human resources

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS NEWSLETTER: August 2018

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There are over 42,000 opioid-related deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—a figure that has been rising steadily since the turn of the century. The opioid death rate is now more than five times greater than it was in 1999.

In addition to the skyrocketing opioid-related deaths, there are countless Americans who are still abusing

In addition to the skyrocketing opioid-related deaths, there are countless Americans who are still abusing prescription medications. This means employers must figure out how to best address this crisis with employees. That is where The Plexus Groupe can help.

The purpose of this toolkit is to help employers understand and deal with the opioid epidemic, create a healthier and more productive workforce, and reduce costs. This toolkit is not intended to replace the advice of a medical or legal professional. In many cases, you may need to contact a professional for assistance. However, this information can serve as a starting point for developing a meaningful opioid strategy.

What Are Opioids?

In the most basic terms, the CDC defines opioids as “a class of drugs used to reduce pain.” However, not all opioids are the same. There is a wide range of legal and illegal drugs that are classified as opioids. For example, Vicodin, a legal painkiller commonly prescribed to patients, is an opioid. By comparison, heroin, an illegally manufactured drug that has no medical use, is also an opioid. Both are killing thousands each year.

Opioids vs. Opiates

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These terms are used interchangeably by many who report on the opioid crisis. While this may be fine for a basic understanding, knowing the difference between opioids and opiates could matter to your organization’s plan administrator.

This toolkit uses the term “opioid” exclusively to include both categories of drugs.

Common Types of Opioids

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It should be clear by now that many drugs are considered opioids. Here are the names of some commonly abused opioids, with their brand names listed for recognition. These include prescription medications and illegal offshoots.

What Employers Can Do

The opioid crisis is not going away. Estimates show this epidemic costs the U.S. economy over $95 billion annually, with employers paying $18 billion of that themselves. And, these figures are only expected to rise. Employers need to do everything possible to combat the impact opioids have in the workplace.

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There is no silver bullet for this crisis. However, exploring new initiatives can help you develop your own strategy to best suit the needs of your employees. This section provides examples that may help you.

Understanding the Impact

Employers across the country are working to curb the misuse of prescription opioids. With more employees falling victim to addiction, employers are seeing lower productivity, higher health care costs and fewer qualified job applicants.

When so much of the workforce is at risk of opioid abuse, that can put a strain on benefit programs—especially health care costs. Overprescribing creates ample room for abuse, which can result in employers paying more for their drug plan than they need to be.

It can be hard to identify illegitimate use, especially with prescribed medications. Employers may need to try more unique approaches to curb opioid abuse. Addressing the problem with employees directly can be a good place to start.

Employee Education

Opioid abuse is not happening in a vacuum. Even if employees themselves are not using opioids, their lives may be affected by loved ones who are. This can indirectly affect their job performance and contribute to the overall crisis.

Employers should do their best to provide employees with educational materials to help them understand and take action against the opioid crisis. Lasting reform can only happen if individuals take charge of their situation. Educating employees is the first step.

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Consider the following suggestions when developing your own communication campaign:

Explain the Risks

Reminding people about addiction’s tragic side effects could help motivate them to abstain from or seek treatment. Directly facing the consequences of your actions can be powerful, especially when paired with other resources. Try putting up posters or sending information directly to employees that calls attention to the dangers of opioid misuse.

Encourage Employees to Speak With a Doctor

Sometimes employees do not think to speak to their doctors about opioid abuse. This could be because employees are worried about losing their prescriptions, or perhaps they do not know how their doctor could help. Regardless, a doctor is more qualified than your organization’s HR department to help with medical issues stemming from opioids.

Educate employees on the importance of speaking openly with their doctors. If they are worried about losing a prescription, explain that there are other effective ways to treat chronic pain. Most importantly, reassure employees that their doctors are there to help, not get them in trouble for misusing medication.

Promote Your EAP

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) can be extremely beneficial for your workforce. Traditionally, EAPs help with personal issues, like smoking cessation or stress management. However, they can also help with opioid usage.

Like any other EAP, a program geared specifically toward opioids can help employees deal with this debilitating addiction and put energy back into their job. Read more about EAPs in the following section.

Employee Assistance Programs

Because substance abuse and mental health issues can impact the workplace so significantly, many companies choose to offer EAPs. However, an EAP is only useful if it is tailored to your employees’ needs. In this case, employees need resources to fight their opioid addictions.

An EAP supplies professionals who provide counseling to employees and their families in a safe and private atmosphere. Generally, all the information disclosed will remain confidential, and no disclosure to employers will be made without written permission. Using an EAP will not jeopardize an employee’s job or chance for promotion, which are two repercussions many drug users fear. These factors lower barriers and can encourage more people to seek help.

The EAP makes a limited number of counseling sessions available to employees at no cost. Should an employee and his or her counselor decide that a referral to an outside provider is necessary, those costs will then be the employee’s responsibility.

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Consult your EAP vendor to determine what the payment structure looks like so you can advise employees on best usage practices.

Benefits of an EAP

An EAP not only helps employees, it helps the entire business. When employees are in good mental and physical health, the whole organization benefits.

Offering an EAP can put employees in touch with experts who can help start their treatment.

Opioid addiction should be treated like a chronic illness. Simply providing one treatment option will not help create lasting change. It takes time, energy and ongoing treatment to help reverse opioid addiction.

Speak with your EAP vendor to discuss adaptions that can better meet the needs of your workforce.

Have questions regarding opioid addiction in the workplace, this newsletter, or any other employee benefits matters? Contact a client service team representative from The Plexus Groupe in Deer Park, Illinois at 847-307-6100, Chicago at 312-606-4800, Dallas at 972-770-5010 or Oklahoma City at 405-840-3033.

We’re here to help and we’re happy to help.

Content provided by Zywave.

Administrative Services Organizations: An introduction

An administrative services organization (ASO) can be just what a company needs to address its human resources needs. An ASO can deliver cost savings, and it offers flexibility to an organization. What follows is an introduction to administrative services organizations.

For starters, it’s best to compare and contrast an administrative service organization with a professional employer organization (PEO).

In the case of a PEO, a company outsources its human resources functions to a third party — the PEO —through a co-employer structure. In this case, the PEO becomes the employer of record. The positives of this structure? The PEO, not the employer, assumes liability for matters such as workers compensation and employment matters. There is also the possibility of a reduced tax burden under this approach. (For even more on professional employer organizations, check out our recent blog on some of the trademarks of a PEO approach.)

However, in a PEO structure, a company surrenders a great deal of control. That’s the trade-off for the reduction in liability.

For companies seeking the benefits of outsourcing while maintaining more control, an administrative service organization might make more sense. Under the ASO model, a company remains the employer of record, but it also has greater ability to makes benefits choices, such as picking a health plan. Also, an administrative service organization costs significantly less to implement, with a savings of about 50 percent.

While the ASO strategy results in a company taking more liability than the PEO model, a firm might well decide that the benefit of choice outweighs the risk of passing on some of the decision-making power. The right answer will depend upon the firm.

For more on administrative service organizations, including transitioning to an ASO model, contact a Plexus client representative or reach out to us at 312-606-4800. You can also contact us via the Web at plexusgroupe.com.

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Should you classify as an exempt or non-exempt employee?

  Enacted in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act still has a major impact on U.S. employers today. And the law’s overtime and minimum wage provisions are especially key for firms to master, with the classification of exempt and non-exempt employees an important issue.

Per the FLSA, the following job types are among those that can be exempt from overtime and wage provisions: administrative, executive, professional (learned or creative), computer employee and outside sales.

As a human resources professional, the job description can be an important tool when it comes to determining exempt vs. non-exempt. Using the description as your guideline is key in determining overtime and minimum wage eligibility. Job titles don’t matter; job descriptions and duties do.

Here’s another good rule of thumb: if a job is managerial or strategic in action – i.e., the employee is making strategic decisions and directing other workers – the worker is probably exempt from overtime laws. However, if an employee is completing tasks while receiving direction, he or she is likely non-exempt from overtime.

Classifying exempt from non-exempt employees isn’t always an easy task. If you’d like more information on your exempt from non-exempt options, please contact a Plexus professional at 847.307.6100 or 972-770-5010, or visit us on the Web at plexusgroupe.com.

References U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division. “Fact Sheet #17A: Exemption for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Computer and Outside Sales Employees Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).” July 2008.

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