It is our pleasure to extend to you a warm invitation to our upcoming virtual HR Leaders Compliance Summit in early February!

This year’s event is an expanded virtualization of a longstanding on-site gathering of Acrisure Agency Partner offices and the transformational Human Resources professionals they support. Over the course of this summit, you will hear from numerous subject matter experts that specialize in various HR-related disciplines including labor regulations, employee benefits trends, and human capital management best practices. Coming off the heels of 2020, we think you will find the agenda to be timely, relevant, and impactful.

We are also extremely excited to welcome Annie Duke as our keynote speaker on February 9, 2021. In addition to being a nationally recognized bestselling author and the only woman to have won the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions, Annie is a respected decision strategist and business thought leader. Her background and expertise lend a valuable and unique series of insights to the challenges facing HR leaders and their organizations today.

Below is a general overview regarding topics that will be covered, as well as our keynote speaker. To view the detailed agenda, or for more information on how to register, please click here.

Here’s to a prosperous year of partnership in 2021!

 

On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the much-anticipated COVID-19 relief bill (the “Bill”), which was approved by Congress a week earlier. The Bill, a follow-up to the March 2020 CARES Act, provides a second round of stimulus dollars and economic relief measures; it also contains several provisions of particular importance to employers.

Temporary Provisions for Flexible Spending Accounts

The Bill includes a number of temporary relief measures for Flexible Spending Accounts (“FSAs”). These measures are permissible, not mandatory. Employers who wish to incorporate some or all of these relief measures must make appropriate plan amendments no later than the last day of the calendar year following the plan year in which the change is effective.

  • Balance Carryovers: For 2020 and 2021 plan years only, participants may be permitted to carry over unused balances of any amount in both a Health and Dependent Care FSA. This means that carryover amounts are unrestricted going into plan years 2021 and 2022. Note that ordinarily, Dependent Care FSAs cannot offer a carryover feature.
  • Grace Periods: Health and Dependent Care FSAs that do not incorporate a carryover feature can provide a grace period of up to 12 months for plan years ending in 2020 and 2021. The extended grace period will allow participants additional time to incur eligible expenses.
  • Election Changes: The mid-year election change rules for Health and Dependent Care FSAs may be relaxed to permit employees to make prospective changes to election amounts absent a qualifying event. This relaxation of the election change rules is similar to the relief previously provided for cafeteria plans in 2020 (Benefits Bulletin: IRS Provides Temporary Flexibility for Cafeteria Plans, Health FSAs, and DCAPs) and is available through plan years ending in 2021.
  • Eligible Dependent Age: Dependent Care FSAs may temporarily increase the age of eligible dependents by one year (from 13 up to age 14).
  • Terminated Employees: Participants in a Health FSA who terminate employment in 2020 or 2021 may spend down their account balances through the end of the plan year in which the termination occurs.

Extension of FFCRA Tax Credits

While the paid sick and family leave mandate under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) expires on December 31, 2020, the associated tax credits available to employers who provide this leave will remain available through March 31, 2021. Thus, employers who voluntarily continue to provide FFCRA leave may also take advantage of the available tax credits through the first quarter of 2021.

Continuation of the Employee Retention Tax Credit

Originally set to expire on December 31, 2020, the Bill authorizes a continuation of the Employee Retention Tax Credit through June 30, 2021. This tax credit allows businesses to claim a refundable payroll tax credit for up to 70% of qualified wages paid to employees (an increase from the previous cap of 50%). Despite the increase in percentage of qualified wages, the wage dollar limit remains $10,000 per employee per quarter. This limits the per-employee credit amount to no more than $7,000 per quarter.

Reauthorization of the Paycheck Protection Program

Finally, the Bill allocates additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (the “PPP”). This new round of funding means that businesses will have another opportunity to apply for and receive PPP funds – even those that received funding during the first round of PPP – in order to retain employees and cover basic operating expenses. The Bill also expands the list of expenses that are considered forgivable.

Next Steps

For provisions relating to FSAs, employers should carefully consider which measures, if any, it wishes to incorporate, and should then coordinate with third party administrators to make timely plan amendments and distribute necessary participant communications such as Summaries of Material Modifications (“SMMs”). For provisions relating to tax credits and lending programs, employers should reach out to their tax advisor to determine how best to tap into the available assistance.

Additional Resources

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the Bill)

FFCRA Tax Credits

Employee Retention Tax Credit

Paycheck Protection Program

To download a copy of this AHERN Benefits Bulletin, please click here.

Simplify Compliance: This Benefits Bulletin is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.

At the end of the calendar year, workplace holiday celebrations are an experience that many employees look forward to as a highlight of the season. These celebrations are often a long-standing tradition allowing employees to celebrate with their colleagues—and sometimes family and guests.

However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are evaluating how to engage employees safely this holiday season. Employers find themselves tasked with deciding whether they should cancel, postpone or offer an amended celebration that prioritizes safety—with many choosing to offer a virtual holiday party.

Virtual holiday parties can help increase employee engagement—but also come with a set of challenges. In addition to concerns regarding the coronavirus, holiday events can carry a financial cost and create risks for organizations if employees participate in inappropriate behaviors. This article gives an overview of virtual holiday parties and offers ideas and considerations for employers planning a virtual celebration.

The State of Holiday Parties During the Coronavirus

According to firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. who conducts annual workplace holiday party surveys, most employers are either canceling their party altogether or hosting it virtually this holiday season. Their annual survey found that:

  • Twenty-three percent of organizations plan to host a year-end celebration in 2020, down from 76% in 2019.
  • Forty-four percent of organizations canceling holiday parties this year cite COVID-19 as the reason for canceling.
  • Seventy-four percent of those planning to offer a holiday party are doing so virtually.

These findings show that, while holiday parties are generally popular, employers are adapting to address current realities. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to offering a year-end celebration during the COVID-19 pandemic, and employers have a variety of options to engage their employees safely.

Considerations for Offering a Virtual Holiday Party

Holiday parties can impact employees in a variety of ways. Specifically, these events can boost:

  • Team chemistry and camaraderie
  • Employee motivation
  • Employee engagement

Additionally, holiday parties can give employees a break from the standard workday and even serve as an informal meeting to discuss next year’s goals and instill company values.

How an organization chooses to celebrate varies by workplace, but employers considering a virtual event may find that many of the shared experiences of a year-end celebration can take place in a remote environment.

Planning a Virtual Holiday Party

A virtual environment won’t always fully replicate the in-person experience that many employees have come to expect for celebrations. Despite this, with careful planning, employers can still plan a virtual event that satisfies employees. Similar to when planning an in-person celebration, there are steps employers will want to take, which include:

  • Establishing a budget for the event
  • Creating the event’s guest list, which may include:
    • All employees
    • A specific team, department or location
    • In some cases, family members or guests
  • Establishing and communicating expectations for employees, including appropriate behaviors and other related policies
  • Planning, promoting and hosting the event

Factors such as a budget and how you intend to engage employees may influence what type of celebration makes sense for your organization. Holiday celebrations often involve a variety of activities, and the good news is that many of these can be offered virtually via online platforms or video chat. Examples of virtual holiday celebrations include:

  • Virtual mixers designed for multiple conversations to take place at once, rather than one big video conference
  • Ugly sweater contest
  • Holiday karaoke
  • Gingerbread house building and decorating
  • Wine and cheese party
  • Online escape room
  • Trivia contest
  • Virtual gift exchange

These are some ideas for employers to consider and may require some advance planning. For example, in some cases, employers may choose to provide party supplies for the employee, which would require gathering and shipping those items to each employees’ home before the celebration. Or, employers may need to prepare a list of trivia questions or instructions for guided activities, such as the online escape room.

When it comes to planning for virtual holiday events, employers can consider planning the activity internally or using providers or vendors that specialize in event planning.

Alternative Methods for Recognizing Employees

Generally, holiday parties carry a cost, and diverting funds to throwing a celebration may not be an option, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although employees may be disappointed due to not being able to participate in a holiday party, employers can lift their spirits in other ways.

Many employees may appreciate a gift or form of recognition as a replacement for their prized holiday party. Alternative methods for recognizing employees can include:

  • Giving employees a holiday gift
  • Sponsoring employees to make a charitable gift
  • Recognizing each employee for their individual contributions

As many organizations encounter financial restraints, holiday celebrations are not a requirement by any means. However, it’s important to consider showing appreciation for employees in some way to boost engagement and morale.

Virtual Holiday Party Best Practices

Workplace holiday parties can present a host of liabilities for organizations each year. While virtual celebrations won’t take place at a physical venue, employers should still proceed cautiously. Employees joining an event remotely aren’t immune from engaging in inappropriate behaviors. Holiday parties can remain a risk for employers—but employers can mitigate undesirable outcomes by planning effectively. Best practices include:

  • Evaluating your policies—With an increased number of employees working remotely—and the holiday event taking place virtually as well—ensure your employee handbook addresses remote behaviors to help mitigate risks. Employees should have easy access to an employee handbook and all policies, and be aware that a holiday celebration is considered a workplace event, meaning that all behaviors are expected to comply with organizational policies.
  • Keeping holiday celebrations optional—Depending on an employee’s exemption status, they may need to be compensated for their time, leading to challenges for mandating their attendance at a virtual event. Additionally, while many employees will be excited about a celebration, others may feel differently. With this in mind, it may be easier to make attendance optional.
  • Keeping the celebration general—There is some debate over the appropriateness of observing one holiday over another. However, focusing on offering a broader “holiday party” while avoiding specific religious celebrations can be inclusive to employees of varying backgrounds and beliefs.
  • Setting expectations for behaviors—Unfortunately, many holiday parties can lead to inappropriate behaviors by attendees. Despite being remote, employers should be aware that consequential employee behaviors can also take place virtually. Employers can mitigate undesired behaviors by setting expectations for attendees. Be sure to include these expectations in the employee handbook and communicate them to employees.

These best practices help mitigate the risk of employees engaging in inappropriate behaviors and best ensure that employees have a positive experience.

Holiday Celebrations in Your Workplace

While holiday celebrations can positively impact a workplace culture—there is also a case for forgoing a celebration. In addition to safety concerns, these events may have a financial cost, and holiday parties can present risks for employers, such as employees engaging in inappropriate behaviors. While virtual events may be able to mitigate common concerns such as excessive alcohol consumption that can lead to inappropriate behaviors, employers should know that poor behaviors can also take place in the virtual environment.

Employers who typically host an annual celebration, but are choosing not to do so this year, should consider explaining to employees why throwing a holiday party isn’t feasible. While some employees will be disappointed in this decision, they’ll still appreciate the sincerity and transparency.

As the end of the year approaches, employers find themselves torn between postponing, canceling or hosting a holiday celebration using safe practices. Employers should consider what type of celebration makes sense for their organization, even if that means not having one this year.

For additional employee engagement resources, contact AHERN Insurance Brokerage.

This article is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as professional advice.

© 2020 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

When Cyber Attacks like data breaches and hacks occur, they can result in devastating damage. Businesses suffering from a Cyber Attack can suddenly find themselves in the position of having to deal with business disruptions, lost revenue and litigation.

Unfortunately, since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a 400% increase in Cyber Attacks, resulting in 4,000 Cyber Attacks every day.
(Source: Federal Bureau of Investigations)

It is important to remember that no organization is immune to the impact of Cyber Crime. This webinar will show how Cybersecurity and Cyber Insurance work together to make organizations more resilient to Cyber Risks.

        TITLE | What’s a Risk? Cyber Threats During COVID-19
        PRESENTER | Adam Abresch, CIC, CCIC, CLCS | Acrisure Cyber Practice Leader
        DATE | Wednesday, October 28th, 2020
        TIME | 11AM to 12PM PDT
        COST | FREE!

By attending this webinar, you will learn:

-What’s at risk for your business

-How these attacks are occurring

-What these attacks can cost a company

(Please Note: This webinar does not count towards MCLE credit.)

AHERN Insurance Brokerage is a proud agency partner of Acrisure, a top 10 global insurance broker. Our relationship with Acrisure allows us to provide our clients access to policies, resources, and expertise often outside the reach of stand-alone agencies. Along with competitive pricing, our service is backed by dedicated, local customer service.

High-profile cyber attacks on companies such as Target have raised awareness of the growing threat of cyber crime. Recent surveys conducted by the U.S. Small Business Administration suggest that many small business owners are still operating under a false sense of cyber security based on their company’s size.

When it comes to cyber attacks, small does not equate with safe. In fact, a cyber attack could be even more detrimental to a small business than to a large corporation. The National Cyber Security Alliance reports that 60 percent of small and mid-sized businesses go out of business within six months of an attack.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, costs related to ransomware demands and damages is estimated to reach $20 billion per year by 2021. Can your company afford the costs, loss of productivity, and public relations fallout associated with a cyber attack?

Start Simple

Even if you don’t currently have the resources to bring in an outside expert to test your computer systems and make security recommendations, you should take action to help reduce your risk of falling victim to a cyber attack.

  1. Train employees, emphasizing confidentiality and integrity.
  2. Install, use, and regularly update antivirus and antispyware software on all business computers and devices.
  3. Use a firewall for your internet connection to prevent unauthorized private network access.
  4. Download and install software updates for your operating systems and applications as available.
  5. Make frequent backup copies of important business data and information.
  6. Control physical access to your computers and network components based on need and job responsibilities.
  7. Secure your wi-fi networks and create a secondary connection for visitors.
  8. Require individual user accounts for each employee to eliminate sharing login information and unintentionally exposing access to uninvited users.
  9. Limit employee access to data and information and restrict authority to install software.
  10. Regularly change and securely store passwords.

Cyber Support

AHERN Insurance Brokerage can help you develop cyber coverage and protocols to keep your business on track. Please contact us discuss your specific needs and concerns so we can update your cyber preparedness. You can also call (800) 282-9786 to speak with an AHERN Professional or complete this online application to receive a no-obligation quote for Cyber Liability insurance.

AHERN Insurance Brokerage is a proud agency partner of Acrisure, a top 10 global insurance broker. Our relationship with Acrisure allows us to provide our clients access to policies, resources, and expertise often outside the reach of stand-alone agencies. Along with competitive pricing, our service is backed by dedicated, local customer service.

At AHERN Insurance Brokerage, we are dedicated to keeping you up-to-date and informed when critical notifications (such as these) directly impact you, your clients, and your business.

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed two bills into law: SB1159 and AB685. These place immediate requirements on California employers and will remain effective from September 17, 2020 through January 1, 2023.

Please review this information carefully as these obligations carry severe administrative penalties (up to $10,000) for failure to comply.

________________________________________________________________________________

The First Bill: SB1159 – COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Presumption Bill

Earlier this year, the Governor released Executive Order N-62-20. This provided criteria for how to handle cases of COVID-19 if an employee claims they contracted the virus while performing their job.  It also created a “rebuttable” presumption for COVID-19, which means the claim of becoming infected while performing one’s job stands unless the employer has other evidence that the infection took place outside of work.

The Governor’s newest bill, SB1159, extended this “rebuttable” presumption until 1/1/2023.  Another critical component of this bill requires California employers to report all known (or reasonably known) Employee positive tests for COVID-19 to their claims administrator.  This obligation applies even if the employee is not making an allegation of workplace exposure.

Here are the rules for this important reporting obligation:

For Positive Tests on (or after) September 17, 2020
ALL OF THE FOLLOWING must be reported directly to your current workers’ compensation carrier within 3 business days of being notified that your employee tested positive for COVID-19:

1. TEST RESULT: Report that an employee tested positive. Do not identify the employee by name unless the employee claims the infection was work-related.
2. DATE: Report the date the employee tested positive. This is the date the test was taken.
3. ADDRESS: Include the address of the specific place(s) of employment where the infected employee worked during the 14-day period before testing positive.
4. EMPLOYEE TOTAL: First, please take note of the date your employee tested positive. Second, with that date in mind, please note the number of employees who came into work within 45 days before this date. Businesses must report the highest number of employees who came to work (at the same locations where the infected employee worked) in the 45-day period before the infected employee’s last day on-the-job.

For Positive Tests between July 6, 2020 and September 17, 2020

1. TEST AMOUNTS: Report all known positive tests by October 29, 2020.
2. TEST RESULT: Report that an employee tested positive. Do not identify the employee by name unless the employee claims the infection was work-related.
3. DATE: Report the date the employee tested positive. This is the date the test was taken.
4. ADDRESS: Include the address of the specific place(s) of employment where the infected employee worked during the 14-day period before testing positive.
5. EMPLOYEE TOTAL: First, please take note of the date your employee tested positive. Second, with that date in mind, please note the number of employees who came into work within 45 days before this date. Businesses must report the highest number of employees who came to work (at the same locations where the infected employee worked) in the 45-day period before the infected employee’s last day on-the-job.

Please note these regulations only apply to businesses with 5 or more employees. All reports must be done in writing and submitted directly to your current workers’ compensation carrier.

________________________________________________________________________________

The Second Bill: AB685 – Employer’s Written Notice for Exposed Employee

You also need to be aware of the second bill, Assembly Bill 685. This bill will be effective on January 1, 2021 and requires California businesses to notify their employees who may have been exposed to COVID-19 at their worksite within one business day.  Additionally, record keeping obligations are included in this bill.  We request that employers review this link so that they can review the requirements and take appropriate steps to ensure overall OSHA compliance.

________________________________________________________________________________

If you have any questions regarding this important notice, please feel free to contact your AHERN Producer or Account Manager.

We hope that you, your employees, and your families are staying safe during this time.
________________________________________________________________________________

AHERN Insurance Brokerage is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this email communication should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.

Cyber threats are rapidly evolving and there are a plethora of ways in which attackers can access networks. As protectors of sensitive information, it’s important that law firms are conscious of IT security and take steps to protect themselves from threats.

To learn more about how cyber threats can affect your law firm and steps you can take to mitigate your risk, please register for our webinar, “Cyber Threats – How to Make Your Firm Resilient to Cyber Risk.” In this webinar, you will learn about:

                          TITLE: Cyber Threats: How to Make Your Firm Resilient to Cyber Risk
                          PRESENTER: Adam Abresch, CIC, CCIC, CLCS
                          DATE: Tuesday, September 22, 2020
                          TIME: 11:45AM to 1:00PM PST
                          COST: FREE for San Diego ALA Members

In this FREE webinar, you will learn more about:

• The Numbers behind Cyber Risk
• What’s at Risk for your firm
• The Cost of a Cyber Breach
• The Solution

You will also receive a Cyber Risk Exposure Scorecard to better understand where you may be vulnerable to the new reality of cyber criminals.

Cyber awareness and protection is becoming essential for law firms of all sizes and areas of practice. We hope you can join us for a very informative hour!

_______________________________________________________________________________________

As the Cyber Risk Practice Leader at Acrisure, Adam is responsible for designing custom Cyber, Crime and Technology solutions for Acrisure clients across the globe. Adam is also a guest lecturer at Fordham University, Hofstra University and leads Cyber Liability education for over 250 Acrisure Partner Agencies throughout the country.

Adam is a frequent speaker and thought leader on Cyber Risk, including featured presentations at NetDiligence, the Professional Liability Underwriters Society (PLUS) Cyber Conference and the New Jersey and New York City Bar Associations. Adam graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and maintains a Certified Insurance Counselor designation (CIC), Cyber COPE Insurance Certification from Carnegie Mellon/Chubb and was the recipient of NetDiligence’s 2019 Toby Merrill Rising Star Award.