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Why ‘Time Off’ Is the Hottest 2024 Employee Benefits Trend!

Why ‘Time Off’ Is the Hottest 2024 Employee Benefits Trend!

The world of employee benefits is transforming significantly due to changing work dynamics and post-pandemic employee needs. There’s no question that COVID-19 reshaped the way we work. In addition to changing what day-to-day work life looks like, the pandemic shone a spotlight on adaptable benefits, particularly ‘Time Off.’ This could be good news.

Although many companies embrace the changes that occurred then, such as remote work and flexible schedules, others pine for a return to “normalcy.” Some are adopting a middle-ground “hybrid” approach as a sort of compromise.

As businesses navigate the changing tides, understanding the importance of time off is crucial. It goes a long way toward ensuring employee well-being, productivity, and satisfaction.

Here at Launchways, we take a closer look at this fascinating trend.

Changing Priorities in Employee Benefit Trends

The pandemic reshaped the understanding of traditional employee benefits, highlighting the emergence of ‘Time Off’ as a critical aspect. In a landscape fluctuating between remote, hybrid, and office setups, recognizing the value of time away from work has become essential. 

It’s more than just vacations; it’s about meeting the evolving needs of a workforce seeking flexibility, mental health support, and work-life balance.

Addressing Post-Pandemic Employee Needs

Employees’ needs have transformed post-pandemic, with mental health concerns rising sharply alongside the demand for flexible work arrangements. These concerns significantly affect workforce productivity, with an estimated global loss of 12 billion workdays annually to depression and anxiety, costing about $1 trillion.

Both companies and workers look for answers. Unfortunately, many are unaware of their options, and many more need help navigating them.

Simplifying Time-Off Laws and Regulations

Navigating paid leave laws like Paid Family Leave (PFL) alongside existing ones such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has become more complex. Changes in state regulations, like those in Oregon and Colorado, add confusion. 

Managing Family and Medical Leave (FML) can be tricky, requiring a knowledgeable HR team to ensure compliance and guide employees through the process.

Prioritizing Employee Understanding and Accessibility

Educating employees about their rights under FMLA is crucial. When employees know how to request leave and what documents are required, they’re more likely to seek help when needed. Ensuring job security upon return and providing a simple process to request FMLA, integrated with other benefits, is essential for consistency and ease.

Offering ‘Time Off’ as a Premier Benefit

‘Time Off’ has expanded its role in employee benefits, directly impacting employee satisfaction, retention, and overall well-being. To ensure more accessible access to FML (Family and Medical Leave), simplifying the request process by integrating it with other employee benefits, like 401K, payroll deductions, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), proves effective. A unified platform or system that merges FML with these benefits streamlines accessibility. 

Employing standardized software prevents inconsistencies, which is vital for large employers managing different regional accesses, promoting uniformity in FML availability. This approach eliminates barriers and enhances access to crucial leave benefits.

Offering ample vacation time isn’t just a perk; it’s an investment in workforce health and productivity. But how can your company effectively manage employee time off in these complex times?

Strategies for Effective Time-Off Management

Adapting HR strategies is vital to meet evolving workforce preferences. Customizable leave policies, automation, and technology-driven solutions streamline leave management, optimizing workforce productivity.

HR’s Responsibility in Effective Policy Implementation

HR leaders are crucial in aligning policies with employee needs and business goals. Educating employees, ensuring compliance, and fostering an equitable work environment are essential components.

Prioritizing ‘Time Off’ for a Thriving Workforce

Ample leave reduces burnout, enhances mental health, and boosts employee satisfaction, positively impacting organizational performance.

Challenges and Solutions in Embracing ‘Time Off’

Managing time off amid changing laws requires clear guidelines and simplified processes, ensuring employees understand their rights.

Key Takeaways

‘Time Off’ has evolved into a cornerstone of modern employee benefits. Recognizing its impact on well-being, productivity, and organizational success is crucial. Businesses must embrace and prioritize this evolving benefit to cultivate a resilient workforce in the post-pandemic era.

  • Prioritize understanding employee needs for flexibility and mental health support.
  • Educate employees about FMLA rights for easy access to support when needed.
  • Integrate FMLA request processes with other benefits for consistency and simplicity.
  • Recognize the strategic value of ‘Time Off’ in fostering a healthier, more productive workforce.

As time passes, it becomes increasingly evident that change is here to stay. The “new normal” requires a degree of flexibility. We at Launchways intend to remain up-to-date and will ensure our clients remain informed.

Choose Wisely: Zillennial’s Guide to Open Enrollment Success

Choose Wisely: Zillennial’s Guide to Open Enrollment Success

It’s that time of the year again – open enrollment. Sure, for “Zillennials” (the micro-generation that falls between Generation Z and Millennials), talking about benefits and paperwork might not be the most exciting thing. 

Trust me, though; getting it right can make a difference. Let’s dive into some key strategies for this age group to navigate open enrollment success.

Understanding Zillennial Perspectives on Open Enrollment

Zillennials tend to want things quick, digital, and hassle-free. The days of lengthy paperwork and confusing benefit structures are a thing of the past. Today’s new employees value benefits that align with their lifestyles and aspirations. So, for open enrollment success for Zillennials, let’s keep it streamlined and relevant.

Plus, let’s talk tech. Zillennials grew up in the digital era, and they’re not afraid to embrace it. Automated solutions and user-friendly interfaces are their thing. When choosing benefits, they appreciate platforms that make the process straightforward, allowing them to make informed decisions without the headache.

Open Enrollment Challenges for Zillennials

One of the challenges often faced today is information overload. So many options and so many details – it can get overwhelming. 

Plus, have you ever tried to enroll in benefits using a clunky interface? It’s like trying to order food from a confusing menu. When it’s complicated, they’re out. 

Clear communication is critical. Employers, break down open enrollment for Zillenials. Simplify the jargon and highlight what matters most. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it. Zillennials thrive on simplicity.  

User-friendly interfaces also make the process smoother, ensuring they can get in, get their benefits sorted, and get back to what they do best – living their lives.

Leveraging Automation for Open Enrollment Success 

Let’s talk about the game-changer – automation. Automated HR services are like having a personal guide through the benefits maze. They streamline the process, provide real-time assistance, and ensure Zillennials don’t miss opportunities. Plus, these servives fit perfectly into their fast-paced lives.

Automation isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a friend that simplifies complex tasks. Personalize the experience, highlight the options that align with their needs, and let them make decisions at their own pace. It’s all about empowerment.

A Step-by-Step Guide for Zillennials

Step 1: Know What You Need

Before diving into benefits, understand your needs. Are you focused on health coverage, planning for the future, or looking for perks that fit your lifestyle? Knowing this sets the stage for a successful open enrollment experience.

Step 2: Explore Your Options

Don’t settle for the default. Explore the available benefits. There might be hidden gems like wellness programs, flexible spending accounts, or lifestyle perks. Choose what resonates with you and adds value to your life.

Step 3: Seek Guidance When Needed

If you’re feeling lost, don’t hesitate to seek guidance. Reach out to your HR department, use available resources, or leverage automated assistance. Remember, open enrollment success can feel like a significant moment – make the most of it.

The Takeaway

To ensure open enrollment success, choosing wisely is the key for Zillennials. Keep instructions simple, embrace technology, and prioritize clear communication. 

In the world of information overload, clarity is everything. When communicating benefits, keep it concise. Break down the details into digestible chunks. Remember, Zillennials are more likely to engage with content that respects their time.

Use contemporary tools. From benefit calculators to decision-support tools, nteractive tools make the process engaging and informative. During open enrollment, guide Zillennials through the options interactively. It’s like having a conversation, minus the confusion.

Tailoring open enrollment for Zillennials isn’t just about the present; it’s an investment in the future. Companies that understand their needs today build a foundation for lasting employee satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity.With the right benefits consultant by your side, open enrollment success for this demographic is not just a goal – it’s a reality. Let’s make benefits work for us, not the other way around.

Open Enrollment: Helping Employees Find the Right Fit

Open Enrollment: Helping Employees Find the Right Fit

Open enrollment season has arrived. It’s that time of year when employees have the opportunity to select benefits that will shape their financial future. In today’s economic landscape, marked by record-high inflation, the significance of financial and healthcare benefits cannot be overstated. Many employees are feeling the pinch as out-of-pocket healthcare costs rise. They face increasing financial burdens.

As employers, you have a crucial role in helping your workforce make informed choices during open enrollment. In your arsenal, you have two powerful tools: the HSA and the FSA.

Understanding these options can significantly impact your employees’ financial well-being and satisfaction. Here, we’ll explore what an HSA and an FSA are, how they differ, and how you can assist employees in selecting the benefits that best suit their needs. For more information, you can contact us at Launchways.

What Is an HSA?

A Health Savings Account, or HSA, is an employee-owned account where all funds belong to the employee. The critical point is that even if employees change jobs or retire, the HSA and its funds remain in their possession.

Both employees and employers can contribute to an HSA, and contributions are considered pre-tax. For 2024, HSA contribution limits will increase to an all-time high. This makes it an attractive option for saving money. Employees can adjust their contribution amount throughout the year. Plus, when necessary, they can forego funding the account initially and choose to contribute later.

One of the distinguishing features of an HSA is its potential for saving money for healthcare expenses in retirement. Additionally, employees can invest a portion of their unused HSA funds. This makes it an attractive option for those looking to maximize their savings and investments.

What Is an FSA?

A Flexible Spending Account, or FSA, differs in some key ways. The employer owns an FSA. Any unused funds will be forfeited back to the employer if an employee quits or retires. This can be a significant drawback compared to the HSA, which allows employees to keep their funds even after they leave their jobs.

Both employees and employers can contribute to an FSA. Contributions are made through pre-tax payroll deductions. FSA contribution limits typically have a lower cap compared to HSAs.

Helping Employees Choose the Best Benefits

As an employer, you can play a crucial role in guiding employees through the open enrollment process. Here are some key considerations to help employees make informed decisions:

  1. Account Ownership and Contributions: Many employees may not even know which type of account they are enrolled in. Help them understand the key differences.
  2. Savings Potential: Both FSAs and HSAs allow employees to reduce their taxable income. They do this by contributing pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible healthcare expenses. Highlight the savings potential of both accounts.
  3. Expanded Eligibility Rules: Help employees understand the eligibility rules for FSAs and HSAs. Ensure they are aware that many wellness items and everyday expenses can be purchased with tax-free funds. Encourage employees to think beyond traditional healthcare expenses. They can use their accounts for items like over-the-counter medication and high-tech health devices.
  4. Deadline or Not: Clearly explain the crucial difference between an FSA and an HSA when it comes to the deadline for spending. FSAs have an annual deadline, while HSA funds can roll over from year to year.

In Conclusion

Open enrollment allows employees to make choices that impact their financial well-being. As an employer, your role is to provide clear information and guidance. You can empower your employees to make informed decisions that will benefit them throughout the coming year. 

By understanding the differences between HSAs and FSAs, you can help employees find the right fit. One of the critical distinctions between an HSA and an FSA is the rollover of funds.

While HSA funds can roll over from year to year, ensuring that employees don’t lose their savings, FSA funds have a deadline for spending. This deadline is December 31 for most organizations, although it can vary based on the plan year.

Furthermore, it’s essential to clearly communicate any FSA deadline extensions. A partial rollover of unused funds, a grace period extending 2.5 months after the plan year ends, or a run-out period can make a difference.

To further ensure a smooth and satisfactory open enrollment process, contact Launchways. We offer solutions.

Securing Retirement: Is Your Company Ready for SECURE 2.0?

Securing Retirement: Is Your Company Ready for SECURE 2.0?

The Retirement Savings Crisis

The Securing a Strong Retirement Act, also known as SECURE Act 2.0, was signed into place in December 2022. This law introduced new rules and requirements for retirement plans, all aimed at helping Americans save more money for their retirement. This comes as good news for working Americans who worry that they won’t have enough money when they retire.

A 2021 report from the National Institute for Retirement Security highlighted how a lot of U.S. workers are concerned about their retirement savings. It showed that most people believe there’s a real crisis, and many fear they will have to work beyond the age of retirement just to survive. For them, the new rules from SECURE Act 2.0 could be considered a lifesaver. 

Unfortunately, however, they are causing real challenges for organizations. Those who rely on manual processes to make sure they remain compliant may find them especially challenging. 

The new regulations will be enforced starting on December 31, 2024. That means organizations need to get ready pretty quickly. 

Understanding SECURE Act 2.0

To better understand these new rules and what organizations need to do to prepare, let’s take a closer look at the details.

  • Section 101: Automatic enrollment is required for all new 401(k) and 403(b) plans implemented after December 29, 2022. Additionally, enrollment must be set between 3% and 10% of the employee’s pay and increased by 1% each year until it reaches 10% to 15%.
  • Section 125: Reduced eligibility requirements for 401(k) plans make it easier for part-time workers to join 401(k) plans. Instead of three years, employees must have worked at least two consecutive years, with at least 500 hours of work each.
  • Section 603: Catch-up contributions are available for individuals 50 years or older, who earned over $145,000 last year. It allows them to classify catch-up contributions as Roth contributions. This offers significant tax benefits. 

Unfortunately, these changes make it more complicated for companies needing to update their systems to handle these new rules.

Overcoming Implementation Challenges

Following these new rules can be really hard for smaller organizations because they have to do a lot of things manually. Unfortunately, the manual approach makes it more likely that human error in the process will go unnoticed until it’s too late. The potential consequence of this oversight can be extreme. Your company could face fines for even one tracking error.

Therefore, it’s vital to begin preparing for compliance immediately if you are affected by SECURE Act 2.0’s Section 125 and/or Section 603. 

Does your company have the necessary technology in place to face this and the other challenges it faces?

Technology Solutions for Compliance

To ensure compliance, companies require the right technology. They need to be able to transfer a lot of data between their systems and the retirement plan providers’ systems. This includes payroll details and other sensitive personal identifiable information (PII). 

Companies can choose from various methods including:

  • Manual Data Entry 
  • SFTP 
  • Custom Integrations 
  • Unified employment APIs

Each has its benefits. The more automated the system is, the more accurate it is. The simpler and less expensive the method is, the more likely it is to result in costly mistakes. 

Getting help from professional retirement advisors can help you assess your options and make the right choice for your company.

The Role of Retirement Advisors

Ideally, you should be planning and securing the support and tools you’ll need for 2.0 now. To ensure your company’s retirement landscape remains compliant, consider seeking the assistance of a professional retirement advisor. Advisors can:

  • Inform you of important deadlines and keep you on track.
  • Help you choose the right retirement plans.
  • Explain what your company needs to do to follow the rules.
  • Ensure compliance and safeguard you from legal consequences.
  • Recommend tools to make sure the company is ready for the changes.

The right retirement advisor can be a valuable asset for companies wishing to identify and avoid potential pitfalls before SECURE Act 2.0 goes into effect. 

A Final Note

With a looming retirement crisis, the need for change is apparent. SECURE Act 2.0 aims to provide opportunities for US workers to save for a secure retirement. Unfortunately, the manual processes used by many organizations present an increased risk of errors that could result in non-compliance. 

Therefore, it is essential for plan providers and employers to begin enlisting support and implementing the correct technology to automate their systems. With the right resources, you should be able to seamlessly integrate your systems, reduce errors, and ensure compliance with SECURE Act 2.0–effectively and on time.

FMLA Compliance: Your HR Department Checklist

FMLA Compliance: Your HR Department Checklist

For many people, the workplace is their home away from home. For others, work is conducted from home. Regardless of whether you have a traditional work day or enjoy a remote or hybrid work schedule, you occasionally need a little flexibility in your life. During those times of need, many turn to FMLA to provide a bit of breathing room.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that offers eligible employees of certain employers the right to take unpaid, protected leave for specific family and medical reasons. Covered employers must also maintain employees’ health benefits during this leave and guarantee their return to the same or equivalent positions afterward.

Many companies are subject to FMLA. These consist of public agencies and public or private schools, regardless of size. It also includes private-sector employers that have 50 or more employees during 20 or more workweeks in the year. 

If your company falls under FMLA’s jurisdiction, this useful checklist can help ensure your compliance with FMLA. 

FMLA Requirements

If your company falls under FMLA jurisdiction, you are required to display the FMLA poster where employees and applicants can easily see it. You can either use the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) model poster or create your own.

You should also provide your employees with general notice about FMLA leave in the employee handbook. You can use the DOL’s model as an example. Your written materials regarding leave and benefits must contain all of the same information as the DOL’s model.

You are also required to maintain records related to FMLA compliance for at least three years.

Administering FMLA 

The steps for administering leave are fairly straightforward. You should have an established method for tracking FMLA leave usage, including intermittent or reduced scheduled leave. You can create your own forms for administering FMLA leaves or use the DOL’s model forms.

Train your managers on FMLA compliance. They should be able to identify qualifying leave requests. It is also important that they understand the laws prohibiting interference and retaliation for requesting or taking leave.

Determining Eligibility for FMLA Leave

Eligibility for leave is based on specific criteria, the reason for the request, and whether the employee has available FMLA leave. To be eligible, an employee must meet the following requirements: 

• Work for a company covered by the FMLA

• Worked for the company for at least 12 months

• Worked at least 1,250 hours for the company during the 12 months prior

• Works at a company with at least 50 employees

Qualifying reasons include caring for a newborn or adopting a child, dealing with a serious health condition, and military-related exigencies.

Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks within a 12-month period.

Leave Process

Employers have the right to request a doctor’s note if an employee needs time off due to their own or a family member’s severe health issue. You can also ask for certification if the leave is related to military family matters. The Department of Labor (DOL) has standard forms like Form WH-381 that you can use for this purpose. 

When an employee asks for leave, they should be told about this requirement. If medical certification is needed, they should be given the proper form along with the Notice of Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities. They should have up to 15 calendar days to return it. 

The Designation Notice states whether you decide to approve or decline FMLA leave. It should be given within five business days of the leave request (or when the certification is submitted if needed). You can use the DOL’s standard Designation Notice (Form WH-382) for this.

In Conclusion

As responsible employers, it’s vital to uphold certain standards to support your employees during their Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) journeys. It’s essential to remember that the specifics of FMLA compliance can differ based on unique situations and the presence of state or local regulations. This commitment to FMLA compliance not only benefits your employees but also strengthens your company’s commitment to their well-being and job security. You can use this as a guide to ensure the best support to your employees during their time of need. Review your company’s FMLA compliance, check out The 7 Steps for FMLA Compliance, and contact Launchways for further assistance.

Mental Health Ranks Highest in 2024 Workplace Trends

In recent years, the workplace landscape has undergone significant changes, largely influenced by the unprecedented events of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we approach 2024, a new trend has emerged that is taking precedence in the minds of corporate leaders and HR professionals alike: mental health. 

Businesses have seen workers dealing with mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, or having problems with substance abuse. Unfortunately, the problem has worsened. In 2023, employers reporting mental health problems among their employees rose from 44% to 77%. As many as 16% believe the problem will continue to get worse.

Mental health concerns are not only impacting the employees of large corporations but also smaller businesses. To deal with this in 2024, employers are exploring strategies to prepare for mental health challenges that lie ahead for businesses of all sizes.

Mental Health Issues Also Affect Smaller Businesses

The growing awareness of mental health issues is not confined to large corporations; it extends its reach to smaller businesses as well. In fact, mental wellness challenges are often felt more acutely in smaller organizations due to limited resources and support systems. 

Several factors contribute to the impact of mental health on smaller businesses:

Close-knit Work Environments: Smaller businesses often have a more familial atmosphere, which can be both a strength and a weakness. While it fosters strong bonds among employees, it also means that mental health issues are more visible and can have a cascading effect on team dynamics.

Limited Resources: Smaller businesses may lack the financial resources to invest in comprehensive mental health programs or hire dedicated mental health professionals. This limitation can make it challenging to provide adequate support to employees dealing with mental health concerns.

Stress and Workload: In smaller teams, a single employee’s absence or reduced productivity can significantly impact the overall workload. This can lead to heightened stress levels and burnout, further exacerbating mental health issues.

Lack of Awareness: Smaller businesses may not have the same level of awareness and education regarding mental health as larger corporations. This can result in a lack of understanding and a failure to recognize the signs of mental health challenges.

Given these factors, it is evident that mental wellness concerns are not limited to a specific company size or industry. Smaller businesses are equally affected, and addressing mental health issues is imperative for fostering a healthy workplace environment and sustaining employee well-being.

How Can Companies Prepare for Health Care Challenges Ahead?

As mental health takes center stage in corporate concerns heading into 2024, companies of all sizes must proactively prepare for the healthcare challenges that lie ahead. Here are some strategies that organizations can adopt to address mental health and promote mental wellness:

Create a Stigma-Free Environment

One of the first steps in addressing mental health in the workplace is to create a stigma-free environment. Encourage open conversations about mental wellness and ensure employees feel safe discussing their challenges without fear of judgment. This can be achieved through awareness campaigns, workshops, and training programs.

Implement Mental Health Programs

Offering mental health programs and resources is crucial. These programs can include Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), counselling services, stress management workshops, and access to mental health professionals. Companies should invest in these resources to provide employees with needed support.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options and flexible hours, can help employees better manage their mental health. These arrangements provide the flexibility to balance work with personal life and mental wellness.

Training for Managers

Managers play a pivotal role in supporting employees’ mental health. Provide training to managers on recognizing signs of mental health issues, having empathetic conversations, and connecting employees with appropriate resources.

Employee Wellness Initiatives

Wellness initiatives encompassing physical, mental, and emotional well-being can significantly impact. Encourage activities such as mindfulness and meditation sessions, fitness programs, and wellness challenges to promote overall health.

Evaluate Health Insurance Plans

Review and enhance health insurance plans to provide comprehensive coverage for mental health services. Ensure employees have access to mental health professionals and treatment without financial barriers.

Regular Surveys and Feedback Loops

Establish regular surveys and feedback mechanisms to gauge employee well-being and gather insights into the effectiveness of mental health initiatives. Use this data to refine and improve programs.

Inclusivity and Diversity

Promote inclusivity and diversity in the workplace, as a diverse workforce can bring unique perspectives and experiences related to mental wellness. Ensure that inclusivity is a core value of the company culture.

Encourage Work-Life Balance

Encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Discourage overworking and emphasize the importance of taking time off when needed.

The Takeaway

As we approach 2024, mental health has risen to the forefront of corporate concerns, affecting both large and smaller businesses. Recognizing the significance of mental health in the workplace is the first step toward creating a healthier and more productive work environment.

Companies can prepare for the healthcare challenges ahead by adopting a holistic approach that includes destigmatization, the implementation of mental health programs, flexible work arrangements, manager training, wellness initiatives, improved insurance coverage, employee feedback mechanisms, and a commitment to inclusivity and work-life balance.

In the evolving landscape of corporate priorities, mental health and human resources professionals have a vital role in fostering mental wellness and ensuring that employees thrive professionally and personally. By addressing mental health challenges head-on, companies can build a healthier, more engaged workforce and better equipped to navigate the demands of the modern workplace.