Managing Your Business’ COVID-19 Vaccination Risk Exposures

Employee Benefits

With COVID-19 outbreaks continuing to disrupt life around the country, maximising the vaccination rate has become a national priority.  Reaching the vaccination rate of 80% in Australia is now in our sights, raising questions about the best way to navigate a safe and sustainable return to the workplace.

The issue of whether employers should mandate vaccinations is receiving considerable attention around the world.   Multinational companies such as Google and Facebook have introduced a compulsory vaccination policy for staff. This move has been closely followed by Australian companies such as Qantas and SPC, with others indicating they will follow suit.

As businesses seek to understand their risk exposures, we explain how COVID-19 claims and liabilities are currently being viewed and summarise key considerations for employers as they navigate this next phase.

 

LATEST GUIDELINES ON MANDATING VACCINATIONS

In Australia, four tiers have been set out by The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) to help businesses assess where it might be “lawful and reasonable” to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations in their workplaces. The tiers range from Tier 1, where workers are exposed to the most risk and therefore it may be reasonable to enforce vaccinations, through to Tier 4, where the risk of transmission or infection is likely to be lower.

Tier 1 work — employees are required to interact with high-risk people (e.g., border control, hotel quarantine)

Tier 2 work — employees are required to interact with vulnerable people (e.g., health care or aged care workers)

Tier 3 work — employees are required to interact with the public in the course of their employment duties (e.g., retail workers at essential stores)

Tier 4 work — employees have minimal face-to-face interaction with others.

A workplace may have employees performing work in different tiers, which might change over time. With no test cases currently available to show the tier system in action, these guidelines raise the question of what steps are considered “reasonably practicable” for employers to help keep staff safe. At the time of publication, this decision sits with employers.

 

NO FAULT COVID-19 INDEMNITY SCHEME

Having consulted with the medical, healthcare, business, and insurance sectors, the Federal Government has released the details of the national no fault COVID-19 Vaccine Claim Scheme (the Scheme). The Scheme will provide Australians with efficient access to compensation for COVID-19 claims related to the administration of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved COVID-19 vaccine delivered through a Commonwealth Government approved program, irrespective of where that vaccination occurs.

From 6 September 2021, Australians who suffer injury and loss of income due to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine can register their intent to claim from the COVID-19 vaccine claims scheme webpage. The Scheme will be backdated to February 2021.

The Scheme will cover the costs of injuries exceeding $5,000 caused by a proven adverse reaction* to a COVID-19 vaccination. Independent experts will assess the claims, and compensation paid based on the recommendations. Compensation payments under the Scheme will be fully funded by the Commonwealth.

Australians who receive a COVID-19 vaccination and experience an adverse reaction are encouraged to report it to their doctor who can provide the information to the TGA.

 

COVID-19 VACCINES & WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

Separate to the COVID-19 Vaccine Claim Scheme, in some circumstances, an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine may be covered under workers’ compensation. To be covered, the insurer will need to be satisfied that:

  • the vaccine injury arose out of, or in the course of the worker’s employment; and
  • the worker’s employment was a substantial contributing factor to the vaccine injury or was the main contributing factor for a disease, injury; or
  • in the case of heart attack or stroke injury, the nature of the employment was a relevant factor in increasing the risk of the injury (see below).

While each claim needs to be assessed on the relevant facts and evidence, several issues may increase the likelihood that a vaccine injury is covered under workers’ compensation, including whether an employer:

  • took steps to arrange for its employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine
  • encouraged or induced its employees to receive the vaccination to obtain benefits for its business
  • permitted or directed employees to have a COVID-19 vaccination during ordinary working hours; or
  • provided instructions to employees relating to the administration of the vaccine.

Workers’ compensation outcomes will always be subject to the individual merits of the claim, however, the key factor determining liability is the relationship between the workplace and how an injury arose out of or in the course of employment.  Therefore, the role of the employer is important when considering the exposures presented by COVID-19 vaccinations and how this can be determined to be in the course of employment. The link between a vaccine injury and the worker’s employment is easier to establish where a worker is influenced by their employer’s requirement to receive the vaccine or is subject to a Government Public Health Order. In these circumstances, there is a greater likelihood of the vaccine injury being covered under workers’ compensation. When lodging a claim, employers and workers will need to provide information on the link between their employment and the serious adverse reaction to the vaccine.

If a vaccine injury is a “heart attack injury” or “stroke injury”, the worker is also required to establish that the nature of their employment significantly contributed to the injury. In practice, this may require the worker to satisfy additional requirements. For example, the worker may need to provide evidence they opted for a particular vaccine brand due to their employment.

 

IMPACTS TO PREMIUM IF A WORKER MAKES A COVID-19-RELATED CLAIM

In NSW, icare has confirmed it will exclude COVID-19 claims and COVID-19 vaccination claims from the individual claims experience, meaning it will absorb the costs of the claim without passing on premium impact to the policyholder. This will protect any individual employer or industry from disproportionate premium increases due to COVID-19. This is a continuation of the Job Keeper exemption during 2020 where regulators supported the exclusion of these payments per the declaration of rateable remuneration. Whether the remaining State regulators follow icare’s lead is yet to be seen, however, Honan is liaising with our regulatory contacts to understand their position.

Businesses are encouraged to report any COVID-19 outbreaks directly to the relevant State or Territory regulator (e.g., WorkSafe Victoria, SIRA, etc.) and consider an employee who has tested positive to COVID-19 as having a reportable injury.

 

COMMUNICATING WITH EMPLOYEES

The TGA has provided guidance on communications regarding COVID-19 vaccinations to support the Government’s roll-out.  Employers should familiarise themselves with these requirements which include conditions around offering incentives to people who are fully vaccinated.

 

A FINAL NOTE

These issues remain a complicated area of discussion in the business community and the situation is evolving each day. We encourage businesses to seek legal advice based on their individual circumstances where appropriate before proceeding.

 

Alexandra Slimming

Head of Global Benefits

alexandra.slimming@honan.com.au

 

Jules Paolino 

Workplace Risk Consultant 

jules.paolino@honan.com.au

 

 

Flexible work: Here to stay, but have you nailed the formula?

 

 

*The TGA will provide clarity on recognised adverse reactions. 

 

Why 24% of Australian Employees are Job Hunting: How Your Business Can Respond

Employee Benefits

As Australia progresses its mass-vaccination efforts and charts its return to “normality”, employees around the country are emerging from the last 18 months feeling burnt out and underappreciated.

Of the 1,557 Australian employees who participated in Gartner’s 2021 HR Survey Report,  just 16% were still willing to go above and beyond their expected responsibilities (slightly less than the global average of 16.5%) and only 9% still considered themselves ‘engaged’ (i.e., willing to work with greater discretionary effort and stay with their current employer).

Knowing this, it is unsurprising that 24% of Australian employees are actively seeking new employment opportunities.

 

WHY ARE AUSTRALIAN EMPLOYEES LEAVING?

Employees are looking for opportunities elsewhere for a range of reasons. The top 3 motivations, according to Gartner’s Global Labour Market Survey are 1) work-life balance, 2) manager quality, and 3) respect. For Australian employees, financial compensation ranked down at number 10 when it came to reasons for attrition. By contrast, work-life balance was the primary driver of employee attraction and attrition in Australia, whereas financial compensation was the main motivator when looking at the international data.

Compounding the issue further, many Australians are just not feeling their best.  Of the 5,000 employees surveyed in a separate study by Gartner, more than one-quarter (29%) reported feeling depressed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

For many Australian employees, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of mental health to the forefront and with that, a growing expectation for employers to provide adequate mental health offerings to staff. With a 25% boost to employee business confidence in Q4 2020 from the previous quarter, working Australians are more hopeful about obtaining new employment in the current market. It now becomes a question of whether their current employers offer sufficient support and working flexibility.

 

HOW CAN EMPLOYERS ATTRACT & RETAIN TALENT?

Now, more than ever, to hire and retain top talent, workplaces must be able to offer the right benefits to support their employees. Here are our top tips for levelling up your business’ employee offering.

 

1. Offer EAP & mental wellness programs

Workplace-related mental health issues are estimated to cost the Australian economy between $15.8 and $17.4 billion each year. This provides a significant incentive to implement preventative support programs within workplaces. Providing access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) (employer-funded counselling and confidential health assessments) has shown to be both a moral and intelligent decision for businesses. A 2014 PWC Report noted that every $1 spent on mental health initiatives yields a return on investment of $2.30.  This was due to EAPs and wellness programs contributing to staff retention, improved productivity, and driving down absenteeism.

 

2. Provide tailored group insurance & private health cover

For many Australians, the motivation to work long hours is to provide financial stability and support for their loved ones. Recognising this, many industry-leading employers offer employer-funded life and disability insurance, as well as corporate private health plans for employees and their families to enhance the employee value proposition.  A 2018 Forbes HR Report stated that displaying a strong sense of empathy and community to employee’s families allowed businesses to hire and retain the top talent within their industry. This gesture demonstrates a willingness to invest in the wellbeing of their employees and their families, something that goes a long way, particularly at a time when employees are feeling increasingly burnt out and underappreciated.

 

3. Flexible work arrangements & mental health leave

COVID-19 restrictions have meant many employers and employees have adopted flexible working or work-from-home arrangements. Employees have regained valuable time with their families and friends, which would otherwise have been spent in the office or transit. Moving forward, employers may consider continuing to offer flexible working arrangements that provide the work-life balance that many employees value.

 

A FINAL NOTE

Our Global Benefits team has extensive experience working with clients of all sizes across the globe and offers local expertise in the Australian market. Our mission is to work closely with your business to tailor the ideal Employee Benefits and Wellness Plans to help you support your greatest asset – your people.

 

Terry Le

Client Manager, Employee Benefits   

terry.le@honan.com.au

 

 

Learn more about Employee Wellness – the buzz word that is here to stay

The Rise of Employee Wellness – The Buzz Word That is Here to Stay

Employee Benefits

The Future of Employee Health and Wellness Benefits 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has truly reshaped the way organisations and their employees approach work. As businesses navigate the transition to the ‘new normal’, those with robust employee health and wellbeing benefits will be best placed to attract and retain the top talent in the market, while enhancing their employee’s organisational performance.

Australia has done relatively well in containing the spread of the pandemic compared to many other countries, however, a recent survey by group insurer Metlife (1) shows our overall health and wellbeing has taken a significant hit in recent months. Some key concerns raised by Australian employees in the survey include:

 

Metlife, 2020.

 

While the statistics paint a somewhat grim picture, they present an opportunity for employers to respond and deep dive into the needs of their greatest assets – their employees.

Honan works with some of the world’s leading organisations in designing and coordinating their Employee Benefit programs. Partnering with these organisations over the past year has shown us the importance of supporting employees’ physical and mental wellbeing and the powerful engagement, productivity, and trust this fosters between employer and employee.

 

Below are three key trends likely to shape the future of employee health and wellbeing benefits in Australia:

Models of holistic wellbeing will be widely adopted

The days of simply providing office lunches or onsite yoga sessions are numbered.  Increasingly, there is an expectation that leading organisations should play a more active role in supporting the overall health and wellbeing of their employees. 

Employees are looking for organisations to demonstrate care and support outside the traditional financial benefits, to help keep them happy, healthy, and engaged in their work lives.  This can be established by designing a holistic wellness offering that provides access to benefits promoting physical health, mental wellbeing, and lifestyle support services, which can be integrated into both the physical office space and remote working environments.

 

Benefits that offer a personalised experience will be key

Health and wellbeing programs that can be customised and tailored to employees’ needs will be an essential part of an organisation’s overall health and wellness benefits proposition. More and more, we expect to see standard ‘wellness webinars’ replaced with relatable, customised experiences, targeting the unique demographics of an organisation to create more impact. Nutrition consultations, 1-1 mental health coaching, skin checks, and health screenings are some great examples of initiatives that can be tailored to each employee and form part of a holistic wellness offering.

 

Technology will be at the centre of wellness benefits

The pandemic forced organisations and employees to adopt new technologies at an unprecedented pace. Employees expect technology to be the default option for most things in life and benefits are one of them. Digital employee wellbeing platforms will play a key role as an increasing number of companies look to bolster their employee wellbeing propositions.

At Honan, we partner with leading providers in the digital wellbeing space, while allowing employees to seamlessly engage with a range of the latest benefits when and where it suits them. Check out the powerful insights from our most recent global partner, CircleIn!

 

HOW CAN HONAN HELP?

Honan has a team of experts ready to assist you in developing the right employee wellness program tailored to your company’s unique needs. We have recently launched our Honan Wellness Hub – a platform where you can discover the different Health, Wellbeing, and Employee Support Benefits we can incorporate into a custom program for your organisation and where you can catch up on the latest insights on our Wellness Blog, all in one place!

Explore the industry-leading benefits here, and feel free to reach out to our team at any time to understand the possibilities for your organisation.

 

Shabab Maqsud

Head of Client Service – Global Benefits

shabab.maqsud@honan.com.au 

 

 

 

1 Metlife Survey: 2020 Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS), Key findings from the MetLife Australia 2020 EBTS. https://www.metlife.com.au/about-us/thought-leadership/Employee-Benefit-Trends-Study-2020/

Q&A with Circle In Co-Founder, Jodi Geddes

Employee Benefits

Meet our innovative new Honan partner – Circle In, offering a leading global HR platform to support working parents and caregivers.

Co-Founder, Jodi Geddes shares the latest insights on employee wellbeing, the importance of supporting working parents, and exciting trends to watch in the Employee Benefits space.

 

Superannuation Update: Legislative Changes in Australia

Employee Benefits

Superannuation is the only legislated benefit in Australia and an employer is required by law to contribute a percentage of an employee’s salary or wages to an accredited superannuation plan. The superannuation guarantee was introduced in 1992 with a mandatory 3% contribution rate and progressively increasing to 9.5% since then. Today, Australians have more than $3.1 trillion in superannuation assets, and this is set to rise with the minimum superannuation guarantee contributions increasing from 9.5% to 10% from 1 July 2021. This is the first of the rate increases which will see a gradual 0.5% rate rise each year until it reaches 12% by 2025.

 

COMMUNICATING CHANGES TO EMPLOYEES

This superannuation increase is a cost to businesses or employees or a combination of the two. An organisation’s remuneration structure will determine how this change is calculated and how it will impact employee’s take-home salaries.  Regardless, clear and consistent communications from employers are more important than ever in helping employees understand how the changes will affect them.

Findings from a recent Employee Benefits Study by Metlife showed almost half of Australian employees surveyed suffered poor mental health due to COVID-19, with financial concerns being a key driver of mental ill-health. As such, organisations splitting the cost of the increase with employees or passing on the increase in full to their employees should communicate with empathy.

Employers who are currently contributing above the minimum threshold will also need to decide whether they will continue to pay above the minimum superannuation guarantee and any implications this may have for the attraction and retention of top talent.

 

WITH YOU ALL THE WAY

Reach out to Honan’s specialised Employee Benefits team for further information and assistance in developing your organisation’s Employee Benefits offering and communications.

 

 

Employee Benefit Essentials: Latest Trends & Must-Dos for Post-Pandemic Success

Employee Benefits

MetLife’s 6th annual Employee Benefits Trend Study (EBTS) was released recently, and with a focus on how employees are navigating work-life pressures in the wake of the Pandemic, its findings come highly anticipated.

COVID-19 forced businesses the world over to re-engineer the way they do business and rethinking their employee experience was a big part of this. The key findings from this year’s EBTS showed:

  • businesses were positively surprised by how well their employees adapted to the challenges of COVID-19 and maintained productivity
  • overall employee health and wellbeing were generally better among businesses who responded positively to the Pandemic and provided their staff with practical tools to evolve and adapt.

So what additional employee benefits learnings can be drawn from the 2020 study, and how can businesses optimise their offerings from here?

 

KEY FACTORS IMPACTING EMPLOYEES: mental health, financial uncertainty, concern for family & friends

 

Mental Health – room to improve & measure impacts
  • 70% of employers identified mental health as the primary focus in optimising employee health in the wake of the Pandemic. However, 40% of respondents stated their employer was NOT offering benefits or programs to support or enhance their wellbeing.
  • While it is encouraging to see close to 60% of employers had adopted strategies and benefits to assist employees, there is certainly room for improvement – particularly with close to half of Australians surveyed experiencing some form of mental ill-health due to COVID. While most employers are offering benefits/programs to support employees’ mental ill-health, 80% of employers surveyed were not tracking/measuring employee mental health.
Financial Uncertainty – more support needed
  • Financial health concerns were found to be the most common cause of stress and mental ill-health among employees, with 5 in 10 employees reporting their employer had not offered any form of financial health support or access to resources.
General Stress – on the rise
  • Whilst in Australia we have seen community transmission largely controlled, stress levels remain high, with 1 in 2 employees reporting they are more stressed now than before COVID, and 3 in 10 employees reported feeling run down and drained of their physical and emotional energy.

 

BACK TO BASICS: structured support from employers is essential

The findings show that active support from employers produces greater productivity, reduced stress levels, and enhances loyalty towards their employer. Employees who feel appreciated, are actively supported in working remotely (and provided with the tools to stay connected) are likely to be more productive, engaged, empowered, trust their employer’s leadership, and achieve their professional goals.

 

The top 5 programs employees would like from their employer to help ease their stress and improve their wellbeing are:
  1. Structured flexible work arrangements
  2. Increased paid time off
  3. Work from home policy – ongoing post COVID
  4. Additional Superannuation contributions
  5. Mental wellness programs.

 

RESET TO REAP REWARDS

At Honan, we’re pleased to administer and implement local employee benefit programs for over 150 global and domestic companies. Many of our clients saw the Pandemic as an opportunity to review their procedures and workplace culture and they are now seeing increased productivity and employee satisfaction as a result. 

Flexible work arrangements are now seen as a key benefit sought by prospective employees when applying for new roles. In MetLife’s findings, it’s encouraging to see that 73% of companies have implemented formal flexible working arrangements and have plans to continue these in the future.  

 

Here are some key features employers can build into their employee benefits programs to enhance employee wellbeing, engagement, and loyalty:
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
  • Group Life/TPD and Income Protection cover and access to Financial Advice
  • Funded or co-funded Private Medical Plans – ensuring employees have access to market-leading coverage
  • Extended paid maternity/parental leave
  • Extra personal/carers’ leave
  • Formal Wellness initiatives e.g., free flu vaccinations, annual health checks, etc.

 

With you all the way

To learn more about how Honan can assist in tailoring a competitive local employee benefits program for your organisation, feel free to reach out at any time.

Michael Atta 

Head of Sales – Employee Benefits

michael.atta@honan.com.au          

 

Flexible Work: Here to Stay, But Have You Nailed the Formula?

Employee Benefits
Reflections on Atlassian’s white paper (Oct, 2020) Reworking Work: Understanding the Rise of Work Anywhere – global research into the impacts of COVID-19.

 

In February this year – before many Australians shifted to remote work – we shared our thoughts on Employee Benefit Trends & How to get Ahead in 2020. As part of this forecast, we reflected on a 2019 study by Group Insurer Metlife which showed flexible work to be one of the most desired (47% of those surveyed) benefits by Australian employees. While 75% of Aussie workers were annoyed it took a pandemic to make it happen, the findings from Atlassian’s comprehensive 2020 global study on remote working further supports this sentiment. 

Further to its impressive 2020 Reworking Work white paper, Atlassian shared its TEAM Anywhere policy with the world in August this year. As progressive as the tech giant itself, TEAM Anywhere allows employees to choose where and when they want to work; a policy underpinned by a commitment by Atlassian to focus on the outcomes of its employees rather than hours worked. Equally, TEAM Anywhere enables Atlassian to recruit the best talent from anywhere in the world – a savvy play by the employer.

In Reworking Work, Atlassian studied the working from home experiences of 5,000 workers across Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the US during COVID-19. Revealing the good, bad and the ugly of remote working, we’ll explore the following 3 key questions, specific to Australia:

  1. What do employees LIKE about remote work?
  2. What CONCERNS employees about remote work?            
  3. How can companies EVOLVE for remote work / the future of work?     

 

What do employees LIKE about remote work?

Most (73%) Australian respondents were satisfied with their company’s leadership during the health crisis. In general, Australian employees surveyed had a positive remote working experience, with 68% reporting improved job satisfaction and 70% saying their work life balance had improved – as shown in Figure 1 below. Many employees felt empowered by the flexibility and convenience of this new way of work, and believed they were more productive and effective when working remotely.

With less time commuting and avoiding unnecessary distractions at work, employees had more time for family, loved ones, hobbies and pastimes. Another powerful insight: 86% of Australian respondents reported greater appreciation of their quality of life outside of work.

 

What CONCERNS employees about remote work?

Remote working has its challenges. For example, many Australian study respondents felt their remote working arrangements could damage their career progression.

While employees felt more productive and effective at home, 42% are working longer hours. Reduced in-person contact also meant more time spent wrangling emails (as acknowledged by 77% of respondents) and reporting to clients and managers (66%).

The social interaction offered by workplaces was also missed by many employees, particularly by Australians (75% Aus vs 50% of employees globally). After all, us Aussies do love our banter!

It was also interesting to note that Australian respondents were less open to a mix of home and office work compared to the global sample (27% vs 46%). The majority (43%) of Australians preferred to work completely from home, while almost one third preferred to work solely from the office.

 

Figure 1: Some key individual and organisational findings revealed in the study.

 

How can companies EVOLVE for remote work / the future of work?

With pressure on the bottom line, companies are finding unique ways to continue recruiting and retaining quality talent through robust employee benefits programs.

Research in the US by AFLAC shows 55% of employees would ‘somewhat accept’ a job with lower compensation but more robust employee benefits, while 80% of would prefer to retain their current job with benefits as opposed to accepting a role with higher pay and no benefits.

As the research shows, a robust employee benefits offering coupled with a considered flexible work strategy will remain an integral part of an employer’s overall benefit proposition. 

Atlassian’s study identifies three key factors impacting the effectiveness of working remotely:

  1. the complexity of the worker’s home life
  2. the complexity of the worker’s employment role
  3. the quality of the worker’s social and work network.

Thus, each person’s ‘WFH’ experience is different and subject to change. Dominic Price, Work Futurist at Atlassian, aptly captures this:

“If you’ve ever said your people are your biggest asset, now is the time to act upon that”.

Companies today have a unique opportunity to ask questions, to listen to their employees’ feedback around what works and what needs tweaking in order to land a strategy and culture best suited to their greatest asset, their people.

 

 

We’re with you – all the way

At Honan, we understand the power of holistic employee benefit schemes and in particular, how to respectfully tailor them to your people, and communicate them across your business.

Our Global Benefits team has extensive experience working with clients of all sizes across the globe and will work collaboratively with you to achieve a robust solution truly fit for the future of work, and the future of your organisation. Contact us to discuss your employee benefits proposition at any time. 

 

Shabab Maqsud – Client Manager, Employee Benefits    

shabab.maqsud@honan.com.au

 

Rethinking Employee Well-being Programs for a 2020+ World

Employee Benefits

The way we work has evolved considerably over recent years. In the face of exponential automation and digitisation, ‘the future of work’ can appear daunting, but if recent months have shown us anything, it’s the capacity for humans to adapt in response to change.

Though workplaces are potentially more disparate than ever in 2020, technology has enabled individuals, teams and organisations to connect, collaborate and achieve great things. Alongside this ‘Working From Home’ era, relationships between employer and employee have been redefined and businesses have been challenged to prioritise the health and wellness of their people like never before. Here are the key trends in employee experience we expect to see in the months and years ahead:

 

1. Employee Experience as Key Enabler of Organisational Performance

Major changes to the conditions and environments under which employees work has pushed organisations to take a truly holistic approach to their employee experience. The link between employee well-being and organisational performance has certainly never been more glaring. In a recent survey by Deloitte, 94% of respondents agreed that well-being drives organisational performance to some extent (1).  Offering robust wellness programs, by including areas such as EAP support, health screens, mental health and resilience coaching, nutrition consultation, yoga and meditation workshops, financial and property health checks, and more, is now understood as critical to the achievement of bottom line organisational goals.

 

2. Employee experience as the key to talent acquisition & retention

Prioritising the holistic health, well-being and fulfillment of its people demonstrates an organisation’s considered investment in the future of the organisation at large. Valuable people investments and support systems also assist with the attraction and retention of talent and help organisations differentiate themselves to employees in an era where organisational trust and connection is essential for productivity. The same publication by Deloitte outlines how organisations can invest in employee benefits and wellness initiatives to not only enhance productivity and organisational performance, but drive the creation of meaningful work, which in turn strengthens the relationship between the individual and the organisation.

 

3. Employee experience – an overdue shake-up?

With stress, anxiety and mental health challenges at historic heights across Australia, organisations are strength-testing their wellness strategies with an urgency previously unseen. Will their systems and processes adequately meet the changing needs of their workforces in 2020, into 2021 and beyond?

We reached out to Ed Cha from California-based ABD Insurance & Financial Services for his insights on high priorities in Employee Benefits now and into the future. Aside from a continued focus on employee mental health and access to virtual health services, Cha expects to see wellness programs embrace gamification, enabling remote employees to socialise and compete (e.g. for the highest number of steps taken or logging the number of activities in a day). Cha also anticipates more benefits programs will incorporate virtual coaching options for employee self-development.

While not without considerable effort, reshaping Employee Benefits for this ‘Working From Home’ era represents an opportunity to transform the future of work – one marked by a truly people, rather than profit, led approach. Empowering employees to tailor benefits programs to their unique physical, mental, professional and financial goals could produce more engaged and productive employees, and better corporate results.

 

We’re with you all the way

As we continue to challenge existing assumptions about the way organisations should operate and perform, it is a timely opportunity to discuss broader corporate strategies which can enhance employee engagement and drive productivity and results. We will continue to monitor the research and discussions in this space and be sure to keep you updated.

To find out how Honan can support you, your people and organisation with a future-fit approach to Employee Benefits, please don’t hesitate to reach out at any time.

 

Alexandra Slimming – Head of Global Benefits

alexandra.slimming@honan.com.au

+61  2 8297 1753

Employee Benefits Packages & COVID-19: Important insights for business

Employee Benefits

COVID-19 is challenging us all like never before. For leaders, balancing the interests of their people with long term business viability is a major challenge, and one bringing considerable disruption to daily operations.

Through times like the present, a robust employee benefits program truly comes into its own. Not only do employee benefits packages offer financial security to businesses and their people, but peace of mind. To this rings true, the particulars of benefits programs must be clearly communicated to all employees through COVID-19. 

 

In the following article, we step through common cornerstones of employee benefit packages (EBP), and how they’re likely to be impacted through COVID-19.

 

Private Health Insurance

Firstly – there is no specific pandemic exclusion for private health insurance in Australia. This is a major win, which should be communicated upfront to all employees with private health insurance included in their EBP. 

As usual, waiting periods may apply for employees who have taken out private health for the first time in the last 12 months – be sure to alert any program ‘newbies’ accordingly. 

Health insurance premiums in Australia are typically reviewed each year on 1 April, however major local health insurers such as BUPA, GU Health and NIB have announced that rises initially slated for 1 April 2020 rollout will now be delayed for six months. No action is required from existing policy holders on this front.

 

What about Telehealth?

The Federal Government has also announced increased capacity of Telehealth Services as a means to  connect more Australians to essential health services (doctors, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals including mental health), and in turn, greater protection for those most vulnerable in our community. This service is funded by Medicare – Australia’s Government funded public health system. 

Further information on Telehealth services can be downloaded from the Department of Health website.

 

Life and Group Income Protection Insurance 

General speaking, company-funded Life and Group Income Protection Insurance policies do not have a specific pandemic exclusion. The Financial Services Council of Australia has announced that no specific pandemic exclusion exists on life insurance policies taken out prior to 11 March 2020. Thus, any claims from pre-existing customers will be treated in accordance with their policy terms and conditions.

For new policies purchased post March 11, some underwriting implications may arise for Life and Disability Cover, especially for those employee groups who are considered high risk. 

In addition to the above, Group Income Protection policies generally have a waiting period of 30 days or more. With COVID-19 patients typically recovering within 14 days, a policy holder is therefore unlikely to have a COVID-19 related claim paid under Group Income Protection if they return to work within the standard 30 day waiting period. However, the claimant may be eligible if they are still unwell and unable to return to work once they have satisfied their relevant waiting period. We recommend contacting your insurance broker and provider to clarify the semantics of your policy through COVID-19. 

 

Superannuation

The Australian Government has confirmed that employees facing financial hardship due to loss of employment or reduced income may be able to withdraw up to $20,000 over the next two financial years without any tax implications. Employees will need to meet certain eligibility criteria as stipulated by the Australian Taxation Office, in order to qualify for such drawdowns.

 

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)

Employees should be encouraged to utilise company sponsored EAPs to guide and support them through COVID-19 and beyond. With the vast majority of employees experiencing changes to working hours, income levels, places of work and business operations at large, stress and anxiety is high. EAP programs offer invaluable access to qualified professional counsellors for work and personal matters alike. Consultations can be carried out via phone or video calls in line with social distancing protocols during this time.

 

With you all the way

At Honan, we understand the power of holistic employee benefit schemes, and the exceptional value they can offer your organisation during this global pandemic and broader economic crisis. 

With deep expertise in employee benefits solutions, we’re well versed in collaborating with clients to navigate the ever-changing complexities of today’s workplace. Attracting and retaining top quality talent should be one of your company’s most competitive edges, and we love nothing more than supporting organisations – of all shapes, specialities and locations – to ensure this is so. 

We’d love to hear from you.

 

Shabab Maqsud – Account Manager – Employee Benefits 

shabab.maqsud@honan.com.au 

+61 427 177 653

 

Michael Atta – Head of Sales– Employee Benefits 

michael.atta@honan.com.au 

+61 427 177 653

COVID-19: Business Interruption, Contingency and Workplace Risk

Agriculture

On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the Coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. We sympathise with everyone who has been impacted by the virus and Honan Insurance Group have implemented additional resources and contingency planning to ensure that we remain able to provide advice, insurance and support to our clients as the situation develops.

 

As the impact of COVID-19 on local and international economies continues to evolve, we highlight to all clients the need for management to consider financial, strategic and business risks to operations. In this article, we examine the key areas we have received the most queries about: Property and Business Interruption, Business Contingency and Workplace Risk.

 

Industrial Special Risks* (Property and Business Interruption) Insurance & COVID-19 

(Potential Policy Response under ISR Mark IV Policy)

It is expected that many businesses will suffer disruption as a result of the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).   With the situation changing rapidly and restrictions on the movement and gathering of people (both at local level and internationally), there is no doubt many companies will suffer from loss of revenue and/or additional expense.

 

Property Damage

Generally, property policies (including office risks) cover physical loss, destruction or damage to insured property resulting from a covered peril (all risks).  In the case of the Coronavirus, the ISR (Mark IV) policy exclusion 4(a) excludes physical loss destruction or damage occasioned by or happening through disease.  Office-related risks also have very similar exclusions. The ISR policy can include a myriad of endorsements with some coverage writebacks for costs to clean-up a site (where required by order of a public authority), however, this would need to be reviewed on a case by case basis.

 

Business Interruption

An ISR insurance policy extends to include under Section 2 coverage for business interruption.  This cover traditionally applies only to interruption caused by an insured material damage event such as fire, storm, impact or accidental damage.

In addition, cover is extended to include closure of the business by public authority for several risks including human infectious or contagious diseases.   This coverage was designed to cover events such as an outbreak of Legionnaires disease or measles which could affect one or two buildings and a small number of businesses.  Some ISR policies can extend to provide coverage for outbreaks in a 20-50km radius from the insured location.

Specifically, in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak, the ISR policy contains a specific exclusion for loss resulting from interruption of or interference directly or indirectly arising from or in connection with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Humans or any other diseases declared to be quarantinable diseases under the Quarantine Act 1908 and subsequent amendments.

Following the H5N1 virus (avian influenza) outbreak in 2006 and the H1N1 virus (swine influenza) outbreak in 2009, insurers adopted this exclusion as a market standard position in Australia.

The Australian Quarantine Act 1908 was replaced by the Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act in 2015.  COVID-19 was added to the Act as a listed (quarantinable) human disease on 21 January 2020, under Biosecurity (Listed Human Diseases) Amendment Determination 2020 (Cth) F2020L00037.

 

Listed Human Diseases under the Act are thus now:

  • Human influenza with pandemic potential
  • Plague
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
  • Middle East respiratory syndrome
  • Smallpox
  • Viral haemorrhagic fevers
  • Yellow Fever
  • Human Coronavirus with pandemic potential

As a result of the above, the business interruption section of your insurance will not provide cover for COVID-19 disruptions. As with any other threat it is important to consider what risk management measures you can introduce to mitigate the risk to your staff, customers and business.

 

Risk Management Tips: How to avoid infection

Here is a short list of ways to minimise the spread of Coronavirus

  • Practice good personal hygiene.
  • Avoid contact with anyone with or suspected of having Coronavirus.
  • Boost your immune system by eating well, exercising, having enough sleep, and keeping your stress levels under control.
  • Cancel or delay any travel until the crisis is over.

 

Recommended Actions for your organisation:

  • Implement a home quarantine regime for anyone that has travelled to an infected country or is likely to have been in contact with someone infected with Coronavirus.
  • Review and update if necessary human resource (‘HR’) policies on fitness for work including possible quarantining of employees and formalising the requirement for employees to remain off work if affected.
  • Consider or extending flexible working arrangements to reduce the likelihood of the spread of the virus in the workplace or the community.
  • Update travel rules and arrangements limiting non-essential business travel.
  • If not already in place, provide sanitized hand washing stations for use by staff and visitors.
  • Review arrangements for workplace hygiene and cleaning protocols including “cough and sneeze” etiquette.
  • Protect the mental wellbeing of employees concerned about the Coronavirus.
  • Ensure clear and honest communication to employees on their welfare.

 

Keep Informed

Everyone should remain alert for updates and advice from the relevant authorities on additional steps to manage the spread of the disease. The health department in each state is providing excellent resources and advice and regular updates. Before travelling, check for and take the advice of any travel warnings on smartraveller.gov.au.

 

Business Continuity Management Planning

A pandemic is just one risk facing modern organisations.   Having a fully documented and exercised business continuity management plan is important for every business.  Honan has resources to assist you in developing a business continuity plan and please speak to your Client Manager for further information.

*Property/Office/Business Interruption

 

Business Contingency

The Coronavirus may impact revenue for businesses through:

  • Production slowdown & disruption to workforce (sick or quarantined employees)
  • Disruption to Supply chains and supplier services
  • Decrease (or increase) in demand for stock
  • Large scale closures of consumer markets and public spaces due to quarantine
  • Delays in customers paying outstanding invoices within normal trading terms
  • Economic slowdown on global and local scale

 

Whilst there is coverage available under Corporate and Business Travel insurance policies in certain circumstances, there is limited cover available under most standard General Insurance policies for loss of trade and interruption to business operations.

As a general rule, it is not viable for most insurance markets and products to cover “global pandemics” as an insurable event. This is because the financial impacts of a pandemic are not quantifiable, meaning risk cannot be priced accurately or sustainably by insurers. If you do suffer a loss, please contact our team to discuss the specific circumstances and how your policy may respond.

Whilst insurance cover availability may be limited, businesses can prepare.  We would strongly recommend formation of a working committee to evaluate the impact to business as conditions continue to evolve, with accountability to the board or executive team.

 

Considerations for a COVID-19 working group should include:

  • Review of policies, procedures and protocols in place to protect the safety and wellbeing of employees and prevent further risk of spread of COVID-19 within the workforce and community.
  • Assess venerability of IT Infrastructure (including stress-testing) for an organisation’s ‘Work from Home’ capabilities in the event of premises closure/staff quarantine
  • Consider the impact on supplier and customer contracts to meet delivery/service obligations from both parties (how Contractual Penalties & Force Majeure clauses may be applied)
  • Evaluation of possible supply chain disruptions and how these can be mitigated or bypassed through appropriate work arounds and contingency planning
  • Evaluation and stress testing of stock levels and planning for inventory shortage as supply from China recommences operations
  • Review ability to support alternative revenue streams that are not as severely impacted by COVID-19
  • Review communications with key customers and other stakeholders to maintain relationships and manage challenges in a sensible, commercial & collaborative manner
  • Review credit and debt facilities to ensure that cash is available in the short term to manage financial impacts and support increased business restart
  • Communicate with creditors if a reduction in revenue has the potential to impact on cash flow and financial obligations.

 

 

Workplace Risk: Workers’ Compensation and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

There has been much discussion around the exposure and potential liability under Workers’ Compensation should an employee or contractor contract Coronavirus.

As outlined by Safe Work Australia (2020), Workers’ Compensation arrangements differ across schemes, however there are common threshold requirements that would apply in the case of COVID-19:

  • that the worker is covered by the scheme, either as an employee or a deemed worker
  • that they have an injury, illness or disease of a kind covered by the scheme, and
  • that their injury, illness or disease arose out of, or in the course of, their employment.

Compared to work-related injuries, it is difficult to prove that a disease was contracted in, or caused by particular employment. In the case of a virus such as COVID-19, establishing the time and place of contraction may become increasingly hard. We have sought clarity from our legal partners and obtained publications from the governing state regulators. Their view is it will be challenging to prove workplace exposure to Coronavirus as questions will arise as to the exact time and place of contraction.

For coverage to exist, a determining authority would need to be satisfied that the employment significantly contributed to the employee contracting the virus. For viruses, it can be difficult to accurately determine the exact time and place of transmission. As a result, it may be difficult to determine that employment significantly contributed to the virus.

However, where an employee’s employment puts them at greater risk of contracting the virus the significant contribution test may be easier to meet. For example, if the employment involves:

  • travel to an area with a known viral outbreak
  • activities that include engagement or interaction with people who have contracted the virus
  • activities that contravene Department of Health recommendations.

Each workplace illness would need to be considered on its individual merits, having regard to the individual circumstances and evidence in relation to the claim. More information is available here: Comcare Australia.

Deeming an illness or disease as work related and unique to the workplace may require court intervention to distinguish medical opinion from legal facts. There is no liability determination available to declare an illness or disease compensable or non-compensable; each case is determined on its own merits and circumstances.

Although you may not be able to eliminate the potential risk of employees contracting Coronavirus while carrying out work, you must do what is reasonably practicable to minimise the risk of employees contracting Coronavirus.

 

Coverage while travelling overseas for work

Any liability or workplace contribution applies to both employees working overseas and those working within Australia. Each case will be determined on its own merits and circumstances.

Note: For international employees engaged locally, state or country specific legislative conditions will apply. Queries should be directed to Honan. Depending on the state of urgency, travel restrictions and periods of self-isolation may need to be considered and communicated to all employees and contractors.

 

Employer Support

It is important that employers refer to internal policies and procedures to ensure measures for employee safety are in place. Honan has resources to actively advise on Workplace Risk exposure, as well as Legal and Work Health and Safety partners who can assist with ongoing management of this changing environment.

 

All companies will need to keep up to date in what is evolving environment.  Please see below some resources to do so:

Australian Government Department of Health

Safe Work Australia

Smartraveller

McKinsey & Company have released a briefing paper (9th March 2020) which provides some insight into possible global economic impact as well as some common steps that can/need to be taken in preparation for businesses being affected and the formation of a working group: link here.

For any additional queries or concerns, please contact your Honan client manager.

 

*Property/Office/Business Interruption

The advice in this paper is general in nature. While the utmost care has been taken in the preparation of this preliminary advice or opinion, you use it at your own risk.

If you have difficulty reading and/or understanding the cover provided in the policy(ies) that you have please contact your Client Manager.

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