June 10, 2016

UNICO Group awarded Platinum Partner agency by United Fire Group

We are proud to announce that UNICO Group has been named a Platinum Partner by United Fire Group! Agencies are awarded this honor based on UFG’s high-quality standards of measurement and only the top 8% of agents qualify. UFG incorporates a unique set of metrics that agencies are evaluated against in order to receive this honor including profitability, growth, retention, and claim frequency. UNICO has qualified as a Platinum Partner agency for 2 consecutive years. We are proud to be recognized as one of the highest-performing UFG agencies in the country.
May 25, 2016

Why Do Injured Employees Seek An Attorney?

A recent study found that if an injured employee seeks out legal representation for a workers’ compensation case, the costs will be much higher. Permanent disability claims involving attorneys, or 80% of permanent disability claims, averaged $66,208 in benefits and expenses, compared to $25,300 for claims that did not involve attorneys. Time away from work because of disability also was substantially higher and claims were slower to close. The severity of the injury, the claims process and the perception of the injured employee. While the correlation between severity of injury and attorney involvement is difficult to mitigate, employers can do a lot to minimize the other two factors. A Workers’ Compensation injury is not just a medical problem, there are complex psychological and social issues involved. While there will always be some employees driven by greed and aiming to “game the system,” most people come to work wanting to do a good job, not to create problems. When an unexpected […]
May 18, 2016

HR Nightmares- How Can UNICO HR Solutions Help?

The human resources function in companies continues to evolve and change especially with all the complexities being thrown at companies regarding the ACA, OSHA, compliance, and other legal issues. Many companies that we work with don’t have the staff or the money to have a full-time human resources person so they turn those responsibilities over to an employee that is wearing several hats within that company. There are many instances when a complex HR issue arises and these people don’t know where to turn to get the expert guidance they need. Many companies turn to web based HR portals for information but this can only help to a certain degree. It takes time and effort to try and research the issue at hand and many times it is difficult to find the right answer to the issue they are trying to address. Some companies will have to make calls to their attorneys to have questions answered and this can be […]
May 11, 2016

From the HR Experts – Wellness and Compliance

Question: We are designing our wellness programs for this year and want to offer a wellness benefit to our non-smokers. Are there special compliance rules surrounding wellness programs? Answer: A group health plan is allowed to offer a discount to non-smokers if it is part of formal wellness program that is non-discriminatory under HIPAA. The Department of Labor has specific guidelines as follows: For a group health plan to maintain a premium differential between smokers and nonsmokers and not be considered discriminatory, the plan’s nonsmoking program would need to meet the five requirements for wellness programs that require satisfaction of a standard related to a health factor. Accordingly, under the final rules, this wellness program would be permitted if: The premium differential is not more than 20 percent of the total cost of employee-only coverage (or 20% of the cost of coverage if dependents can participate in the program)*; The program is reasonably designed to promote health and prevent disease; […]
May 4, 2016

Foreign Travel Is An Overlooked Risk

Firms that have employees travel outside of the United States have exposures to sources of loss that do not exist in the U.S. and Canada, i.e., political risks, endemic diseases, terrorism and uprisings. Here are some exposures that are often overlooked. 1. Accident, Sickness And Health It is possible for a person traveling abroad to become sick or injured in an accident. Should either of these events occur, there is a possibility that a U.S. medical insurer would not cover the incident. There is also the possibility that the foreign medical facility will not accept U.S. health insurance. Work with an international underwriter to determine what is required by local laws. Review existing health and medical coverage to determine how the policy will treat foreign claims. When in doubt, contact the HMO or insurance company to determine how coverage may apply. While the insured’s carrier may reimburse the insured for the claim, the foreign medical facility may not accept the […]
April 27, 2016

From The HR Experts: Best Times For Terminations

Best Times for Termination Question: What is the best day of the week and time of the day to perform a termination of employment? Answer: There are varying viewpoints as to the best time to terminate an employee; however, many HR professionals agree that the meeting should probably take place early in the week, and early in the day. Try to hold the termination meeting at a time and location that will not parade the employee through the job site at a peak period. Early-week terminations will allow the employee to reach out for any assistance and advice she/he may need to help cope during the week, including filing for unemployment and networking, as well as giving him/her an opportunity to begin searching for a new position. It will not leave the employee in a situation where she/he is facing a weekend of going over things without being able to seek help or gain new perspectives on next steps. There […]
April 20, 2016

From the HR Experts: Job Descriptions

Job Descriptions Question: Why are job descriptions important? Answer: Job descriptions serve a variety of purposes for both managers and employees, including: Helping managers explain the key functions of the position when interviewing applicants and/or orienting new employees Providing employees and their supervisors with additional information to support developing performance and work objectives Guiding compensation bench-marking and organizational design decisions by comparing similar levels of job duties and incumbent requirements for knowledge, skills and abilities Improving employee performance by measuring performance with the stated duties and responsibilities of the job Providing employees with clear definitions of job requirements and expectations for enhanced employee development Guiding employees, their medical practitioners and management through decisions relating to potential workplace accommodation discussions Giving management a more organized and defensible basis for human resources decisions
April 13, 2016

From the HR Experts- Attendance and Medical Issues

Attendance and Medical Issues Question: What should we do about an employee with a terrible attendance record who appears to have a medical issue? I need to do something about this because other employees are noticing the problem when they have to do her work. What should I do if the employee wants to give me any medical details – isn’t that a violation of the HIPAA rules? Answer: The best route to take with the employee is to have a private meeting and review the attendance problem that is affecting her performance. Keep the discussion based on the facts and the attendance expectations of the job. Let the employee know where she is not meeting the company expectations and ask for the employee’s feedback as to what she needs to do in order to get performance/attendance on track. Don’t bring up health issues. Wait until the employee brings up the medical situation to avoid any appearance of disability discrimination. […]
April 6, 2016

From the HR Experts: Employees And FMLA Rights

Employees and FMLA Rights Question: An employee notified his employer of a serious health condition that would require him to be out of office for some time. The employer took it as a notice of resignation and processed. A week later, the employee indicated that he wanted to go on FMLA, not resign. How should the employer proceed? Answer: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations state that once an employer has been notified or has knowledge of an employee’s serious health condition, the employer is required to inform the employee of his rights and responsibilities under the FMLA. The employee does not have to specifically ask for an FMLA leave – it is up to the employer to determine eligibility and advise the employee accordingly. Additionally, if an employee has a condition that qualifies as a disability under the American with Disabilities Act, the employer has a strict responsibility to work with the employee and his medical provider […]
March 30, 2016

How To Build An Effective Employee Handbook

Employee handbooks are an essential part of effective human resources (HR) management and positive employee relations. Handbooks can also play a critical role in demonstrating employment law compliance. Properly used, employee handbooks: Communicate policies and procedures. Play a key role in the orientation process for new employees. Serve as a valuable employee relations vehicle for educating current and prospective employees. Contribute to uniform and consistent application, interpretation, and enforcement of company policies. Protect against claims of improper employer conduct and employee lawsuits. While carefully drafted employee handbooks can be an important part of employee relations media, handbooks that are unskillfully or improperly drafted can create organizational and legal headaches. Employers must carefully review every policy and procedure in a handbook to minimize potential contract claims and be prepared to update them periodically. Since employee handbooks are not required by law, organizations may determine the best method and most effective means to communicate important HR-related information to their employees. Factors that affect an organization’s need for a written […]
March 23, 2016

The Key to Long Term Wellness Culture

Lisa Henning, Executive Wellness Consultant, UNICO Midlands: New Year’s Resolution…a term we are all familiar with over the years.  This is the time when we renew our commitments and “make good” on our promises.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could always do the right thing all year instead of having to renew our promises!  Essentially, that is what culture change is about.  Businesses have changed their company culture to one where wellness is front of mind.  ALL of the companies that have been successful with culture change have strong leadership! This is a slippery slope.  While most business leaders are aware of the financial benefits of a wellness program and want to reap the benefits, few are truly willing to commit financially to a comprehensive program.  As with most things, wellness is relational…you get what you pay for.  If you purchase baggies with fold over tops, you get stale bread. If you invest in the zip close baggies, your […]
March 16, 2016

Major Issues Facing the Workers’ Compensation Industry

Each year, the National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc. publishes a report that examines some of the major issues affecting the industry. It is a compilation of articles by industry specialists that offer valuable insights into Workers’ Compensation issues facing employers and other stakeholders. Here is a brief overview of what you will find: I. Industry Outlook An article by Stephen J. Klingel, CPCU, WCP, president and chief executive officer of NCCI is cautious about expressing a positive industry outlook for the months ahead. “While most indicators show continued improvement, it’s important to note that the combined ratio remains too high, and achieving an adequate return remains a challenge. These factors, along with the overhanging shadow of the potential loss of the terrorism backstop, add a note of caution to what might otherwise be a relatively optimistic outlook.” Peter M. Burton, CPCU, AU NCCI Senior Division Executive, State Relations gives a snapshot view of the legislative and regulatory outlook for […]
March 9, 2016

HR Tip: Mindfulness Replacing Multitasking

One of the buzzwords of the hour is “mindfulness” – being focused and fully present in the here and now. Employers such as Google and General Mills offer classes on it, as do several prominent business schools. Proponents argue that substituting mindfulness for multitasking reduces stress and increases productivity. The barrage of information and demands from digital and non-digital resources is endless. It’s easy to see the relationship to safety and accidents; a worker who trips and falls while talking on a cell phone can be a costly injury. Neurologist Dr. Romie Mushtaq says the physiological benefits of clearing away distractions and living in the moment have been documented in many scientific and medical studies. Mindfulness enhances the brain’s efficiency, creativity and sharpness, whereas multitasking depresses the brain’s memory and analytical functions and reduces blood flow to the part of the right temporal lobe, which contributes to creative thinking. She offers these tips for practicing mindfulness in a multitasking world: […]
March 2, 2016

Why Good Workers Do Not Work Safely

With occupational injury rates at an all-time low, it’s clear that employers have done a good job making workplaces safer. Yet, accidents and deaths do occur. While some are a result of recalcitrant employees or unscrupulous employers, injuries do happen to good workers in good workplaces. What leads such workers to make unsafe decisions and how can employers reduce the likelihood of this happening? Shortcuts It’s human nature to take shortcuts, believing we have the knowledge and know how to get the job done as quickly as possible. In today’s fast paced world that is often riddled with concerns about job security, employees tend to push even harder. The Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Study backs this up with findings that show overexertion maintains its number one ranking as the leading cause of serious non-fatal workplace injuries, costing companies over $13.61 billion in direct costs and representing over 25% of the costs of all workplace injuries. Climbing on shelves rather than […]
February 24, 2016

The Who, What, & Why of Cyber Liability

Who Needs Cyber Liability Coverage? Any communications company engaged in providing computer services, Internet services or those companies using the Internet in its everyday course of business. What Activities Create Cyber Risk? Use of Email Support of Webmail  Internet Service Providers Dependence on Network Services Electronic Storage of Customer Information Storage of Third-Party Trade Secrets  and Data On-Line Advertising and Marketing Web Site Design, Development & Ecommerce Web Site Activities (Content, Links) E-Commerce E-Brochures/E-Catalogs E-Bill Payment Internet/Digital Media Electronic Bulletin Boards or Social Interaction Why Does My Customer Need Cyber Coverage? A General Liability policy will cover a physical injury to tangible property. Information is not tangible property. A General Liability policy also excludes electronic data. Claim Examples: Trademark Liability ISPs are liable for their own activities that constitute trademark infringement. As a result, if an ISP were to advertise their services under a trademark that is confusingly similar to a mark of another party (such as Netcomp, IBMLink, or CompuService), they would be exposed to […]
February 17, 2016

FMLA and Serious Health Condition for a Spouse

From the HR Experts and UNICO HR Solutions: Question: How do we certify a serious health condition for a spouse who is pregnant and not our employee when the husband seeks leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)? Answer: An employer may require that the need for leave for a serious health condition of the employee or the employee’s immediate family member be supported by a certification issued by a health care provider. Both the mother and father are entitled to Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for the birth of their child and to be with the healthy newborn child (i.e., bonding time) during the 12-month period beginning on the date of birth. A husband and wife who are eligible for FMLA leave and are employed by the same covered employer may be limited to a combined total of 12 weeks of leave during any 12-month period if the leave is taken for birth of the employee’s son […]