I joined Spring in July 2017, shortly after I graduated from college.
I was born in Maine but grew up in Stockton, NJ. It’s a really small town and my elementary school only had about 60 people in it total.
At Work Responsibilities:
I work on our Absence Management Team and primarily help clients with their absence policies, as well as health and Rx plans. I also spend a lot of my time monitoring the paid leave landscape and updating our clients on legislative developments that may impact their leave programs throughout the country.
Outside of Work Hobbies/Interests:
I recently moved back to NJ and spend a lot of my time with my family and dogs, reading, and exploring my new neighborhood.
I spent a semester studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa!
Describe Spring in 3 Words:
Dedicated, Invested, and Fun
Favorite book (or one you’ve recently read):
I just finished All The Light You Cannot See. I don’t think I can pick an overall favorite book.
My family dog Scout (Chocolate Lab) and my “nephew” Alan (Red Lab) but I consider them mine 😊
Captive International has released the winners for the 2023 US Awards. Spring is proud to announce that our Managing Partner, Karin Landry won the Best Feasibility Study Individual. We were also highly commended for Best Actuarial Firm, Top Feasibility Study Firm, and Top Captive Consulting Firm. Our team was also highly commended for the following: Best Individual Captive Consultant (Karin Landry & Prabal Lakhanpal), Best Individual Feasibility Study (Prabal Lakhanpal) and Best Actuary (Peter Johnson & Nick Frongillo).
After operational difficulties posed by the pandemic settled, a large, global hospitality organization wanted to refocus on employee health and productivity, with operational efficiency and risk management in mind. With an emphasis on the employee experience, the client engaged Spring to conduct a review of their workers’ compensation, disability and leave of absence plans, policies and processes with the goal of understanding how they compare to industry best practices and how insourced, outsourced, or cosourced models could yield improvements.
After thorough research and analysis, we proposed a shift from the decentralized, separate, and insourced disability and LOA model to a centralized, integrated, and outsourced approach across WC, FMLA/LOA, ADA, RTW and STD/LTD. Our holistic model incorporates:
- Minimal disruption by utilizing existing STD/LTD vendor for disability & LOA management and recommendations to optimize this partnership and establish linkages with WC vendor
- LTD and STD continue to be funded through the captive
- Client team hiring plan/staffing model
- ADA claim management software
- Training for HR, managers, and vendors to align on both process and culture
- Best practices for intake, claim, submission, and customer service journey points
- Case management, claims administration, RTW and accommodation management
- Ongoing absence status and reporting/metrics
- Technology and administration partners to meet needs
- System integration with payroll, HRIS, and other systems
By outsourcing, the client can achieve its goals of:
- Increasing operational efficiency
- Improving employee health and productivity
- Applying the right resources at the right time
- Reducing administrative burden for client team
- Mitigating risk by transferring the responsibility for day-today absence tracking, management and compliance to a third party
Spring is working to implement the solution to yield the following quantitative and qualitative success factors:
- Decreases colleague and manager confusion and better the employee experience
- Positions HR in an advocacy role; enhance the ability to inform and remind employees of benefits and resources they have available to them to help during a time of need
- Increase employee satisfaction regarding applying for days off
- Better communication and integration between benefits and risk management teams
- Decreases claims costs that flow through to client’s captive (and number of claims, or incidence), leading to higher savings
- Due to formalized processes and reporting
- Reduces benefit payout amount
- Enhances productivity due to fewer lost workdays (lessen duration of leaves) and stronger RTW
- Due to early intervention, strong policy provisions, RTW and accommodation philosophy and tight benefit coordination
- Lowers replacement costs when colleagues are out
- Avoids legal claims and lawsuits
- Anticipates close to $10M of direct savings over a 5-year period and a conservative ROI projection (savings minus expenses): $1.2M
Have questions about how to build or improve your absence management program to see tangible results like these? Check out our website or get in touch today.
While paid family and medical leave (PFML) remains in the state regulatory spotlight, much of the workforce is not covered by these laws or has leave needs outside of what is available. At the height of COVID-19, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine reported a 25%-33% increase in reported domestic violence cases. According to WHO, mental health issues rose 25% in 2020. These issues did not disappear even though the pandemic dust has settled.
Cutting-edge employers are leveraging ancillary types of paid leave as support tools for employees. They are thinking beyond traditional offerings and facilitating easier navigation so that when an employee experiences a hardship, understanding work leave options does not add to their mental burden. I had the pleasure of presenting on this topic at the 2023 Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) Compliance Conference, and I wanted to share key insights.
Paid Leve Evolution
In October of 2023:
- 10 states and Washington D.C. currently require employers provide paid family and medical leave (PFML) benefits, in addition to Hawaii which requires only statutory disability benefits be provided
- 2 states have passed voluntary PFML laws with 6 more creating PFML insurance rules which allows employers to purchase insured PFML if they are interested
- 5 states are in the regulatory phase of PFML, where benefits are not yet available
- 32 states do not have PFML benefit laws (excluding Washington D.C., Hawaii which has a statutory disability benefit, and the states that fall solely into the “PFML insurance rules” category, as that does not constitute a state law)
- Still much of the workforce is not covered by these laws
- Check out our whitepaper for a more detailed landscape of state PFML policies
It has been a long road to get to this patchworked state, however. The push for time off dates back to 1910 when President Taft proposed that every American worker needed two to three months of vacation a year. U.S. legislators did not agree, so unions were left to bargain for paid vacation from the 1920s through the 1940s.
During World War II, when employers were scrambling for talent, the offer of paid vacation rose as a way to increase compensation due to wage controls that were in place at the time. Statutory paid disability laws began passing in 1942, with laws in RI, CA, NJ and NY in place by 1949.
On the federal level, very little progress was made until the mid-20th century, when women increasingly entered the workforce and thus the focus then expanded beyond paid vacation time to broader family-related leaves. From there, as illustrated below, we have seen an array of paid and unpaid leave laws pass at both the state and federal levels, with the onus for paid leave largely falling to state legislation due to a lack of movement on the federal stage.
Current Leave Landscape & Employer Tactics
Here is a high-level snapshot of leave options available today.
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- American’s Disability Act (ADA/ADAAA)
- Uniformed Services and Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
- Paid family leave (PFL)
- Paid family and medical leave (PFML)
- Statutory Disability Insurance (SDI)
- Workers’ Compensation (WC)
- Paid Sick Leave (PSL)
- Sick leave laws
- Apply federal, state, and local entitlements
Offered at employer’s discretion
- Paid leave in a state that does not offer PFL or PFML
- Personal leave
- Bereavement leave
- Vacation, sick or PTO beyond mandates
It’s important to note that of the above leaves, some are fully paid, some are partially paid, and some are unpaid. Job protection in the event of an absence from work may or may not be granted, depending on the situation and policy at play. This landscape leaves significant gaps, which many employers are looking to close with ancillary options.
Employers generally recognize the value of leave benefits, in that they serve to:
- Support employees
- Retain talent
- Recruit talent
- Combat productivity losses, often related to personal and family health problems (being “present” does not always mean being productive)
There is now a movement to expand upon traditional fundamentals in this area to better address widespread issues. Specifically, we have seen an uptick in (a sample list):
- Bereavement leave
- Domestic violence support
- Mental health support
- Personal leave
- Wellness days
- Compassionate leave
- Sabbatical leave
- Time Off in Lieu of Working Overtime (TOIL)
- Humanitarian leave
Even the most generous of programs, however, can fall short if careful thought is not given to communication strategies around offerings available, employee education surrounding leave eligibility and protocols, and population needs.
The greater the volume of leave types on the table, the more complex compliance becomes. As such, employers should have processes in place regarding:
- Determining which leave laws and policies may apply to an employee’s request (federal, state, local) and run leaves concurrently when applicable
- Training managers involved in the employer’s leave policies
- Administering leave policies in a consistent and non-discriminatory manner
- Ensuring engaging in the interactive process to determine reasonable accommodations under the ADA which includes leave as an accommodation
- Continuing group health insurance benefits during employee leave
- Allowing for an equal amount of paid time off for parental leave policies for both caregivers
- Using language in policies that is gender neutral
- Ensuring adherence to reporting and tracking requirements
As veterans in the integrated disability and absence management space, we cannot see the future, but we can offer informed predictions about what’s to come. We anticipate state activity will continue to push employers to expand their leave offerings. Flexibility and work-life balance will remain in the spotlight, and employees will be working toward being more informed about their leave rights, so compliance will continue to take precedence. Operationally, we expect that more HR and benefits teams will turn to outsourcing to mitigate staffing issues, and will look to fully integrate leave benefits into a single system to reduce administrative burden, streamline processes, and increase reporting capabilities.
If you are interested in benchmarking your leave programs, integrating benefits, or better understanding best practices in this area, Spring would love to hear from you.
Spring has been recognized as one of the Top Employee Benefits Consulting firms in Massachusetts by Mployer Advisors, who focus on connecting employers with top-rated insurance advisors. We’d also like to congratulate our colleagues at Boston Benefit Partners, An Alera Group Company, for making the list as well! You can find the full update here.
As we prepare for 2024, we are in an interesting time for HR teams in that they are facing challenges such as back to office strategies and changing workplace expectations, all on top of a full plate of duties. Last week I attended the Northeast HR Association (NEHRA) Annual Conference, which brought together leaders and industry experts to delve into crucial topics that have become front and center HR today. This year’s conference explored vital themes, including mental health/well-being, innovative leadership tactics, and the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Here are the highlights from this enlightening event.
Nurturing Mental Health and Well-being
One major theme at NEHRA’s Annual Conference this year was meant health and well-being, a popular topic in the world of HR. The discussions were both insightful and innovative, with presenters emphasizing new trends and practices to help support employees’ mental health. Here are some presentations I found impactful:
– In the session, “Neuroinclusion in the Workplace: A Win-Win for Both Employers and Employees,” a well-being expert discussed strategies to support neurodivergent employees to foster workplace collaboration and effective communication.
-The Founder and CEO of Wellbeing Works, Shanna B. Tiayon discussed how HR departments can support employees experiencing trauma though proper communication and resilient HR structures.
– The closing keynote, titled “Transform Your Workplace Through Connection & Community,” focused on developing an understanding of the benefits of having a connected work community and how to develop inclusive programs.
Innovative Leadership Tactics
One of the most pertinent points discussed was the role of HR in shaping leadership. The event brought forward outside-the-box ideas for fostering leadership excellence, creating an inclusive environment, and retaining and developing potential future leaders. Below are some presentations I would like to spotlight:
– A presentation titled “Who’s on Deck? Succession Planning that Eliminates Fears and Reduces Cost,” reviewed the advantages of promoting talent internally and tips for developing middle management for leadership roles.
-A leadership development expert explored top management tactics and the importance of developing workplace conditions that bring out the best in people. The session was titled “Reimagining Managers: Why the Best Managers Don’t Manage People.”
– In the era of hybrid work, effective and efficient meetings can be challenging. The breakout presentation, “Mastering the Art of Meetings: Powering Up Your Gathering,” reviewed ways to prioritize productivity without sacrificing workplace culture during meetings.
Championing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
Developing and enhancing DEI efforts continues to be a top priority for HR teams. The importance of setting measurable goals, conducting bias training, and engaging with underrepresented communities was emphasized. The conversations highlighted that DEI isn’t just an HR issue; it’s a business imperative. Organizations that embrace diversity are better equipped to innovate, excel, and adapt to the ever-changing global landscape. Here are a couple of presentations with insights I wanted to share:
– Two HR professionals discussed “Practical strategies to imbed DEIB Considerations Into Your Hiring Practices.” Some main points included implementing blind resumes, training hiring managers and recruiters on unconscious bias and diversifying the interview panel.
-In the session “Building a Personalized and Equitable Benefits Program,” the presenter discussed effective and realistic tactics to improve DEI efforts in employee benefits without breaking the bank.
In conclusion, the NEHRA Annual Conference 2023 proved to be a valuable platform for HR professionals to deepen their understanding of a plethora of challenges employers are facing. The event’s discussions and insights provided attendees with the knowledge and motivation needed to lead HR into the future, creating workplaces that are not only more productive but also more compassionate and equitable. The NEHRA Annual Conference continues to be a beacon for HR professionals in the northeast as they navigate the evolving landscape of the industry.
Push and Pull
The debate over workforce flexibility remains that: a debate. On the one side, many employers want to bring staff back into the office in-person, citing collaboration, camaraderie and productivity as driving forces. On the other side, (most) employees are reluctant to return to the office full-time after having enjoyed a mix of remote or hybrid work for years. This dynamic is not new and it’s a topic you’re likely tired of seeing on your news feed, but did you know that:
- 65% of CEOs at multinational companies said the “ideal” working environment would be in-office full time by 20251
- A Gallup survey reports that only 12% of employees want to work in an office full-time
- 80% of companies regret their initial return-to-office decisions and wish their approach had been more thoughtful, strategic, and in coordination with employee feedback2
In this environment with competing priorities and a difficult labor market, it’s important that both parties find a compromise, but this process can be difficult and nuanced. By conducting Alera Group’s Workforce Flexibility Trade-Off Survey, we set out to identify those areas that may constitute that compromise.
We surveyed 1,500 full-time employees, split between hourly and salaried workers across a range of industries, job types, and income levels. We then pitted the following flexible options against each other, where survey respondents had to choose one over the other:
- Flexible Hours: Set own hours, shifts and break times
- Flexible Days: Elect compressed work week, still meeting full time requirements
- Flexible Location: Work from home, office or other location at their preference
- Paid Parental/Family Care Leave Policy: Formal policy that provides paid time off (outside of sick/vacation/PTO) to care for a child or family member
- Additional Paid Time Off Days: Paid days to use for things like sick or vacation
We asked which benefit they prefer, which benefit they value the most, and which is most important when it comes to cultural perception.
Survey results offered some valuable insights into solving for this tricky issue:
- In terms of order of preference, participants overwhelmingly selected additional PTO over other benefits
- The majority of participants would accept slightly less pay for additional PTO
- Flexible work is difficult to take away once offered
- A paid parental/family care leave policy speaks volumes about a company’s culture of supporting employees
If you’re one of the many organizations grappling with how to bring employees back to the office, we recommend a different approach based on your primary goal, as seen below.
- For employee attraction, the positioning of the offer is important
- Consider additional PTO over salary
- Understand cultural impact of a paid parental/family care leave program
- For employee retention, we recommend a phased approach where you decrease flexible option slowly, but over time replace that benefit with additional PTO
Overall, it’s important to set an intentional policy, and one that is tailored toward your workforce. To that end, please get in touch if you are interested in conducting a similar study for your specific population, or if you would like to see the full survey results in detail. Otherwise, click here to learn how to Benchmark Your Time Off Programs.
1 KPMG 2022 CEO Outlook
In today’s diverse and dynamic workplace, fostering a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic business necessity. One critical aspect of this commitment involves designing employee benefits packages that ensure fair and equitable treatment for all employees, regardless of age, gender, income, education, geography, or any other characteristics. In this article, we will explore how employers and HR teams can enhance their DEI efforts through inclusive employee benefits packages.
Conduct a Comprehensive DEI and Benefits Assessment
To create a benefits package that promotes DEI, it’s essential to start with a thorough assessment of your organization’s current practices and culture. You may want to consider:
- Benchmark current programs through surveys, focus groups, data collection, industry tech and other tools to evaluate current pain points and employee trends.
- Collect and analyze demographic data on age, gender, income, education, and other relevant characteristics to understand representation and disparities.
- Team up with subject matter experts like our actuaries, data analysts, or clinical pharmacy team to understand utilization and what is driving your claims costs, as this will give you a picture of the different demographics and health issues represented in your plans.
- Review existing health plan designs through different economic lenses based on your employees’ salary ranges, considering factors like coverage levels, deductibles, and co-pays.
Offer Flexible/Voluntary Benefits
One way to promote DEI in your benefits packages is by providing flexibility. Recognize that employees have different needs and circumstances. Consider offering a range of options to level the playing field, such as flexible work hours, remote/hybrid work opportunities, or voluntary benefits packages, allowing employees to select benefits that align with their individual requirements.
- Implement flexible work arrangements, such as flextime, earlier/later hours, or telecommuting, allowing employees to balance work and personal responsibilities.
- Introduce voluntary benefits such as disability insurance, hospital indemnity insurance, commuter benefits, etc. which allow employees to select benefits that fit their lifestyle and cater to their unique needs.
- Provide wellness days, caregiver leave or additional paid time off for employees to use as needed for personal reasons, including family responsibilities.
Address Healthcare Disparities
Healthcare benefits are a crucial part of any employee benefits package. To ensure equity, take steps to address healthcare disparities. Consider the following:
- Offer health insurance plans that include coverage for diverse healthcare needs, such as mental health services, transgender healthcare, and preventive care.
- Ensure that health plan networks include a wide range of healthcare providers to accommodate different geographic locations and healthcare preferences.
- Promote regular health check-ups and screenings through wellness programs, with a focus on educating employees about available resources.
Support Family and Caregiver Needs
Recognize that employees may have diverse family structures and caregiving responsibilities. To support DEI in your benefits package:
- Provide paid parental leave that covers all caregivers, including adoptive parents, and consider extending the leave duration for parents who give birth.
- Implement flexible scheduling options or remote work arrangements for employees caring for children, aging parents, or individuals with disabilities.
- If budget allows, consider stipends or other benefits related to childcare or eldercare services.
- Review current employee leave trends and industry patterns to identify what types of leave and support employees need most.
Encourage Financial Wellbeing
Financial wellness is a critical aspect of employee wellbeing. Consider these steps to enhance financial equity in your benefits:
- Offer retirement plans with automatic enrollment and contribution matching to promote retirement savings for all employees.
- Provide financial education and counseling services to help employees better manage their finances and plan for their future.
- Consider offering income protection benefits, such as short-term and long-term disability insurance, to safeguard employees against income loss due to an unexpected illness or injury.
- Provide student debt relief and education support resources to help employees of all backgrounds enhance their educational background without financial stress.
Promote Professional Development
To ensure DEI in career growth opportunities, invest in professional development benefits:
- Establish mentorship programs that match underrepresented employees with experienced mentors who can help guide their career growth.
- Offer tuition reimbursement or scholarships for further education or job-related certifications, with a focus on supporting employees from diverse backgrounds.
- Create leadership development programs that actively seek out and nurture talent from underrepresented groups, ensuring equitable access to advancement opportunities.
Raise Awareness and Foster Inclusivity
Create a culture of inclusivity by:
- Conduct regular DEI trainings/webinars for all employees to increase awareness of unconscious bias, microaggressions, and ways to promote inclusivity.
- Celebrate cultural and religious holidays and observances through inclusive events, workshops, or cultural competency training. Also, consider floating holidays that employees can use at their leisure to celebrate holidays meaningful to them.
- Establish a clear and confidential reporting system for employees to report discrimination, harassment, or bias incidents, with a commitment to investigating and addressing such concerns promptly.
Monitor and Adjust
Regularly review and assess the impact of your DEI-focused benefits initiatives. Solicit feedback from employees and adjust your benefits package as needed to address evolving needs and challenges.
- Continuously collect and analyze data on employee satisfaction, turnover, and the utilization of benefits to identify areas where adjustments may be necessary.
- Engage in regular dialogues with employee resource groups (ERGs) or diversity councils to gain insights and gather feedback on DEI initiatives.
- Stay informed about evolving legal and industry standards related to DEI in benefits and make necessary updates to your benefits package accordingly.
By conducting this recommended process, employers can proactively enhance DEI in their employee benefits packages, fostering a workplace culture that values diversity and promotes equitable access to opportunities and resources for all employees. Championing DEI efforts in benefits also often leads to greater outcomes in engagement, recruitment, and retention.
Our Senior Vice President, Prabal Lakhanpal was featured in a Global Captive Podcast episode, during which they discussed Spring’s client, The Haskell Company. Haskell is a privately-owned engineering, construction and architectural firm that was able to reduce insurance costs, optimize coverage, and introduce new lines of risk by switching to a captive. Check out the full episode here.