Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Down, set. . . wait, wait just a minute.

Sports can provide some of the best HR analogies. Take for example the NFL playoffs and the contemplated future of two of the games iron horses: Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals and Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings.

At the conclusion of the last several seasons, much of the buzz with these two gentlemen centers on whether they will retire. The question gets asked in the press conference immediately following the game that ends the season for them, and the QBs consistently give a "I'm not sure what I want to do right now" response as they flex their appendages with huge ice bags taped to them and grimace from the internal bleeding they have surely suffered at the hands of opposing defenses. And when pressed to give a more definite answer, again usually during that same press conference, Warner and Favre have more recently said they probably won't be back.

Of course, if they stuck with that decision, then this blog entry wouldn't have any use. What those players realize, and what we teach our HR clients to practice, is that decisions with an emotional tilt to them shouldn't be made in haste. More importantly, they shouldn't be made in close time to the event that spurned the need for a decision.

When our clients encounter an HR decision that will have a reverberating effect, we encourage them to take a few steps back before deciding on the proper course. Thinking with a clearer head and cooler emotions will often place the event in perspective and even create opportunities for alternative courses that might be more appropriate. If my husband, a head coach, has one golden rule for his players and parents, it is that his door is always open except immediately after a game. You put so much time, energy and emotion into that setting that level-headedness often takes a back seat to knee-jerk reactions. Creating space from the event is the best way to ensure HR is making a decision based on the facts and not the heart.

Unlike sports, you luckily have unlimited time outs. Use them to your advantage.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Holiday expansion

Most of us think of the holidays as a time to celebrate, be with the ones we love, and, unfortunately, put on a few pounds. This year, thanks to our Executive and Legislative Branches, any waistline gain wasn't the only expansion going on.

On December 19, 2009, President Obama signed a bill that allows the COBRA premium subsidy law to continue beyond its original sunset date of December 31, 2009. In the course of passing this extension, provisions were also added which expands the group of Assistant-Eligible Individuals ("AEIs").

Some highlights:
  • The subsidy period is increased from 9 to 15 months
  • A qualifying event for the subsidy is now covered by the period of September 1, 2008 through February 28, 2010.
  • If a former employee is now an AEI due to this amendment, that former employee has a transition period.
  • If you have an AEI who (1) did not timely make a COBRA premium payment prior to the passing of this amendment or (2) paid a full premium when now it could be a subsidized premium, you must give that AEI a notice of the new law. This notice is to be issued within the first 60 days of the AEI's transition period.
  • If you have a former employee who became an AEI after October 31, 2009, you must provide that former employee with the new notice.

The amendments include other provisions which will be of interest to employers. Employers should consider contacting their third-party administrators or legal counsel to discuss how the amendments might impact them.