The population's aging is having a stealth impact on business. Your employees frequently act as care-givers, call in sick to deal with crises or spend time on the phone clarifying health-care issues. Such care-giving cost businesses $11.4 billion in lost productivity in 1997, according to a study by Metropolitan Life. And the problem is only getting worse.
Firms with women in their 40s are the most affected, according to James Weil, managing director for successful aging at Westport, Connecticut-based LifeCare Inc., which assists companies with events that disrupt employees' lives. The MetLife study indicates female care-givers outnumber males 3 to 1.
Any wonder that more firms are including elder care in their benefits packages? Coverage provides employees with access to counselors, while supplemental services conduct home assessments on elders' living arrangements.
If your budget is too tight to add another benefit, put information in your employee handbook. The Federal Administration on Aging has an elder care locator at (800) 677-1116 or www.eldercare.gov.
The Department of Labor is trying to slam the door on a tax scam that gives larger unscrupulous competitors an unfair advantage. Like any firm that employs people, you pay unemployment insurance. The rate you pay depends on how often you've laid off workers in the past. Never had a layoff? Your state department of labor will give you a low "experience" rate.
Some companies, however, garner lower rates by creating multiple corporations and assigning employees to each. When nobody draws unemployment for three years in one of these shell companies, it receives the minimum rate.
"Then they simply start [moving] all the employees from their other corporations into that corporation," says E.A. "Rett" Hensley, chief of unemployment insurance tax at the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Workforce Security. The gambit would cost more than it would save smaller companies. Larger firms, however, can book enormous benefits.
Although perfectly legal in some states, says Hensley, it evades the experience rating provisions of state law. One thing lacking is detection systems in each state. The right software could flag groups of employees moving from companies with high rates to others with low rates. Investigators need to audit transfers carefully.
So without monitoring systems, how do regulators know hanky panky's going on? According to Hensley, it's thanks to upstanding citizens like you fingering the rats because the insurance discrepancy creates an unfair advantage.
Business writer Chris Sandlund works out of Cold Spring, New York.