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How to Keep Participants in the Plan After Retirement

According to Vanguard’s most recent How America Saves1 survey, which looks at Americans’ retirement savings habits, 80 percent of participants eligible to take a distribution chose to preserve their assets for retirement. According to the survey, 62 percent of plans allow retirees to take installments, 32 percent allow for partial ad hoc withdrawals (more than double from five years ago), and only 2 percent force retirees out after a certain age.

Many Plan Sponsors, particularly those with plans over $1 billion, realize the value of asset retention, which improves purchasing power and can lead to fee savings. A PLANSPONSOR survey2 reports that half of Plan Sponsors in the over $1 billion category prefer terminated employees with material balances remain in the plan. Plan Sponsors of smaller plans are beginning to take cues from their larger counterparts.

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Should Employees “Check Their Baggage at the Door?”

World Mental Health Day 2020 is October 10, and many workplaces are re-thinking the old notion of “checking baggage at the door.” This practice came from a belief that work was work, home was home, and the only thing separating them was the commute. It was also centered on the belief that mental health issues were shameful and should be hidden from view at the workplace. This fear relates to the stigma associated with mental illness and the belief that vulnerabilities may impact career mobility.

Now enter the land of COVID-19 and workplaces are re-thinking this position. The line between work and home has been turned upside down by the pandemic, making it challenging on a number of fronts. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll1, more than half of Americans report that the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health. While at least one in five employees typically suffers from a behavioral health condition, many more now feel down or anxious about the pandemic. With so many people suffering in this way, does it make sense to just ignore it? What are the benefits and risks of acknowledging mental health issues and embracing them?

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Breast Cancer Screening – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States.1 It’s important to educate your employees about the disease and that early detection is an important factor in the success of breast cancer treatment

Early Detection
The type and frequency of breast cancer screening that is best for you changes as you age. Talk with your doctor about how often you should have a breast exam, and when you should start having mammograms.

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Seven Steps for Creating a Corporate Family-Caregiving Strategy During COVID-19

The first version of this piece appeared on NEEBC’s blog in June 2019. When I submitted it for inclusion, I did not imagine that it would be one of the most popular blogs on NEEBC’s site that year. Recently, NEEBC asked me to update the blog to reflect how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted a company’s ability to create a care culture. Read on.

Introduction
The Coronavirus Pandemic has launched companies and employees into a time of unprecedented change and uncertainty. For months now, human resources and benefits departments have been overwhelmed by the questions and challenging circumstances their employees have as the demands of work and family life collide like never before. Employees are grappling with the challenges of caring for children who may not be attending school or daycare like they are used to, family members who are ill with COVID-19 or other conditions, and what feel like diminishing opportunities to balance their own physical and mental well-being.

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Connecting your employees to valuable health & wellness benefits

For many employers, annual enrollment season is fast approaching. You’ve likely made hundreds of decisions and spent an exorbitant amount of effort to optimize your spend while providing the best benefits package to employees. Why? Because benefits matter. They matter for a variety of outcomes that employers seek – like employee attraction and retention, improved health outcomes, total well-being, and overall satisfaction. But, we know the average employee spends only 17 minutes on their annual enrollment activities1. So, how do you get your employees to pay attention (or even notice) your benefits? We recommend getting them to focus on the most impactful and valuable benefits first.

Our research
At Fidelity Investments®, we have spent the past year conducting and analyzing research on how employers and employees value their benefits. We analyzed the data from many perspectives (recruitment, retention, well-being), but for this discussion, let’s focus on the benefits that impacted employee well-being.

When we looked specifically at health, wellness and work-life benefits, we found that there were seven key benefits that offered an increase in well-being just by being offered, regardless of utilization. A different set of seven benefits required employees to use them to get a meaningful boost to their well-being.


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Building a Successful Wellness Strategy – Columbia’s Well-being Program Boasts 74% Participation Rate

Columbia, headquartered in North Reading, Massachusetts, is known for its high level of client service and project management expertise. Founded in 1925, the company has an annual volume of over $400 million and ranks among the largest construction firms in Massachusetts. Columbia works closely with its clients to create environments and buildings that promote and support employee health. It is equally important to Columbia’s management team that its own employees enjoy a healthy and supportive work environment.

The Program
Columbia wanted to launch a wellness initiative that would engage 60% of its employees and offer diverse wellness content to promote a happy, healthy, engaged culture. Columbia worked with Wellness Workdays to develop and launch a customized program, Columbia thrives, that focuses on nutrition, physical activity, financial well-being and emotional wellness.

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Updated Regulations Under MA Paid Family and Medical Leave Law

The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) released updated regulations under the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Law (MAPFML). The updated regulations (458 CMR 2.00), effective 7/24/2020, can be viewed here.  

The National Law Review's summary of the most significant changes included in the updated regulations can be viewed here.

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Encourage Your Employees to Get Necessary Care During the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has completely changed the medical care landscape over the past few months. It has particularly affected outpatient care. Understandably, patients are avoiding doctors and hospitals due to fears that they could become infected with COVID-19. But health care providers are now stressing the importance of continuing to seek medical care in urgent or emergency situations.

Here’s what you need to know about declining health care visits and the signs and symptoms that require emergency care.

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What your Benefits’ Voice Says to Employees: “We Care about Your Wellbeing”

As more and more unprecedented pandemic and social-unrest milestones drench our organizations’ culture, Benefits professionals are uniquely and consummately positioned to make a difference for your workforce.

Despite these crises, we have already-budgeted resources and messages that programmatically communicate to employees that we care about their wellbeing. Using some of the following suggestions, things we communicate are the best support to leaders for demonstrating their understanding of the challenging, often painful and distracting, circumstances faced by your workforce today.

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Make an Impact This Annual Enrollment - Communicating effectively during the COVID-19 Crisis

There is more going on this annual enrollment than in past years. New factors are at play that will influence employees’ benefit decisions. As you begin your planning, it’s important to start by reflecting on the current situation with all that it entails (i.e. telecommuting, increased anxiety, job security concerns, etc.) and understand how it affects your employees and adapt your approach accordingly.

Here are 5 tips to consider before rolling out your annual enrollment communications:

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Supercharge Your 2020 Open Enrollment Season With Financial Wellbeing Benefits

Open Enrollment will soon be upon us. With the state of the world today, it’s essential that employees make the right choices to protect themselves and their families for the coming year (or longer). 

Many employers think of workplace financial wellbeing in the post-paycheck sense: spending, saving, budgeting, and staying out of debt. However, Open Enrollment is when the pre-paycheck money magic happens. Are you leveraging financial wellbeing to educate your employees about their benefits? Help employees – both active and furloughed – feel financially empowered about the big benefits decisions ahead by engaging all employees this fall. Here’s what to look for in a financial wellbeing program that will really move the needle during the upcoming 2020 Open Enrollment season.

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The Traditional Benefits Fair Goes Virtual

A tried-and-true technique for annual enrollment education has been the benefits fair. Employees love them for getting the information they need, along with some freebies.  Unfortunately, benefits fairs don’t lend themselves to a public health crisis where people are working remotely, social distancing is the norm and congregating in groups is curtailed.  

One option to consider is the virtual benefits fair.  Tech-enabled benefits fairs aren’t new. They take advantage of applications that can host multiple types of content as well as live and recorded events to build on the best components of an in-person fair. 

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5 Ways to Engage Men in Corporate Wellness

Gender disparities in the workplace usually center around income inequality or glass ceiling inequities; however, men are less likely to fully participate in an employer-offered wellness program than women. A white paper written by the health services company Optum reported that women take advantage of workplace health screenings, weight management, health coaching, and web-based wellness programs more frequently than men. The survey reports men are more likely to get employer-sponsored flu shots and participate in smoking cessation programs. So, what steps can you take to engage men in your wellness program, especially now that so many employees are working remotely?

 

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How HSAs can help during a pandemic: The CARES Act and its impact on HSAs

As consumers struggle with the economic squeeze that the COVID-19 pandemic has put on their finances, it’s important for employers to communicate how their employees’ benefits may have been impacted by recent government relief efforts. This includes changes incurred by the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and its impact on Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

Over-the-counter products are now eligible expenses

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After the Pandemic: 12 Challenges for Managers

As with many workplace issues, managers and supervisors occupy a place on the front lines of each workplace. They are responsible for directing and supervising day-to-day work and may be the only ones to lay eyes on employees. Managing remotely has created many challenges and there will be new challenges when employees return to the workplace. At this point, how to address those may involve more questions than answers.

Since most of us have not experienced a pandemic, what we know about managing them comes from research into past traumatic events. Some patterns of behavior and impact are common to epidemics such as SARS, H1N1, and various flu epidemics. We also learned something about return to work issues post-9/11. History has shown that businesses need to anticipate workforce problems as people return to work. Here are 12 challenges that managers and supervisors may face in the future.

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Four Ways Employers Can Assist Employees Amid COVID-19: FSA/HSA/HRA/MRA

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we find each day brings new information and challenges. But sometimes, all we want (and need) are answers. Read how you can assist your employees during this uncertain time.

Question 1: Can employees change their FSA elections?
Under current rules, employees are permitted to make FSA election changes when they have a qualifying event. For those getting married or having a baby, the distinction might be easy.

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Benefit-Related Provisions of the CARES Act and Other Federal Relief

Various retirement, health and welfare and fringe benefit related changes have come out of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) and other relief that has been provided by the Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor and/or the Department of Health and Human Services.

Retirement Plan Liquidity Options
In the CARES Act, Congress made 4 key changes that apply generally to tax-favored retirement vehicles: 

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Flexible and Remote Working – Powerful Benefits for You and Your Employees

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and increasing mandates for people to remain at home, organizations are having to rethink ways to continue operations. What was once considered a nice-to-have benefit has now become the new normal for many Americans – remote working. What’s surprising to many organizations is how effective remote and flexible working can be. When we get back to business as usual, it will be interesting to see how many organizations continue to offer these benefits as our research indicates considerable value, even in normal times.

Our Research
Over the past few months, Fidelity Investments® conducted two studies on how employers and employees value their benefits. From the employer research that we conducted in 2019, we saw that offering flex-time was one of the most valuable benefits to improve an organization’s recruitment rates, as employees are looking to work with progressive employers that understand that having authentic work-life balance is important.

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Nontaxable Payments to Employees? A New Way to Help Employees in the Age of COVID-19

On March 13, 2020, the President issued a determination under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the “Stafford Act”). A consequence of that action is that payments from employers to employees that meet the requirements of a qualified disaster relief payment under Internal Revenue Code Section 139 are excludible from income, a rather unusual result, for the reasons discussed below. Although Section 139 cannot be used to exempt income replacement payments (wages), other amounts may be considered exempt.

Background – The tax law has long wrestled with the issue of when various payments are subject to income tax in light of the general rule that gross income means all income from whatever source derived. Various exceptions to taxation have existed over the years for payments in disaster-related situations. A “general welfare” exception, for example, excludes from income payments made by a governmental unit under a social benefit program designed to promote the general welfare. This exception has been relied on in excluding federal and state payments to disaster victims. In a similar vein, relief payments made by charities are generally not taxable because the tax law views those payments as gifts.

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Emerging Family-Friendly Benefits Provide a Competitive Edge

It was just a few weeks ago – although it hardly seems possible – that HR departments had more mundane concerns on their minds, such as how to attract and retain talent in a time of low unemployment rates. Today’s pandemic concerns make these worries appear trite, but the tactics that forward-thinking employers are using to stand apart from their competition is worth celebrating. I hope these strategies not only give you inspiration but also put a smile on your face during these difficult times. 
— Be well, Cindy McGrath

It’s a bleak time with ever-changing news on the coronavirus pandemic. Human Resources Departments are under stress as they navigate the ramifications to their company’s workforce and personal lives. In the midst of this crisis, here’s some positive benefits news to consider when we return to our new reality. 

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