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How Solid is Your Employee Handbook?: Employee Sets Record for Longest Absence

 How important is a good attendance policy? Consider the case of a 69-year-old Spanish civil servant who gained international notoriety.  It seems that this particular water utility employee held what we hope was an unmatched record: the employee grabbed the slacker brass ring and was absent from work for a total of six years, while still collecting a check.    Add in the fact that no one noticed he wasn’t reporting to work and it’s easy to see how this employee made international headlines.

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Progress Report on the ACA

The Affordable Care Act has now been active as law for going on three years, so it seems like an appropriate time to assess some of its effects and how well it has or has not achieved its intended goals. To start, the number of uninsured Americans has definitely fallen, from approximately 50 million in 2010 to around 30 million as of 2015. With this shift has come improvements in accessibility of health care, affordability, and health as self-reported by consumers. That said, significant portions of the population live in the states that opted not to expand Medicaid as part of the ACA's implementation. Other segments of the population included undocumented residents, who are therefore not eligible for the ACA's coverage options. Add to these categories the people who have not signed up for coverage simply because they are not aware of the options available or because for them the tax penalty is more affordable than an insurance premium, and you still have many million Americans without coverage. For t ...

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How Best to Address Obesity Among Employees

Approximately 1 in 3 Americans is affected by obesity, and this condition comes with a chain of serious, related risks such as heart disease and diabetes. It accounts for more than a fifth of all medical spending in America, and as such is a major concern for those who are looking to control healthcare costs for their employees. Benefits professionals have a set of strategies for other chronic conditions that can be adapted to the task of addressing obesity in the workplace. Here are a few tips on how to do this effectively. 1. Assess who is at risk for obesity and its related conditions. This can be done through screenings and assessments, or through referrals from employees' physicians. Keep in mind that it can be essential to catch obesity early, as even a little weight loss can have dramatic effects on an employees' long-term health: recent studies by the CDC indicate that losing even 5% of total body weight can improve mental health, sleep and energy levels, preventing the onset of diabetes, and lowerin ...

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ID Theft Protection as a Benefit

The IRS recently announced that identity theft protection offered by employers can receive preferential tax treatment, even in cases where employees' identities have not yet experienced a breach. Prior to the announcement, such protection had to be taxed as income unless a data breach had already occurred and the individual in question had reason to believe their identity had been compromised as a result. Identity theft is one of the most swiftly growing trends in crime in America today, with one identity stolen roughly every three seconds. As a result, this type of protection is more in demand now than ever before, and benefits professionals are predicting that interest in this benefit will keep pace with that demand for years to come, since most Americans can expect to have some experience with identity theft over the course of their lifetime. The other part of the IRS's rationale in providing an exemption for identity theft protection benefits speaks to the importance of catching instances of ident ...

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Chipotle Outbreak Sets Back Locavore Movement

In the wake of outbreaks of E. coli and norovirus at multiple locations, Chipotle has announced that it will be scaling back its use of local ingredients in its restaurants. This is a significant setback given the chain's branding that emphasizes their use of healthy, locally sourced ingredients. Chipotle was a leader in this movement toward mass use of local food, but their case highlights some of the risks involved with that movement, and it poses important questions about the future of the local food movement. The largest problem with dealing in local food on a large scale is compliance. Instead of receiving ingredients and products from a single source, you are sourcing food through dozens or even hundreds of smaller companies. Ensuring that each and every one of them is engaging in best practices is an enormous investment. It's also a complex undertaking since food safety and production standards can vary around the country, and some "traditional" practices like natural fertilizers can present health ri ...

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