Insightful thinking Real-world solutions.

Are you fine — or “phine”?

“I’m fine,” said Randy– but he didn’t sound fine at all.  For weeks he’d been acting differently, and many of us – his colleagues and Getty_84473188his manager – noticed. No longer easy-going, he seemed distracted, snappy, and not really “on the job” the way he used to be. Never one to miss much time, he’d now used up more than half his sick days. Both his manager and I jumped to the same conclusion – substance abuse. We decided to have an off-the-record chat with Randy, over coffee and outside the office.  All he’d say at first was, “I’m just fine.”

What he really meant was “phine” – which means not fine at all.  As we talked, Randy eventually told us that, far from drinking or doing drugs, he struggling with a personal family situation. He gave no other details (nor would we dream of asking), but he did admit to feeling depressed, angry, and stressed over a job he absolutely loved. (more…)

“My way” might not have been best for auto-enrolment, say one third of UK companies

Frank Sinatra

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
I saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way
“My way” Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra, one of the bestselling artists of all time, is apparently not the only one to have a few regrets. A recent survey by the law firm Irwin Mitchell LLP records that if they had their chance again larger companies that have already auto-enrolled would have approached auto-enrolment differently.

The survey found half of these larger firms wished they had given themselves more time to prepare. Ongoing administration and back office systems were particularly singled out as issues. Moreover, some 33% of these companies had to take on additional staff to deal with administration issues.

From 1 April 2014, UK firms with a PAYE scheme size of between 160 and 249 employees reached their staging date. 30,000 employers will reach their staging date over a four month period beginning this month. It is likely that a sizeable proportion of these will have also underestimated the effect on their business. If larger firms, which have already staged, have struggled with auto-enrolment, then smaller firms are unlikely to fare any differently, especially as they are less likely to seek professional advice, perhaps in part due to the cost.

There is a solution in the form of Enrolment Assured for those small and medium employers which will be beginning to realise they are not as prepared as they thought they were. Enrolment Assured is a new streamlined fixed fee package for small and medium-sized employers which Buck has developed in conjunction with Friends Life, NEST, Scottish Widows and Standard Life – the details of which were set out in my earlier blog, ‘Are you confident you will meet your obligations under automatic enrolment?’.  For a fixed fee of £5,000, we can help you through the automatic enrolment minefield and keep you off The Pensions Regulator’s radar. Let us make sure your regrets are “too few to mention”.  Do it our way!


Fraser Smart
Group President
Buck Consultants

The views on this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent Buck’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Shrinking pension plan liabilities with more MAP-21 interest rate smoothing

Getty_84474167Not that employers have asked for it—in part out of a fear it will lead to another round of PBGC premium increases—but raising federal tax revenue by allowing employers to use higher interest rates than actual corporate bond rates is seen by some in Congress as an attractive source of revenue. With that in mind, H.R. 3979, as amended, was passed by the Senate Monday night (59 for; 38 against). The bill would provide for a 5-month extension of expired unemployment benefits, with the cost partially offset by two pension provisions. The first would extend MAP-21 pension interest rate smoothing, and the second would permit employers to elect to pre-pay their PBGC premiums. See our March 28, 2014 Legislate for more information on these two provisions.   (more…)

“MyRecoveryCheque” – An alternative to sick pay?

Colds and flu make up 80% of sickness absence

80% of sickness absences in the UK are down to colds and flu

I am told the average UK worker takes nine days sick leave a year compared to 5 days for the average American, while workers in the Far East take on average fewer than 3 days. It’s not because UK employers are generous with sick pay, as according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, in Western Europe, only Portugal and Ireland are less generous than the UK.  A Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey indicates that employers only classify 1% of sickness as not genuine.  So, the focus needs to be on the genuine 99% of sickness absence.

MediCheque Cash Plans Limited in the UK has identified what they believe is a unique and different approach to other cash plans in the UK market, which are aimed at funding treatment. Its product, ‘MyRecoveryCheque’, pays out according to the likely period of time a patient will need to recover before being able to return to work.  (more…)

If you answer “No” to any of these questions, you may be violating the FLSA

Getty_89975542The federal Fair Labor Standards Act establishes minimum wage and overtime pay standards that govern how and how much private and public sector employers must pay their workers. The recent surge in private lawsuits and more aggressive enforcement by the DOL show just how costly and disruptive FLSA claims can be.  

Employers that violate the FLSA can face substantial liability. Collective action and class-action lawsuits brought on behalf of a group of employees have become commonplace, and can expose employers to staggering costs for back pay, liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees. In addition, employers increasingly face civil penalties and possible criminal sanctions as the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has stepped up its FLSA enforcement activities.   (more…)

Important webinar: The FLSA – Avoid common pitfalls and costly mistakes

Complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) can be a daunting task. More aggressive enforcement of the FLSA by the Department of Labor and a recent surge in wage and hour lawsuits has grabbed employers’ attention. In the age of smartphones and remote workers, employers face both old and emerging challenges in tracking hours worked and properly compensating their workforce.

Join Buck Consultants and HRTMS on Tuesday April 8 for an overview of core FLSA requirements and practical advice on how to comply with them, including:

  • Determining exempt and nonexempt status
  • Tracking hours worked and calculating wages owed
  • Exploring hot topics and litigation trends
  • Understanding the key role of job descriptions in FLSA compliance

Also, learn how HRTMS’s web-based technology can help your organization automate and manage job information.

Register for your webinar now.


The views on this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent Buck’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

UK Financial Conduct Authority is to investigate historic savings and investment policies sold by insurance companies

I think we all agree, the past is over. – George W Bush

I think we all agree, the past is over. – George W Bush

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is to begin an investigation this summer into pensions, endowments, investment bonds and life assurance sold as far back as the seventies. The FCA is looking into whether firms operating historic products are doing so in a fair way and whether they have adopted strategies that exploit existing customers.

The investigation will look at what are often termed “zombie” pension funds that are closed to new customers, but which still carry large exit fees for those caught in them while not performing as well as schemes which are open to new customers. Following press speculation the FCA was quick to point out that it is not planning to review all of the 30 million policies sold between 1970 and 2000 individually.  Neither is it looking to remove exit fees from these policies provided the schemes were compliant at the time they were sold.  The FCA said: “we are not looking at applying current standards retrospectively.”


Happy birthday, HSAs

6686496As 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), employers of all sizes are reconsidering consumer-directed health strategies for the post-reform era. 

Buck is hosting a complimentary webinar on Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. ET to share the results from our BenefitWallet™ 2013 HSA Member Survey of over 23,000 HSA account holders.  This is our third biennial survey report of HSA members’ opinions on how they set aside money for health care costs, how they monitor and evaluate health care costs, how they predict and plan for costs throughout the year, and how they discuss costs with their providers. 

Here are some overall highlights of what the respondents had to say:   

  • 54% strongly agree/agree their health plan is affordable
  • 81% consider the ability to save money tax-free an extremely important/very important factor that impacted their decision to select an HSA
  • 81% strongly agree/agree having an HSA is valuable to them

 In this webinar, Travis Klavohn and Lee Barson will provide answers to these critical questions: 

  • What are other employers doing in the area of consumer-directed health?
  • What can employers do to increase participation in HDHPs and HSAs?
  • Do HSAs really increase health care engagement among members?
  • How is technology changing employees’ expectations and behaviors?

Register for the webinar now. You can also download a copy of the full survey report.

The views on this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent Buck’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Simon says: Does a corporation have a First Amendment right to religious freedom?

Getty_104821184Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in two cases challenging the ACA’s contraceptive coverage mandate. The cases involve for-profit corporations with religious objections to covering contraceptive services under their group health plans. While oral argument took place yesterday, a decision is not expected until June. The case has garnered significant media attention, highlighting the controversy of the mandate. It’s unlikely to impact the majority of employers subject to the ACA, but those with an interest in the religious rights of corporations are watching the case closely.

For a complete backgrounder to this spirited argument, read our latest FYI Alert.

Tami Simon, JD, Managing Director
Knowledge Resource Center

The views on this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent Buck’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Taking a hard look at cold cash

Getty_132264418Buck Consultants’ annual iQuantic® Global Long-Term Incentive Practices Survey confirmed that companies are substituting cash LTI for equity-based awards where appropriate.

For example, since 2012 cash LTI awards increased from nine percent to 18 percent in Canada, six percent to 18 percent in the UK, seven percent to 18 percent in France, and 10 percent to 14 percent in the U.S.

Additionally, the use of cash LTI awards increased in the U.S. at all employee levels (except CEO) and more than doubled over the past two years for vice presidents (VP), directors, and managers. 

“Companies are taking a hard look at the use of equity-based incentives and determining that, in some cases, cash may be the more effective motivator,” said Sandra Sussman, a director in Buck Consultants’ compensation practice. (more…)

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