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Human Resource Management in the News

HRM in the News is South-Western's service to provide summaries of the latest human resource management news stories. Review the brief summaries and, for stories of interest, select the full summary.
EMPLOYEE BENEFITS
Title  Brief Summary 
Decision Time on Same-Sex Benefits
Full Summary
The recent California Supreme Court ruling recognizing same-sex marriages is requiring employers throughout the U.S. to review their plans and make a decision on whether they will extend health care benefits to same-sex spouses.
(Updated August 2008)
Large Companies Hopping Aboard Medical Tourism
Full Summary
Medical tourism is a relatively new approach to health care in which patients with no or little insurance travel overseas for procedures that cost a fraction of what they would cost if they had them done in America. Some of these patients recover in five-star hotels and at beach resorts, combining their medical needs with a trip to see the world. What does this trend say about the future of health care in America?
(Updated August 2008)
More Workers Yanking Money Out of 401Ks
Full Summary
A recent increase in the occurrence of hardship withdrawals from 401(k) plans can be attributed to the dismal economy. Employers need to make sure their employees know the implications of taking money out of these accounts before the age of 59 ˝.
(Updated August 2008)
Expanded Leave Causes Complications
Full Summary
Family members of military personnel have just gained expanded rights for time off under the FMLA. HR professionals will need to coordinate these expanded rights with the requirements already in place in their individual states.
(Updated May 2008)
New DB Funding Rules Mean HR Needs to Do Its Homework Now
Full Summary
Under new IRS rules for defined-benefit plans, plan administrators must show that their plans are at least 80 percent funded in order to be allowed to give full disbursement of lump-sum distribution amounts. Plans that are funded at lesser amounts may even be frozen.
(Updated May 2008)
Paid Sick Leave Mandate Raises Employer Ire
Full Summary
A bill has been introduced in the Senate that would require companies with 15 or more employees to provide seven sick days each year for people who work at least 20 hours each week. Work/life advocates say the measure will reduce costs for businesses, while businesses are concerned that mandated paid sick days will increase their overall cost of doing business.
(Updated January 2008)
Integrating Benefits Programs can Cut Costs, Raise Productivity
Full Summary
Waste Management recently revamped its benefits program so that all employee benefits are more integrated. The goal of this integration is to provide better service, improve productivity, and reduce turnover. Other companies are looking for creative ways to control costs as they redesign their programs to focus on wellness and prevention.
(Updated July 2007)
Deal Made to Reform Workers’ Comp
Full Summary
The Governor of New York has negotiated a deal that will dramatically enhance the state’s workers’ compensation program. Employer costs will be cut by $800 million or more annually, while injured workers will receive a benefit pay hike.
(Updated June 2007)
DOL Review May be Harbinger of FMLA Expansion
Full Summary
The Family and Medical Leave Act is currently under review by the Department of Labor. The results of the review will likely be changes in the law, either expanding or curbing the leave policy.
(Updated April 2007)
Held Hostage by Health Care
Full Summary
Fear of losing health care coverage keeps people at jobs where they are not most productive. Could universal health care coverage be the answer?
(Updated April 2007)
Case Illustrates Lessons for ERISA Plan Sponsors
Full Summary
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that the retirement board has jurisdiction over retiree plans covered under ERISA. Disagreements with the way that the plans funds were disbursed at US Airways have highlighted that plan issues need to be fully explained in writing in order to protect against litigation.
(Updated December 2006)
FMLA Protected Leave May Reduce Bonus
Full Summary
In a recent decision, The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has held that an employer may reduce an employee’s bonus because of absence while the employee is on Family Medical Leave. The Court went on to differentiate between production and occurrence bonuses, specifying that only production bonuses could be fairly prorated.
(Updated December 2006)
Defining a Domestic Partner
Full Summary
More than 50% of Fortune 500 corporations now offer benefits for domestic partners, which benefits recruitment programs and provides fairness to all employees. Because these benefits are relatively new, the rules are inconsistent from one employer to the next.
(Updated November 2006)
Coming Soon: Additional Risk, Automatic Worker Enrollment, Allowing Firms to Give Advice
Full Summary
The 401(k) plan has gained importance as many large companies have closed down their pension plans and as the future of Social Security continues to looks uncertain. Yet, many Americans are not taking advantage of the funds available to them through their employer. A new law will allow companies to automatically enroll employees in their plans, increase their payroll deductions, steer them toward age-appropriate investment funds, and even provide them with advice.
(Updated October 2006)
Now Hear This
Full Summary
During open enrollment time, HR practitioners have the responsibility of explaining all changes to benefit plans and helping employees to make the right choices. Carefully planning the way that the message will be delivered can help the enrollment period go smoothly for everyone involved.
(Updated September 2006)
Students Seek Pay Packages Offering Security
Full Summary
Recent college graduates are still most interested in starting salary, but are giving increasing importance to the total pay package offered by companies. They are increasingly looking to employers for stability and security, and savvy recruiters and employers will need to be prepared.
(Updated September 2006)
Time is the Best Medicine in Making the Switch to Consumer-driven Health Coverage
Full Summary
Making the change to a high deductible consumer-directed health care plan can be a traumatic adjustment for employees who are used to more traditional medical coverage. Providing a long warning period and education can go a long way to minimize ill will among workers about the new plan.
(Updated August 2006)
How Will The U.S. Fill Its Benefit Gap?
Full Summary
U.S. employers have traditionally provided their workers with health care and pension benefits since World War II. But, with new global competition and pressures, many businesses are no longer providing for their employees as they used to. The real question facing America is how will the needs for benefits be met going forward?
(Updated May 2006)
AOL Founder Champions a Revolution
Full Summary
Steve Case's new venture in health care hinges on the fact that American companies are on the verge of a change in the way that they handle their health insurance for employees. The defined-contribution plan his company provides dramatically reduces employers' costs upfront, but could have future liabilities for large companies.
(Updated April 2006)
IBM’s Move to Freeze Pension Plan May Have Wider Impact
Full Summary
More companies are announcing freezes in traditional pension plan benefits, and shifting the risk of saving for retirement onto workers.
(Updated February 2006)
Wal-Mart to Expand Health Plan for Workers
Full Summary
Wal-Mart, the biggest employer in the United States has just unveiled a new health insurance plan with lower premiums that it hopes will allow more employees to afford coverage. However, the plan’s high deductible has many wondering if it will truly meet the needs of Wal-Mart’s low-paid workforce.
(Updated December 2005)
Pension Consultants Under the Microscope in Wake of Conflict-of-Interest Findings
Full Summary
Although pension consultants were originally hired to choose the best retirement investments for companies, several conflicts of interest have been uncovered, and pension consultants now have an increased risk of liability.
(Updated November 2005)
Dental Plans' Oral Argument
Full Summary
Dental plans are often treated as an afterthought within medical benefits. However, with new studies suggesting a connection between oral health and general health, companies are improving dental funding for their employees and seeing overall savings by emphasizing preventative care.
(Updated September 2005)
IBM Strives for the Security of Defined-Benefit Programs as It Shifts Focus to 401(k)s
Full Summary
After settling a multi-million dollar lawsuit, IBM replaced its previous retirement benefits with a 401(k) plan, and is now establishing industry standards with an increased focus on managed accounts, automated features and annuities.
(Updated July 2005)
The Lowdown on HSAs
Full Summary
HSAs, or Health Savings Accounts, are becoming popular supplements to traditional health insurance. The potential tax savings are significant, but eligibility rules and contribution limits are strict.
(Updated July 2005)
Workin' 9 to 2: Taking Steps to Make Part-Time Job Setups More Palatable
Full Summary
Part-time workers often find their paychecks have shrunk but the demands of the workplace remain the same. Some part-timers find themselves victims of "schedule creep," having to work more hours for less pay, while many others are sidetracked in their careers, with the assumption that they are not as dedicated as full-timers. Some law firms are pioneering new methods to make part-time work more palatable for employees and employers.
(Updated April 2005)
Turnover Is the New Enemy at One of America's Oldest Restaurant Chains
Full Summary
Steak n Shake's new CEO has implemented a plan to improve turnover in restaurants and improve customer satisfaction. The efforts are paying off, saving millions of dollars every year and increasing the rate of new-store openings.
(Updated February 2005)
M.D.: It's Your Prerogative to Make Sure Employees Take Time Off
Full Summary
Employees should be encouraged to take their vacation time. After a vacation, employees find their work more interesting and become more efficient at their jobs, and the rate of absenteeism and time lost on the job actually decreases.
(Updated February 2005)
Addressing Women's Retirement Needs
Full Summary
Women face special challenges when it comes to retirement planning, including longer life expectancy and cultural challenges that decrease their retirement earning potential. Companies like Weyerhauser are modeling approaches to financial education that can help improve awareness of special needs.
(Updated February 2005)
Clinics Treat Workers, Trim Companies' Costs
Full Summary
Companies are offering a new benefit to their employees: on-site clinics that can handle preventative and ongoing medical care. The clinics provide a convenience for employees and are saving employers money.
(Updated January 2005)
Gain in Employer Costs for Health Care Slows
Full Summary
The alarming rate of increase for companies' health care costs seems to be slowing. Employer costs for health care rose just 7.5% in 2004 and are expected to rise at an even lower percentage as workers pay more for their health care coverage.
(Updated January 2005)
Flexible Schedules Benefit Employees in the Appleton, Wis. Area
Full Summary
Flexible schedules don't cost much to implement and can benefit both employers and employees.
(Updated November 2004)
Health-Insurance Options May Trim Premiums By Up To 50 Percent, Experts Claim
Full Summary
Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs for short, provide a new health insurance option that attempts to lower employers' costs of medical benefits by making consumers pay a bigger portion of their bills.
(Updated October 2004)
San Diego Biotechnology Firm Offers A Cost-Free Benefit: Days Off
Full Summary
As costs for benefits increase, companies are looking for ways to provide competitive benefits for their employees that don't break the bank. Ideas like the 9/80 workweeks at Gen-Probe, a biotechnology firm in San Diego, are finding favor with employees and corporations.
(Updated October 2004)
Some Texas Firms Start Wellness Programs to Encourage Healthier Workers
Full Summary
With the cost of hospital and prescription drugs rising, the hot trend in corporate benefits is wellness programs. These programs are difficult to define because they are being implemented differently by different employers.
(Updated October 2004)
Elder Care Has Impact on Employers
Full Summary
As the baby boomers age, the U.S. will have more elderly residents, and their caregivers will often have jobs to go to. Employers are finding that providing help to employees who care for elderly parents benefits both the employee and the employer.
(Updated September 2004)
Married Or Not, Gays Gain Partner Coverage
Full Summary
Employers have been looking into the expense of offering health benefits to their employees who have same sex domestic partners. More and more companies are offering the coverage, not because a court order tells them to, but because it makes good business sense.
(Updated 08/01/04)
We're Skipping Vacations in Lieu of Working More
Full Summary
Surprisingly, Americans are not taking the vacation time that they are due. In 2004 it is estimated that 415 million vacation days will go unused in the United States. According to Expedia.com, more than 30 per cent of Americans don't take all the vacation time they have coming.
(Updated 08/01/04)
Benefits Cost Control Solutions to Consider Now
Full Summary
Health-care costs will continue to rise in 2004. The forecast is for combined health-care and drug costs to be up 12% to 15% from last year. Benefits managers now view the double digit increases as normal and are ready to move on to planning how to manage the new increases.
(Updated 03/01/04)
Early-Retirement Offers That Work Too Well
Full Summary
In 2003, Verizon Communications wanted to reduce its workforce. Instead of an expected 12,000 employees taking advantage of this lucrative offer, 21,000 did. This article explores other ways to offer retirement incentives without losing so many workers at one time.
(Updated 02/01/04)
Paycheck Plus
Full Summary
Today employees expect benefits and perks with their full-time jobs. However, it has been a struggle to get and maintain those benefits and they vary from employer to employer.
(Updated 02/01/04)
401(k) Matches Cut in Bad Times are Slow to be Restored
Full Summary
A harsh economic climate has impacted business profits so that companies are looking for new ways to save money. One way is to reduce or eliminate company matching contributions to employees' 401(k) plans. Once the company has eliminated this expense, it is often in no hurry to restore it.
(Updated 12/01/03)
The Battle Over Benefits
Full Summary
The cost of health care is strangling companies, prompting strikes, and leaving an increasing number of Americans without any coverage at all. Some companies are coping, but experts fear that a sick system will have to come close to collapse before there is reform.
(Updated 12/01/03)
Waiting for the Call: Employer Obligations and Employee Rights When an Employee Goes to War
Full Summary
The military buildup in the Middle East has resulted in an increase in the number of workplace requests for military leaves of absence. Managers should be aware of their legal rights and obligations.
(Updated 09/02/03)
Vacation: Don't Be a Chump
Full Summary
When employees don't use their vacation time, is it good for the company, or bad? This article discusses why vacations are important, and how the U.S. stacks up against other countries on vacation policies.
(Updated 09/02/03)
Eli Lilly Extends Health Benefits to Employees' Domestic Partners
Full Summary
Eli Lilly and Co. will begin offering health and other benefits to unmarried domestic partners of its U.S. employees and retirees. The response to this decision has been mixed.
(Updated 7/31/03)
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