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Benefts management could be costing your business more than you think.
One data entry error can expose your organization to fnes, penalties and
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use technology to ease benefits administration
For businesses, partnering with a provid-er that uses technology to more efficient-ly manage benefits administration does more than save valuable time; it can also keep benefits accurate and compliant, and reduce risk to the business.
In benefits management, inaccurate data entry is common, explains David McIninch, vice-president, marketing, with ADP Canada in Toronto. Its under-standable when you consider how many steps can exist between the employers payroll and HR systems of record, and the insurance companys systems.
For example, a business may use a broker or third-party administrator (TPA) to off-load some benefits adminis-tration. That requires taking information from its payroll/HR system and send-ing a copy to the TPA, creating a new copy of the data. Then the TPA, or the business, will create another new copy of the data by entering it in the insurance companys administration system. Finally, the insurer may create yet another new
copy to send to its billing systems.McIninch says that in working with
clients, ADP has identified 62 manual steps to manage the average employees benefits, from hire to retire. At each step, data is sent and transcribed into the new systems. Any glitches can mean the insurance companys records will be out of sync with the employers records.
As McIninch notes, if an employee makes a claim during the period that the two data records arent 100% in agreement, the employer could be left with the responsibility to pay any short-fall in the claim. In other words, he says, the chain of custody is broken today.
When managing your data and out-sourcing your benefits administration, its vital to focus on how technology can eliminate errors or delays. You should be looking for systems that store pay-roll, HR and benefits in a co-ordinated way, and for the ability to connect that information directly to the insurance carriers system, says McIninch.
You want to minimize the touch points for administration, adds Sydney Pereira, director, ebusiness, group benefits and retirement solutions, with Manulife Financial, Waterloo, Ont.
In benefits administration, todays technology can do more than ensure accuracy downstream it can also help employers communicate with their own employees.
Typically, employees will use plan member sites to submit claims online, get the status of claims, check on coverage details, see how much money is left in the healthcare spending account, etc. Pereira says businesses should look for insurance carriers whose member sites go beyond those basic functions, and include infor-mation tailored to employees needs.
For instance, some carriers can add customized components, such as a message centre or a learning centre. That allows em-ployers to convey administrative informa-tion (e.g., enrolment periods), news (e.g., an upcoming health and wellness week) and tips (e.g., healthy living practices).
McIninch says including such com-munications on the insurers portal can strengthen the businesss brand as a caring employer. Its important to look at what your carrier can seamless-ly offer, he says.
ow much more productive could you be with an extra month each year? According to research from ADp insurance solutions, small business owners in Canada spend an average of 4.8 weeks per year on
paperwork related to benefits, enrolling employees, reconciling bills and other administrative details.
Grow Your Business with Group Benefits 3
If you want to attract and retain employees, showing concern for their preparedness for retirement, and your willingness to contribute to their plan, can generate strong loyal-ty, says Marc Avaria, vice-president, group small business, with Manulife Financial in Waterloo, Ont.
Canadian employees agree. A 2010 Environics survey found that 89% of people want workplace-based retire-ment savings programs made available to all workers. Four in 10 workers (41%) would consider changing to an employer that offered one.
Despite these sentiments, the adoption of retirement plans remains relatively low compared to adoption of health benefits plans (which are offered by 47% of the small businesses surveyed, reports Manulife Financials 2013 survey).
Teresa Norris-Lue, vice-president, group benefits and retirement, with
Can pooled registered pension plans (PRPPs) be the answer for the large number of people in smaller businesses who lack access to a retirement savings plan? In 2012, the federal government of Canada passed the Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act, creating a new vehicle for workplace savings. Contributions will be invested in a larger pool of funds to take advantage of efficiencies of scale.
Pooled registered pension plans are tar-geted at small and medium-sized businesses, as well as self-employed business owners. Individuals can be enrolled in a PRPP by an employer who chooses to participate in the plan. Self-employed Canadians and individuals whose employers choose not to participate can open a PRPP account by directly approaching a PRPP administrator.
Pensions fall under provincial jurisdiction, so each provincial government is determining how to implement and manage PRPPs. The new plans will provide: Low management fees by pooling partici-pants investments. Simpler administration than other pension plans, making it easier for employers to offer them. Flexibility and tax deductions for employee and employer contributions.
There are already options available for private sector employers, such as group RRSPs. However, PRPPs will be a low-cost, easy-to-manage workplace savings plan for all small and mid-size employers in Canada, says Nancy Campbell,AVP, small business product & marketing, group benefits and retirement solutions, with Manulife Financial in Waterloo, Ont.
One reason why the proposed PRPPsshouldbe easier to implement: The fiduciary responsibility that usually lies with the employer is transferred to the financial institution offering the plans, says Teresa Norris-Lue, vice-president, group benefits and retirement, with Cowan Insurance in Cambridge, Ont.
Norris-Lue suggests the PRPP design would be more impactful if it included mandatory participation, a required employer contribution, and a cost structure that allowed for employee education and support.
A 2012 workplace savings survey by Manulife Financial found that 80% of Canadians believe that saving through a PRPP would make it easier for them to reach their retirement goals. For more on PRPPs, visit www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/prpp-rpac/menu-eng.html or www.prpp.com/.
Cowan Insurance in Cambridge, Ont., suggests that younger com-panies are more focused on getting to the next stage than on adding another workplace perk. The small business survey found that 13% of companies in the start-up and growth phase offer retirement plans, versus 22% of established small businesses.
Many employers may be reluc-tant to introduce retirement plans because they perceive barriers, such as affordability. Companies with younger workforces might also believe that this group doesnt see retirement benefits as a high priority, adds Norris-Lue. She and Avaria agree that companies need to view retirement plans as another spoke in the health and wellness wheel.
Maybe we should talk about savings rather than retirement. A group RRSP is simply a tax-
deferred savings plan, says Norris-Lue. Lots of people are under financial stress, whether theyre worried about making ends meet, or having enough saved for their first mortgage or their retirement.
If you have someone at work under any stress, they may be present but not functioning as productively as they could.
Just as traditional group benefits are focused on physical and mental wellness, retirement savings p