I am in Clearwater Beach, Florida this week, speaking at the 24th Annual Health Benefits Conference & Expo. The event draws employers from across the country, and deals with a wide variety of employee management and benefit issues. As conferences go, this is a bit of a departure for me. It is not your usual workers’ comp conference.
As I walked through the exhibit hall, it was easy to see the services and products offered were eerily similar, yet completely different than what we see in our corner of the universe. The same is true of many of the sessions, as they are topics we can recognize and appreciate, yet are removed from the daily concerns of our industry. Frankly, my old HR days have come flashing back – and it is a stark reminder that for employers, the people we ultimately serve, workers’ compensation ain’t their only rodeo.
A conference such as this one exemplifies the true and total legislative/regulatory burden that employers face in this country today. While workers’ compensation is a large part of the picture, and elements of our realm cross a multitude of other paths, people managing human resource concerns today are loaded down with many other issues trying to keep their companies on the straight and narrow – and out of the ditch altogether.
We all know about what I call “the initial people”; the IRS, INS, OSHA, DOL, NLRB, DOT and more, as well as the storied “initial programs”, COBRA, FMLA, ADA, ADAAAAAAAAA (or however many A’s it has now) et al. The labyrinth of regulatory oversight is stifling, and only more of it seems to be in their future.
Let us not forget health insurance, employee assistance programs, life insurance, supplemental disability, 401K’s and wellness programs (which is a dominant theme here this year). There is even a company present offering pet insurance programs for employers to extend to their workforce.
Top that off with good old workers’ comp, and it’s no wonder a claims person can’t get the employer on the phone.
No, we would be wise to remain cognizant of the fact that the employers we serve have a great deal of challenges on their plate. Our priorities, even if they appear to align with their needs, may not be their priorities at any given point in time. This means that our communication on issues must be complete and crystal clear in order to be heard over the din of other problems down the hall. We need to make the effort to inform and educate, and help cut through the fog of partial understanding with issues related to our own “initial library”; FROI, RTW, MSA, PTD, C&R, MMI and the like.
Or a simpler solution for the employers would be to scrap everything, and screw the initial people. They could dump health and disability coverage, wage reporting and workers’ comp. Then they could name their employees Fido and Fluffy and just buy them pet insurance.
That would fix a lot of problems. Come to think of it, it would probably fix Fido and Fluffy as well.