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DOL Issues Emergency Extensions to COBRA

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) today issued opens in a new windowFrequently Asked Questionsopens PDF file under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and revised opens in a new windowCOBRA model notices. Plan administrators can use these model notices to notify plan participants and beneficiaries of their rights under COBRA and qualified beneficiaries of their rights to elect COBRA.

“The information we’re providing today will help Medicare-eligible Americans make key decisions regarding their healthcare coverage,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “As many individuals face economic hardship related to coronavirus, the Department will continue to inform workers and help them avoid incurring unnecessary health costs.” Scalia added, “This change was prompted by a letter from members of Congress –Representatives Kevin Brady, Virginia Foxx, Richard Neal, Frank Pallone, Bobby Scott, and Greg Walden. We thank them for their attention to the issue.”

In general, COBRA allows employees (and their families) who would otherwise lose their group health coverage due to certain life events to continue their same group health coverage. These events include termination or reduction in hours, death of a covered employee, divorce or legal separation, Medicare entitlement and loss of dependent status. COBRA generally lasts for 18 months but, in some cases, can last up to 36 months.

Under COBRA, group health plans must also provide covered employees and their families with certain notices explaining their COBRA rights. The revised model notices provide additional information to address COBRA’s interaction with Medicare. The model notices explain that there may be advantages to enrolling in Medicare before, or instead of, electing COBRA. It also highlights that if an individual is eligible for both COBRA and Medicare, electing COBRA coverage may impact enrollment into Medicare as well as certain out-of-pocket costs.

These documents will provide important information to COBRA-eligible individuals as they make healthcare choices for themselves and their families while assisting employers that must comply with the notice requirements under COBRA.

EBSA’s mission is to assure the security of the retirement, health, and other workplace-related benefits of America’s workers and their families. EBSA accomplishes this by developing effective regulations; assisting and educating workers, plan sponsors, fiduciaries and service providers; and vigorously enforcing the law.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Source:  opens in a new windowU.S. Department of Labor News Release, May 1st, 2020

 

OSHA Considers Good Faith Efforts When Enforcing Compliance During Pandemic

U.S. Department of Labor  |  April 16, 2020

U.S. Department of Labor Considers Employer’s Good Faith Efforts When Enforcing Compliance During Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued opens in a new windowinterim guidance to advise compliance safety and health officers to evaluate an employer’s good faith efforts to comply with safety and health standards during the coronavirus pandemic.

Current infection control practices may limit the availability of employees, consultants, or contractors who normally provide training, auditing, equipment inspections, testing, and other essential safety and industrial hygiene services. Business closures and other restrictions may also preclude employee participation in training if trainers are unavailable and access to medical testing facilities may be limited or suspended.

During an inspection, compliance safety and health officers should assess an employer’s efforts to comply with standards that require annual or recurring audits, reviews, training or assessments. Officers should evaluate if the employer:

  • Explored all options to comply with applicable standards (e.g., use of virtual training or remote communication strategies);
  • Implemented interim alternative protections, such as engineering or administrative controls; and
  • Rescheduled required annual activity as soon as possible.

Employers unable to comply with OSHA requirements because local authorities required the workplace to close should demonstrate a good faith attempt to meet applicable requirements as soon as possible following the re-opening of the workplace.

OSHA will take employers’ attempts to comply in good faith into strong consideration when determining whether it cites a violation. The agency may issue a citation if it finds an employer cannot demonstrate any efforts to comply. To ensure corrective actions employers have taken once normal activities resume, OSHA will develop a program to conduct monitoring inspections from a randomized sampling of cases where the agency noted, but did not cite, violations.

This guidance takes effect immediately, and remains in effect until further notice. It is time-limited interim guidance in effect due to the current public health crisis. Visit OSHA’s opens in a new windowCOVID-19 webpage frequently for updates.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit opens in a new windowwww.osha.gov.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

For more information, please contact your Crane Agency Broker Unit.

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Media Contacts:

Emily Weeks, weeks.emily.c@dol.govcreate new email

Release Number: 20-625-NAT

Crane Agency Remote Work Implementation (COVID-19)

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opens in a new windowA Letter to our Clients, Partners, and Friendsopens PDF file

Dear Valued Clients, Partners, and Friends:

At Crane Agency, serving the needs of our clients, employees and communities is at the heart of our mission and today, safety is our greatest concern. In accordance with CDC guidelines, we have limited all unnecessary face to face interaction within our organization.  Effective March 17th, we began transitioning our staff to work from home, where we continue to be fully operational and committed to serving the needs of our clients.

Crane Agency has added a page to our website with additional resources to help you manage this crisis.  We also encourage everyone to stay informed through trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.  Thank you for your continued partnership.

 

OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

To reduce the impact of COVID-19 outbreak conditions on businesses, workers, customers, and the public, it is important for all employers to plan now for COVID-19. For employers who have already planned for influenza pandemics, planning for COVID-19 may involve updating plans to address the specific exposure risks, sources of exposure, routes of transmission, and other unique characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 (i.e., compared to pandemic influenza viruses). Employers who have not prepared for pandemic events should prepare themselves and their workers as far in advance as possible of potentially worsening outbreak conditions. Lack of continuity planning can result in a cascade of failures as employers attempt to address challenges of COVID-19 with insufficient resources and workers who might not be adequately trained for jobs they may have to perform under pandemic conditions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed this COVID-19 planning guidance based on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices. It focuses on the need for employers to implement engineering, administrative, and work practice controls and personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as considerations for doing so.

This guidance is intended for planning purposes. Employers and workers should use this planning guidance to help identify risk levels in workplace settings and to determine any appropriate control measures to implement. Additional guidance may be needed as COVID-19 outbreak conditions change, including as new information about the virus, its transmission, and impacts, becomes available.

opens in a new windowOSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19opens PDF file

opens in a new windowOSHA Cornerstones – Q1 2020opens PDF file

Additional Resources:

opens in a new windowOSHA Health & Safety Topics COVID-19

opens in a new windowCDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers

opens in a new windowWorld Health Organization Coronavirus Guidance

 

2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ

opens in a new window03.24.2020 – Please see our updated FAQ for additional guidance, as it pertains to COVID-19.

As concerns about COVID-19 continue to rise, many are left wondering what they can do to protect their families, businesses and their workforce.  In order to help our clients plan and prepare, Crane Agency has created a opens in a new windowFAQ opens PDF file document to help explain how some commercial insurance policies may respond.

The CDC has also provided interim guidance for opens in a new windowBusinesses and opens in a new windowFamilies on their website.  Recommended strategies for employers to use now:

Actively encourage sick employees to stay home

  • Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
  • Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
  • Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
  • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
  • Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.

Separate sick employees

  • CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).

Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees

  • Place opens in a new windowposters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
  • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
  • Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Visit the  opens in a new windowcoughing and sneezing etiquette and  opens in a new windowclean hands web page for more information.

Perform routine environmental cleaning

  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, counter tops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
  • No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
  • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.

Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps

  • Check the opens in a new windowCDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from China, and information for aircrew, can be found at on the CDC website.
  • Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of  opens in a new windowacute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
  • Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
  • If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.

Additional Measures in Response to Currently Occurring Sporadic Importations of the COVID-19

  • Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for opens in a new windowhow to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
  • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for  opens in a new windowhow to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.  Please visit the CDC website for more information.

Other helpful resources include:

opens in a new windowHR Insights – Coronavirusopens PDF file

opens in a new windowRisk Insights – Protecting Workers from Coronavirusopens PDF file

opens in a new windowOSHA Safety Cornerstones Q1 2020opens PDF file

opens in a new windowLive Well, Work Well – Coronavirusopens PDF file

Helpful Websites:

opens in a new windowNational Institutes of Health – COVID-19 Landing Page

opens in a new windowNational Retail Federation – Coronavirus Resources for Retailers

opens in a new windowOSHA COVID-19 Website Landing Page

opens in a new windowUS Department of Education COVID-19 Landing Page

opens in a new windowUS Food & Drug Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Landing Page

opens in a new windowWorld Health Organization Website

We will continue to monitor current events, but as with any developing situation, please consult local and governmental health agencies for the newest developments.

Crane Agency Named as one of St. Louis Business Journal’s 2019 Healthiest Employers

Each year, the St. Louis Business Journal highlights companies who are committed to the health & well-being of its employees. These awards recognize local organizations for going beyond traditional wellness programs with innovative systems that get results.  Friday, St. Louis Business Journal recognized Crane Agency as winner of the 2019 Healthiest Employer award of businesses in the 250-499 employee range.

Under the leadership of Margot Gruenewald, Director of Human Resources, Crane Agency’s HR team promotes activities for employees that are healthy and fun.  From scavenger hunts to biometric screenings, Crane’s Wellness Program encourages healthy choices and social interaction that reduce stress and promote team building.

You can find the complete article highlighting Crane Agency here:   opens in a new windowHealthiest Employers 2019: With Crane Agency’s wellness program, fitness is actually fun

Thank you to all our employees for your continued engagement and support.  We are truly honored to receive this prestigious award.

Crane Agency Receives Top Workplaces Honor 3 Years in a Row

Crane Agency is proud to announce that we have been identified as one of St. Louis’ Top Workplaces for the 3rd year in a row.

How does a company make the Top Workplaces list? By inspiring employees.  “Top Workplaces put the employee at the center of things and focus on creating the right environment to unleash potential and inspire performance,” said Doug Claffey, CEO of Energage, the Post-Dispatch’s research partner for Top Workplaces. 

For this year, 222 organizations agreed to take the survey. Combined, they employ 94,356 people in the St. Louis area. Of those employees who received questionnaires, 46,194 responded, either on paper or online. For this year’s winners list, 150 St. Louis-area employers earned recognition as Top Workplaces based on the employee feedback.  The employee engagement survey of 24 questions gathers responses regarding issues relating to workplace culture:

Alignment – where the company is headed, its values, cooperation
Connection – employees feel appreciated, their work is meaningful
Effectiveness – doing things efficiently and well, sharing different viewpoints, encouraging new ideas
My Manager – cares about concerns, helps employees develop
Engagement – motivation, retention and recruiting
Leadership – confidence in company leaders
The Basics – pay, benefits, flexibility, training, expectations

Employees consistently rate issues of “connection” and “alignment” most important to them, while statements related to pay and benefits rate less important.  Employers are ranked among groups of similar size to most accurately compare results. Within those size groupings, companies are ranked, and those that score high enough are recognized as Top Workplaces. Crane Agency came in at number 25 out of 55 in the “midsized” category.  Midsized is defined as companies with 150 to 499 employees in the region.

For the complete article, please visit the STL Today website:   opens in a new windowSt. Louis Post Dispatch 2019 Top Workplaces Announcement

Welcome Chief Growth Officer Dave Linhardt to Crane Agency!

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Dave Linhardt – Chief Growth Officer

Crane Agency’s strategic vision for the future is growth.  We are dedicated to supporting our existing Producers and expanding our geographical footprint throughout the Midwest.  With that, I am excited to announce opens in a new windowDave Linhardt has been appointed as Crane’s new Chief Growth Officer.  Dave will be responsible for seeking new growth opportunities by identifying reputable insurance agencies to join Crane, recruiting brokers who fit our entrepreneurial model and seeking other growth opportunities that will continue to increase our brand.  In addition, Dave will be responsible for mentoring our newest Producers and providing sales support that will leverage our production teams to be the best in the industry.  He will also help develop and support carrier relationships for our offices outside of St. Louis, as well as oversee Crane’s expansion into the Kansas City marketplace.

Dave brings more than 25 years of experience in the insurance industry to his current position.  Prior to joining Crane, he held the title of Regional Insurance President for Regions Insurance, an affiliate of Regions Bank.  During his time at Regions, Dave led insurance operations in Arkansas and Texas that included managing 7 offices totaling $30 Million in revenue.  Before joining Regions Insurance, Dave was Regional Vice President with Hartford and CNA.  He was also Regional Director at Travelers.  During his time with each carrier, Dave helped cultivate talented groups of sales and underwriting professionals with one goal in mind – achieving profitable growth in a positive and rewarding culture that promotes teamwork and accountability.

If you are an established Producer or Agency Owner interested in hearing more about joining Crane Agency, please reach out to Dave by email at opens in a new windowdlinhardt@craneagency.comcreate new email or by phone at (636) 537-5011.  Also, be sure to look for our ad in the May-June edition of opens in a new windowMO Agents Magazine.

Crane Agency Named as Best Places to Work Finalist

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We are very proud to announce that Crane Agency has been named as a finalist by opens in a new windowSt. Louis Business Journal’s 2019 Best Places to Work.  Over 250 nominations were submitted from businesses around the St. Louis region and were divided into categories grouped by size.  Crane was included as a finalist in the “big” category, which highlighted businesses with 250-999 employees.

Participating companies and their employees completed surveys administered by Quantum Workplace, which used its own algorithm to measure communication, management structure, benefits, teamwork and several other factors at each local firm. The companies then were ranked by Quantum for measuring up as St. Louis’ most employee-friendly workplaces.  A special thank you to all Crane Agency employees who helped us make the list by completing the survey.

Crane has also been named as one of opens in a new windowSt. Louis’ Top Work Places by the is Post Dispatch two years in a row and was selected as a opens in a new window2018 Elite Agency by Insurance Business America.

Benefits Brief – January 2019

Happy New Year!  Welcome to the opens in a new windowJanuary 2019 edition of the Crane Agency Benefits Brief.  This month you will find information on several legislative and compliance updates, which may impact your benefits program in 2019.  These changes include updated minimum wage rates for 2019 and the EEOC’s removal of incentive limits from employer-sponsored Wellness Plans.  In addition, we have provided an overview of Paid Family & Medical Leave laws recently enacted in MA, NY, WA & DC.  In the HR Brief, we have provided some updated plan limits for 2019, along with tips to prepare for “Gen Z” entering the workforce.  Finally, our Live Well, Work Well Newsletter provides health & wellness tips for your work and life in the coming year.

Thank you for your continued confidence in the Crane Agency Benefits Department.  It is our pleasure to serve you.  Please do not hesitate to contact your agent or service representative if we can be of assistance.