Thursday, September 29, 2005

HRAs and HSAs Not Yet Popular - Information for HR and Benefit Directors and other Employee Benefit Plan Sponsors and Advisers

According to a recent survey of 2,995 employers by the Kaiser Family Foudation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, only 4% of employers with health benefits offer an HRA or an HSA to their employees. From

About 1.6 million workers are enrolled in HRAs, representing 2% of covered workers. Among workers with access to an HRA, 25% enrolled in it. The average annual employer contribution to HRAs is $3,872 for single coverage and $7,538 for family coverage.

Meanwhile, 800,000 workers are enrolled in HSA-qualified health plans, representing 1.8% of covered workers. Just 15% of workers with access to this type of plan enrolled in it. The average annual employer contribution to an HSA-qualified plan is $2,270 for single coverage and $6,245 for family coverage. Roughly 67% of employers offering an HSA-qualified plan contribute to workers' accounts.

It appears that part of the reason for the low enrollment may be due to a lack of incentive. According to Gary Claxton, VP at the foundation, "HRAs don't really offer much savings to employers yet. The HSA-qualified plans, when you consider the contributions that the employers make to the HSAs, are a little bit cheaper than traditional health insurance."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bush Suspends Davis-Bacon Law in Katrina Damaged Areas

Bush Suspends Prevailing-Wage Law in Katrina Zone

In a controversial move, President Bush decided to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act, the law which requires federal contractors to pay the prevailing or average pay in the region, in the hurricane-damaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Lousiana, and Mississippi. Believing that the Davis-Bacon act actually increases construction costs, Bush said that suspending it "will result in greater assistance to these devastated communities and will permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals."

His ruling infuriated labor leaders, as well as others who believe that suspending the law is actually an opportunity to exploit workers and further depress the area's living standard. From

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi noted that the Davis-Bacon Act was signed into law at "a time when scurrilous employers were taking advantage of the desperation of American workers to care for their families. At that time, and for more than 70 years since then, the federal government has demanded that when taxpayer money is spent, workers should be paid a livable wage.

"But today," she continued, " the Bush Administration demonstrated the latest example of its anti-worker agenda, with an executive order rescinding the requirements of the Davis-Bacon Act for areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. That means that as workers return to their lives and livelihoods on the Gulf Coast, the Bush Administration wants to use federal money to exploit them by paying less than the prevailing wage."

Opinions abound on the subject. What's yours?

To read Bush's proclamation, click here.

To read the Washington Post article, "Bush Suspends Pay Act in Areas Hit by Storm," click here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

No Shortage of Jobs for Gulf Coast Healthcare Workers

Healthcare recruiters are wooing displaced Hurricane Katrina healthcare workers with perks such as signing bonuses and relocation assistance.

Gulf Coast healthcare firms are concerned that once life returns to normal in the hurricane ravaged areas, that there won't be enough people to fill the positions.


Out-of-state recruiters tell USA Today that they are helping, not poaching, since the workers need jobs.

"Even if we didn't exist, these nurses and health professionals would go somewhere else because they have to," says Alan Braynin, CEO of Access Nurses, a San Diego-based staffing agency.

Only time will tell to see if the workers return to their former Gulf Coast employers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Only One in Three Workers Would Consider Unionizing

According to a new Zogby/Public Service Research Foundation Poll, only 35% of non-union workers would consider voting to unionize their workplace, while the majority (56%) would not. These numbers seem to coincide with the recent decline in union memberships nationally.

The survey of 802 workers nationwide was conducted June 14 through 21, 2005, and has a margin of error of +/-3.6 percentage points. Polling was performed by Zogby International on behalf of the Public Service Research Foundation.

The poll found broad-based consensus among employees against unionizing, with 56% of all non-union workers in the survey saying they would vote against bringing a union into their workplace. One-in-three (35%) indicate they would consider voting for a union, but just half of that group (16%) say they would definitely vote to unionize, while two-in-three of all those who oppose unionizing (38%) would definitely vote against unionizing. These trends held for all age groups under 65, but was most noticeable among workers age 30 to 49, where three-in-five (60%) indicated they would not support unionizing.

This opposition to unionizing holds in every region of the country as well, with majorities in the Eastern U.S. (61%), South (50%), and Central/Great Lakes Region (60%) and a 49% plurality in the Western states all saying they would resist unionizing their workplace.

The survey also found men more likely to oppose unionizing their workplace, by a 61% to 50% margin versus women, and married people are more likely to oppose unionization than single people by a 61% to 51% margin.

Thanks to "World of HR" blog reader, Tom Minnick, SPHR, for calling our attention to the Zogby poll. If you would like to read more about the results, click here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Best and Worst Companies for Gay and Transgender Employees

HRC | Best and Worst Companies for Gay and Transgender Employees Revealed

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation were pleased to reveal the results of their fourth annual report card on the treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees in corporate America. According to the study, there are seven times as many corporations providing full protections since 2002 with a record-setting 101 companies scoring a perfect 100%.

As reported on the HBC website...

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s fourth annual report card — the Corporate Equality Index — rates Fortune 500 and other major companies on a scale from zero to 100 percent on seven key indicators of fair treatment for GLBT employees. Indicators include policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as well as equal health care benefits.

Among this year’s key findings:

A record 101 companies score 100 percent, which is attributed to a sharp increase in gender identity non-discrimination policies. In 2002, only 13 companies earned a perfect rating.
Today, 5.6 million people work at the 101 companies that score 100 percent. In 2002, approximately 690,000 people were employed by the 13 companies that scored 100 percent.
Eighty-one percent of scored companies offer health benefits to the domestic partners of employees, up from 70 percent in 2002.
“With 101 companies scoring one hundred percent, millions of Americans now have protections they would have only dreamed of a few years ago,” said Daryl Herrschaft, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Workplace Project and lead author of the report.

Many of the companies that scored 100 percent will be attending this year’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit starting on Sept. 22 in Denver. They will be joining more than 850 GLBT employees, straight allies and human resources and diversity professionals who share the same vision of equality for all.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Mileage Rate Increases for the Remainder of '05

The IRS decided to break routine and update the mileage rate early, in order to address the rising cost of gas. The rate has increased 8 cents to 48.5 cents a mile for all business miles driven between September 1st and December 31st.

From BLR...

"This is about fairness for taxpayers," IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said. "People are entitled to deduct the real cost of operating a vehicle. We've responded to the recent gas price increases by making this special adjustment so taxpayers get the tax benefit they deserve."

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Katrina Evacuees Receiving Jobless Benefits

According to a recent article on SHRM Online, individuals who lost their jobs and their homes due to Hurricane Katrina are now starting to receive their Disaster Unemployment Assistance checks.

“We’re doing everything we can,” said Louisiana Department of Labor (DOL) spokesman Ed Pratt. “We’re going into the shelters, taking applications and giving out checks. So far we’ve processed 70,000 applications, and we expect that number to grow.” The Louisiana efforts are mirrored across the South for residents who find themselves far from their homes and the offices where they normally would seek such aid.

“We processed over 10,000 claims from Louisiana residents over the Labor Day weekend alone,” said Ann Hatchitt, a spokesperson for the Texas Workforce Commission, which is partnering with Louisiana officials to deliver benefits across state lines.

Basically, as long as the displaced individuals can be found, they will receive their payments. It is a step in the right direction on the long road to recovery.

September 14th is National Attention Deficit Awareness Day

Tomorrow is a day of awareness for individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), a disability that is covered under the Americans with Disabilities. Employees with AD/HD may have short attention spans, difficulty focusing, and trouble prioritizing. The founders of National Attention Deficit Day are hoping that by calling attention to this condition, businesses will learn how to make their workplace "AD/HD friendly."

The Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) suggests the following tactics to help employers work effectively with AD/HD employees:

1. Give instructions clearly - preferably in writing.

2. Provide structure in long-term tasks, such as checklists and
deadlines for each stage.

3. Offer frequent and specific feedback on performance.

4. Provide extra clerical support.

5. Reduce distractions by placing the employee in a cubicle or
office away from high-noise areas.

To learn more about National Attention Deficit Awareness Day, visit

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Survey Reveals Drop in Employee Morale

Employee Morale Slips

What a difference a year makes. There has been a significant drop in employee morale in 2005 according to a recent survey by staffing firm Randstad and Harris Interactive.

Fifty-five percent of employers reported that morale at their company was "good" to "excellent" in 2005, down from 70 percent last year. This year marked the first year the survey found that employee morale dipped.

"The survey also indicated that employees look to their employers for strong leadership and the ability to put the right people with the right skills to work," says Stef Witteveen, chief executive officer of Randstad's U.S. operations. "These traits have a huge impact on employee morale and turnover-- the softer side of the workplace."

Are your employees happy or have you experienced a dip in your own company's morale this past year? Before your employees decide to "jump ship" you may want to check out Astron Solutions' array of products that are designed to help keep your employees on board.

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