduction, a preamble, a body (divided into two sections) and a conclusion.  While the body of the document outlined a list of grievances against the British crown, the preamble includes its most famous passage: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The Continental Congress reconvened on July 1.  The process of consideration and revision of Jefferson’s declaration continued on July 3 and into the late morning of July 4, during which Congress deleted and revised some one-fifth of its text. The delegates made no changes to that key preamble, however, and the basic document remained Jefferson’s words. Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence later on the Fourth of July (though most historians now accept that the document was not signed until August 2).

What would Thomas Jefferson think of our cyber insurance woes of today?

Happy Friday everyone!! 

The history of Memorial Day

Another dawn rises to find it is Friday and the weekend calls.  In honor of the Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to share the history of this commemorative celebration from history.com. 

The original post can be found by clicking here

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2021 will occur on Monday, May 31. 

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

Early Observances of Memorial Day

The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.

By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. And some records show that one of the earliest Memorial Day commemorations was organized by a group of formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. https://e4a31b8e175db654932bfe3647c497f8.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html Waterloo—which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

Decoration Day

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.

The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried there.

Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor the dead on separate days until after World War I.

History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars, including World War IIThe Vietnam WarThe Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date General Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Memorial Day Traditions

Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in ChicagoNew York and Washington, D.C.

Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem. On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because Memorial Day weekend—the long weekend comprising the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day and Memorial Day itself—unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

Citation Information

Article Title

Memorial Day

Author

History.com Editors

Website Name

HISTORY

URL

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history

Access Date

May 28, 2021

Publisher

A&E Television Networks

Last Updated

May 24, 2021

Original Published Date

October 27, 2009

Benefits of Utilizing Post-Offer Medical Questionnaires in Your Hiring Practices

Prescient National produced this thought provoking look at how to effectively use Post-Offer Medical Questionnaires as a part of your hiring practices. The original post can be found by clicking here.

When companies think of managing their Workers’ Compensation costs, several key programs may come to mind. For example, Early Return to Work, Post-Accident Drug Testing, and establishing a network of medical providers have become second nature in the course of doing business.  While these post-claim activities will reduce costs after a claim has been filed, preventing a loss starts with strong hiring practices.

A comprehensive hiring program contains several standard components, such as pre-employment drug screening, criminal background checks, and reference checks. But perhaps none are more important than the Post-Offer Medical Questionnaire (POMQ). As health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and previous surgeries continue to contribute to Workers’ Compensation costs, employers who incorporate the POMQ can rest easy knowing they’ve taken every step necessary to ensure that employees can perform the essential functions of the job, without endangering themselves or others.

What is a POMQ and How Does it Mitigate Potential Injuries?

The POMQ is a document with questions about a prospective employee’s prior medical history.  The POMQ helps an employer understand if the individual will be able to complete the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. Its goal is to help match the candidate to the physical requirements of the job and prevent putting an employee in a job that could be unsafe for him or her, other employees, and the company. It’s good stewardship. 

Let’s use an example to illustrate:  An employer in the home healthcare industry employs nurses who travel from one home to another to provide care. The company conducts pre-employment drug screening, motor vehicle record checks, as well as criminal background checks and reference checks, but it does not use a POMQ as part of its hiring practices.  One day, while making a sandwich for a client, an employee bends over to pick up a piece of silverware that has fallen off the counter. When he stands up, he feels pain in his lower back and decides to file a Workers’ Compensation claim. When the claim is received by the insurance carrier, it is determined that the employee has had two prior back surgeries and that picking up the piece of silverware has aggravated his pre-existing back condition. After a doctor’s assessment, the employee is scheduled for a third back surgery, which will cost approximately $100,000. It is estimated that this claim alone will increase the employer’s experience modification rate from a 1.00 to a 1.50, which will cost the firm $500,000 in additional Workers’ Compensation premiums over the next three years. The employer was shocked to learn of the employee’s prior health condition and is frustrated that the employee cannot return to a “light duty” job, because the employee has been written completely out of work.  Additionally, the employer is worried that the employee was placed in a position that required lifting and walking assistance for an elderly client, and wonder about future lawsuits from “negligent hiring” practices.

In the example above, the employer could benefit greatly from the effective use of a POMQ.  Uncovering the prospective employee’s prior back surgeries would have allowed the employer to make a well-informed hiring decision, which would protect both the employee and its client population from injuries. For the POMQ to be “effective”, an employer must follow the rules of its use.

How to Use the POMQ

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are allowed to conduct medical inquiries of prospective employees as long as certain rules are followed. First, the document can only be used after a job offer has been made (i.e., “post-offer”), but before the employee is placed into the job. This means, for example, an employer cannot ask an applicant to complete a POMQ while filling out an application. Just as with background checks and drug tests, POMQs can also be part of the contingent post-offer process, but only if all new employees in the same job category are required to complete a POMQ.  All information on the POMQ is protected health information and must be handled responsibly (typically by HR), kept confidential, and secured separately. 

An applicant must be provided with a copy of the written job description that outlines the physical requirements of the job. The questions on the POMQ must be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” This means that the job must contain physical exertion that has been documented and is essential. It also means that employers cannot inquire about any family medical history. The job description in our home healthcare scenario, for example, may require employees in the position to be able to lift 50 lbs. The POMQ will include a question related to the amount of weight an individual can comfortably lift unassisted. If the candidate is unable to meet this requirement, the employer will solicit a medical opinion and provide the doctor with a copy of the written job description. The candidate can meet with his or her own physician or with the company physician to determine if the job requirement can be met and what, if any, accommodations can be made to meet those requirements.  

Depending on the physician’s medical assessment, the employer (assisted by feedback from the candidate), must determine if the recommended “reasonable accommodation(s)” can be made to enable the candidate to meet the essential requirements of the job. This may involve modifying the job, if possible, or purchasing additional equipment to help with the task, depending on whether this is a reasonable expectation for the business to undertake. If no reasonable accommodation is available, an employer can withdraw the offer. 

POMQ Red Flags

There are certain red flags to look for in a POMQ. Ensure that every question on the POMQ is answered. Often, we see a candidate forget to complete a question or perhaps even refuse to answer a question. All questions should be addressed to avoid potential issues down the road. Look carefully to see if the candidate documents something that doesn’t match with the requirements of the job to address any discrepancies or potential problems. Also, make sure the document is signed by the candidate. 

Note: If a candidate is untruthful on the POMQ and aggravates a pre-existing injury on the job, in many states the claim may be denied. In most cases, the injury/aggravation must be to the same body part where he or she suffered a prior injury which was not disclosed. Typically, it must also be established that the employer would not have hired the employee if he or she had indeed disclosed the prior injury and the injury would not have allowed him or her to safely perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.

At Prescient National, we believe that well-informed hiring decisions drive down costs and improve employers’ profitability. Used correctly, a POMQ is a good tool to optimize employee safety and to help mitigate potential claims. Hiring employees fit for duty is productive for the staff, insulates an employer from legal liability, and enhances safety throughout the organization.

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Happy Friday Everyone!

As the 19th week of 2021 draws to a close, we would like to remind you of a few great posts from this week – in case you missed them!

Paul Hughes provided us with an excellent update on the PEO footprint across the country at this time.  As Economy and Industry both seek to find firm footing in this new (almost) post-pandemic reality, PEOs will continue to emerge as an intelligent and refreshing solution for employers of mobile, diverse and complex workforces.  Enjoy his piece discussing 10-99 Employee Firms and PEOs via the following link.

Angela Slaney reminded us of the ever present threat of cyber exposures in this tech savvy modern age.  Her piece provided us with some great recommendations on how to be proactive in protecting your organization by implementing some of the latest technology in cyber protection.  Check out her post at the following link.

Stay safe, stay health, and be happy this weekend!! 

Insurers Are Waking Up to Multi-Factor Authentication

Please enjoy this excellent article by Steven Kaye which was originally posted on the Carrier Management website. The original post can be found here.

Insurance use cases for multi-factor authentication (MFA) include distributor access, external user access (e.g., claims vendors, financial advisers), internal user access and policyholder access.

Legislation and regulators are increasingly mandating MFA to ensure greater security as well as to reduce identity theft and other forms of fraud. Examples include the New York State cybersecurity regulation and the NAIC Insurance Data Security Model Law. Insurers have traditionally balanced security against expense and inconvenience to their users, especially if their coverages are marketed to older demographics (e.g., final expense policies). Regulatory mandates combined with growing digital adoption and criminals turning their eyes to life and annuities account takeover means the calculus has changed.

Despite these regulatory mandates, 80 percent of insurers say that risk management, rather than regulatory compliance, is driving their adoption of MFA.

There is minimal variation between size and sector of company when it comes to deployment rates, with the exception of large life/annuity/benefits insurers, which are much more likely to use MFA for policyholders than is any other class of insurer. A low deployment rate of MFA for policyholders among smaller property/casualty insurers reflects the fact that few small P/C insurers offer direct policyholder access at all.

Midsize P/C insurers lag behind other sizes and sectors in deployment of MFA for both distributors and policyholders but are ahead of large life/annuity/benefits insurers in deployment for other external parties. Midsize P/C insurers are also ahead of midsize life/annuity/benefits insurers in deployment internally.

How MFA Helps

As many knowledge workers moved from the office to home during the pandemic, securing infrastructure became another key driver. Hybrid work models that blend office and home working environments are gaining traction, and the need for MFA becomes more crucial to validate that users are actually employees.

In addition to security needs, carriers are obtaining policyholder emails and cellphone numbers as part of the MFA process. These bits of data, which are often difficult to obtain, can provide insurers with the opportunity to digitally connect with customers in their preferred channel.

There is no mandated number of identification methods for MFA, but the consensus is to have two at a minimum. Insurers are starting to use multi-factor or its equivalent for any interaction where an external network is accessing information behind a firewall. Some are taking this a step further to include role-based authentication for internal access as well.

The best defense is a layered approach, combining multiple authentication methods with secure and documented business processes and other security solutions. Some insurers are offering security audit services to agents they work with, while others are working with their distribution executives to change distribution agreements to mandate MFA and other security measures.

Insurers should ensure that MFA processes are documented and that solutions generate auditable logs. Some wholesale brokers require attestations from insurers they work with.Some insurers are offering security audit services to agents they work with, while others are working with their distribution executives to change distribution agreements to mandate MFA and other security measures.

For consumer-facing use cases, depending on the age of policyholders, insurers may wish to opt for MFA methods that are more straightforward (e.g., less complex knowledge-based authentication, voice print). Final expense and Medicare supplement are two lines of business where voice signatures are well established. Many solutions support establishing different access policies based on risk assessment, such as requiring MFA for new devices, or conversely accepting password-free authentication for low-risk access requests.

Types of Authentication

MFA relies on several of the following authentication methods:

  • Physical objects (e.g., laptops, mobile devices, security tokens) in possession of users.
  • Knowledge-based authentication (e.g., answers to questions, passwords or PIN codes, randomly generated authentication codes from authenticator apps).
  • Location (e.g., GPS or IP address).
  • User characteristics (behavioral or biometrics-based).

Some authentication methods are more secure than others. For example, sending codes or passwords via email or SMS runs the risk of interception by man-in-the-middle attacks. With many employees working from home, phishing and other identity theft methods are on the rise. Several solutions support adaptive authentication, with less risky access requests requiring fewer authentication methods than riskier ones, as determined by system-generated risk scoring and predefined security policies.20 percent of CIOs surveyed by Novarica said they are planning to require MFA for distributors and policyholders within six months, adding to 30 percent that already do so.

Novarica recently conducted a survey of insurer CIOs to understand their deployment of MFA, including business drivers, authentication methods and use cases. It is important to keep in mind that solution providers typically offer a range of authentication methods.

Only 30 percent of participants currently require MFA for distributors or policyholders, but another 20 percent are planning to require MFA within six months. Roughly 80 percent of participants require MFA for most or all internal systems users.

Deploying MFA

The most common authentication methods deployed are mobile authenticator apps, used by 80 percent of participants. More than half of participants use SMS. Email and security keys are used by roughly 40 percent and 33 percent of participants, respectively. Behavioral authentication, voice-based authentication, IP location and knowledge-based authentication are used by fewer than a third of insurers.

Note that only 16 percent of insurers report using just one method; overall, insurers said they use an average of 2.8 different authentication methods.Sending codes or passwords via email or SMS runs the risk of interception by man-in-the-middle attacks.

The security threat landscape continues to grow in number and impact. Although many carriers are not currently considering MFA, regulatory scrutiny and enforcement of IT security will only increase. The ability of most solutions to offer different levels of authentication for different access use cases means there is less of a tradeoff between customer experience and security. Many solution providers offer MFA as part of a broader portfolio of identity and access management and IT security solutions.

Insurers should consider MFA approaches as part of a broader IT security strategy.

CONTRIBUTOR

Steven Kaye, Novarica

Steven Kaye is Vice President of Research at Novarica and lead editor of the firm’s Business and Technology Trends in Insurance series. He has managed a wide range of research projects since joining the firm in 2008. Previously, Kaye worked for Accenture as an insurance researcher focused on the U.S. life and property/casualty markets. He also served in both knowledge management and research roles at Gemini Consulting (now part of Capgemini) for several of the firm’s industry practices. Kaye holds MILS and BA degrees from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Reach him directly at skaye@novarica.com.

Finding Subs Who Really Work

The recent activities surrounding the Florida House Bill 1305 has forced a lot of attention and thought regarding subcontractors. We continue to monitor the progression of this bill, however one powerful takeaway from this conversation can already be appreciated: the importance of hiring and working with good subcontractors. But what makes a subcontractor “good”?

A good subcontractor is willing to work within reasonable parameters which should always be set out in a written agreement. A sound Subcontractor Agreement should outline important items such as:

  • The Subcontractor’s responsibilities,
  • Terms and conditions of the work to be undertaken,
  • Safety requirements,
  • Indemnity stipulations,
  • Insurance requirements, and
  • Any additional provisions related specifically to the job.

Here is a sample Subcontractor Agreement which speaks to recommended details for each of the above provisions. 

Any company using Subcontractors should have a Subcontractor Management Plan (SMP) in place and should require all subs to adhere to the stipulations outlined in the plan.  A SMP provides guidance for subcontract management activities, including the following:

  • Prequalification and bidding process
  • Insurance considerations
  • Beginning work
  • Work site’s written safety plan
  • Safety training and recordkeeping policies
  • Safety inspections
  • Work-in-progress and post-project reviews

We have included a downloadable copy of our SMP as an example, which includes a detailed and useful safety inspection checklist, among many other important guidelines.

Well documented and verifiable proof of insurance is of upmost importance when dealing with a sub.  Subcontractors should maintain Commercial General Liability, Auto Liability, Umbrella or Excess Liability and Workers’ Compensation.  Of these coverages, Florida House Bill 1305 specifically focus on Workers’ Compensation.  The subcontractor should secure a workers’ compensation insurance policy. The workers’ compensation policy must cover all of the subcontractor’s work and performance and provide coverage for all employees, executive officers, sole proprietors, and partners and members of a limited liability company, in the amounts required by all applicable laws.  In addition, the subcontractor should secure an employers’ liability insurance policy (part II of the standard workers’ compensation policy). This type of coverage covers the damages that become due in case of bodily injury, occupational sickness or disease or death of subcontractor employees that are not covered by the workers’ compensation policy.

The attached Subcontractor Certificate of Insurance Letter is a great, single page Word document which can be used to concisely outline your insurance requirements to a sub.  The document is in Word and can be amended as needed to suit you or your clients’ needs. Work with a sub should never be initiated until the items requested in this letter are received and verified.

We hope you find these documents helpful!  Work smart and stay safe everyone! 

Managing COVID-19 Employment Practice-Related Exposure

We found this article, made available by Insurance Journal, most informative. The original content can be accessed by clicking here.

This post is part of a series sponsored by The Hanover Insurance Group.

As the pandemic continues, we’re seeing new COVID-19-related regulations, restrictions and advisories issued and adjusted by federal, state, and local officials on a regular basis. Each jurisdiction can create and enforce its own laws, leaving many employers faced with varying—and at times conflicting—orders and guidance. This creates a decision point for employers. Which should they follow? And, how can that decision impact their business?

From decisions about workplace safety, such as personal protective equipment, visitor policies and vaccine requirements, to handling work-from-home, family, and medical leave requests, there are a lot of business issues to sort through and a great deal of exposure, which could leave them open to the threat of an employment-related lawsuit. As trusted advisers to these businesses, independent agents can help guide their clients through the maze of regulations and guidance, sharing thoughtful risk management practices and key coverages to evaluate.

Growing threat of litigation

More than 2,000 COVID-related employment lawsuits have been filed already, and the number is expected to grow as businesses respond to ever-evolving circumstances. Business leaders can prepare by educating themselves and seeking out resources and guidance to navigate health, safety, and economic issues. Whether it’s subsequent waves, a change of jurisdictional guidance and/or regulations, or the availability of a vaccine, forward -thinking leaders will be well prepared to understand the options and their impact and make informed, proactive decisions.

With the pandemic, employers should be especially mindful of the following types of employment practice claims:

  • Workplace safety: Allegations of failure to provide a safe working environment
  • Discrimination: Allegations of age and disability bias in employment termination
  • Wage and hour: Allegations of failure to pay non-exempt employees for remote work or time spent completing employer-mandated COVID-19-realted health and safety activities, such as daily screenings
  • Retaliation: Allegations of retribution for complaints about workplace safety or use of medical leave

Thoughtful risk management

With questions like ‘can employees be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine?’, ‘how do we manage continued work-from-home requests?’, ‘what accommodations should be made for employees with disabilities?’, and ‘how do we address employees’ workplace safety concerns?’, it can be difficult for businesses to know where to start. Independent agents can play an important role in helping their clients think critically about their risks and take proactive steps. Similarly, top insurance carriers understand this, and have acted to provide employers with guidance and services that can help them minimize the risk of litigation.

For example, The Hanover has negotiated agreements with leading labor and employment practices firms to offer a range of services to Hanover policyholders that can help reduce the risk of employment practice lawsuits related to COVID-19. These value-added services are offered to policyholders no cost, or at a significant discount, such as:

Holistic insurance solution

  • COVID-19 return-to-work guide, including a robust testing and screening guide, sample policy language and detailed guidance on workplace safety, disability accommodations, and more
  • Family First Coronavirus Response Act compliance assistance, including sample policies, template forms, a flowchart for managing requests and attorney consultation
  • COVID-19 online training module for employees on personal hygiene practices and more
  • A COVID-19 customer information center with key information from the CDC, EEOPC, and state-specific resources

Beyond risk management, agents can help their clients by partnering with insurance carriers that offer employment practices liability insurance that can be tailored to the needs of each business.

As businesses wonder if they have adequate insurance protection, agents can help them understand their coverage and identify possible risk areas by considering these three important factors:

  1. Definitions: As agents know, not all definitions are created equal. Carefully assess definitions of wrongful acts to ensure a business’s unique risks are covered.
  2. Who to cover: Ensure coverage applies to the acts of all individuals who work at the organization. For example, does the business use contractors?
  3. Key coverage provisions: These should include punitive damages where insurable, and coverage for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or state equivalent proceedings.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, employers face increasing risks from employment-related lawsuits. Fortunately, agents can play an important role in guiding their business clients to risk management practices and coverages that help best protect their operations, their interests, and their employees.