Helping You Understand Common Components of a Cyber Insurance Policy

cyber insurance

cyber insuranceIn recent years, organizations of all sizes and sectors have become increasingly reliant on workplace technology and digital systems to conduct their operations. Nevertheless, utilizing such technology carries additional exposures and liabilities. That’s why it’s crucial to secure adequate cyber coverage.

Having a cyber insurance policy in place can provide protection against financial losses that may result from a range of cyber incidents, including data breaches, ransomware attacks and phishing scams. Especially as these kinds of incidents continue to surge in both cost and frequency, organizations simply can’t afford to ignore the importance of cyber coverage.

Specific cyber insurance offerings differ between carriers. Furthermore, organizations’ coverage needs may vary based on their particular exposures. In any case, cyber insurance agreements typically fall into two categories—first-party coverage and third-party coverage. It’s best for policyholders to have a clear understanding of both categories of coverage in order to comprehend the key protections offered by their cyber insurance. This article outlines the primary components of a cyber insurance policy.

First-party Coverage

First-party cyber insurance can offer protection for losses that an organization directly sustains from a cyber incident. Types of first-party coverage include:

  • Incident response costs—This coverage can help pay the costs associated with responding to a cyber incident. These costs may include utilizing IT forensics, hiring external services and restoring damaged systems.
  • Data recovery costs—Such coverage can help recover expenses related to reconstituting data that may have been deleted or corrupted during a cyber incident.
  • Business interruption loss—This coverage can help reimburse lost profits or additional costs incurred due to the unavailability of IT systems or critical data amid a cyber incident.
  • Contingent business interruption loss—Such coverage can assist with expenses stemming from business interruptions caused by a third-party cyber incident (e.g., a supplier, vendor or utility).
  • Cyber extortion—This coverage can help pay costs associated with hiring extortion response specialists to evaluate recovery options and negotiate ransom payment demands (if applicable) during a cyber incident.
  • Reputational damage—Such coverage can help recover lost revenue related to higher customer churn rates and reduced sales resulting from poor publicity following a cyber incident.
  • Financial theft and fraud—This coverage can help reimburse direct financial losses stemming from the use of workplace technology to commit fraud or theft of securities, money or other property.
  • Physical asset damage—Such coverage can assist with expenses resulting from the destruction of hardware or other physical property due to a cyber incident.

Third-party Coverage

Third-party cyber insurance can provide protection for claims made, fines incurred or legal action taken against an organization due to a cyber incident. Types of third-party coverage include:

  • Data privacy liability—This coverage can help recover the costs of dealing with third-party individuals who had their information compromised during a cyber incident. These costs include notifying impacted individuals, offering credit-watch services and providing additional compensation.
  • Regulatory defense—Such coverage can help pay fines, penalties and other defense costs related to regulatory action or privacy law violations stemming from a cyber incident.
  • Multimedia liability—This coverage can help reimburse defense costs and civil damages resulting from defamation, libel, slander and negligence allegations associated with the publication of content in electronic or print media. Multimedia liability coverage can also offer protection amid copyright, trademark or intellectual property infringement incidents.
  • Network liability—Such coverage can help recover expenses related to third-party liability concerns that may arise from a cyber incident affecting IT networks. Network liability coverage can also provide protection in the event that cybercriminals pass through IT networks to attack other parties (e.g., customers, investors or suppliers).
  • Technology errors and omissions liability—This coverage can reimburse costs associated with third-party claims alleging technical service or product failures, including claims filed in response to a cyber incident.

For More Information

Overall, it’s evident that cyber insurance has become increasingly vital for organizations across industry lines. By securing proper coverage and understanding the key elements of their policies, organizations can stay properly protected against various cyber threats.

For additional insurance guidance and solutions, contact us today.

Your Home-based Business May Not Be Protected

Home-Based Business

Home-based business

 

The time is finally here. You quit your full time job and are going to fulfill your dream and start your own home-based business!! Your hobby of many years has now transformed into a new business venture. You own your home and have it covered by homeowners insurance, but does that also protect your new home-based business? Well, there’s a chance it will not. Most homeowners insurance policies do cover a small amount of business equipment, but it’s likely that what you own will exceed the limit offered. Also, the liability portion of your homeowners insurance policy will not cover any injuries that may occur to any clients that may be on the premises. 

 

Protecting your home-based business and your home

Your homeowners insurance is designed to protect your home and your personal exposure. To ensure you have your business properly covered, here are a few topics to consider.

  • How much is your equipment worth? Put together a list of inventory that includes everything required to run your business.
  • Will your business create extra liability? Do you take possession of other customers’ property? What if your product is defective?
  • Do you stock inventor? If so, make a list of the materials used and completed products you may have.
  • Are there any vehicles? If a vehicle that is used for business purposes must be insured.
  • Do you have employees? You may need to purchase workers compensation coverage.
  • Do you perform work in customers’ homes? If so, a bond may be required.

Now that you have this list of ideas and questions, it’s time to talk to your insurance agent and discuss what option would be best to protect your hone-based business. There are 3 options to choose from depending on your level of risk.

Homeowners Policy Endorsement

This option provides the least amount of coverage, and it not ideal for most home-based businesses. This type of coverage could be an option for a freelance writer with one computer and no customers visiting your home office.

In-home Business Policy

This option is more comprehensive than a homeowners policy endorsement and is a stand-alone policy. This policy would provide higher amounts of coverage for business equipment and liability.

Business Owners Policy, or BOP

A BOP bundles property and liability insurance into one policy. This policy is specifically designed for small to mid-size businesses and will cover your business property and equipment, loss of income, extra expenses and liability. This is the most comprehensive property and liability coverage option. This does not include workers’ compensation, health or dental insurance, but those can be purchased as separate policies.

The best way to ensure that your home-based business is protected is to gather up as much information you can and schedule an appointment with your insurance agent. When provided with all the facts, they will be able to assist you in choosing the best coverage option that will fit into your budget.

Did you find this information helpful? If so, please share our post. 

5 Strategies for Reducing Health Benefits Costs in 2022

health costs

health costsFor the past two decades, health costs have increased each year. This happens for a variety of reasons, such as inflation or, say, a global pandemic. With that in mind, employers can bank on prices going up in 2022.

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, medical costs are projected to increase 6.5% in 2022. This is about average for the past decade; although, it is slightly lower than the 7% increase projected this year (as more spending goes toward the COVID-19 pandemic).


Yet, 6.5% is still a considerable increase, especially when so many budgets have been reallocated or slashed due to the pandemic. That’s why employers must think both strategically and creatively about how they can lower their health benefits expenses in 2022.


This article includes five ways to help reduce spending without compromising benefits quality.

1. Control Drug Spending

Drug prices are rising faster than any other medical service or commodity. Prices are now 33% higher than they were in 2014, according to GoodRx. This is a significant problem during inpatient procedures, where individuals aren’t usually given an option to select a generic medication—patients rarely know what drugs they’re given until after the fact. Even in routine prescription scenarios, employees may be prescribed name-brand medications simply due to physician preference.

Employers can educate employees on the price differences between name-brand and generic medications. Doing so can help employees understand that they can save money while still receiving the same quality treatment.


Additionally, employers may consider introducing varying levels of prescription drug coverage. For instance, fully covering generic prescriptions or drugs used for chronic conditions. For higher levels (e.g., specialty drugs), employers may cover less of the costs. Ultimately, employers will need to determine the appropriate coverage levels for their unique workplaces.

2. Encourage Active Benefits Participation

Beyond drug spending, employers can help limit overall health costs by making employees active participants in their health care. This means encouraging employees to improve their health literacy, research treatments and price shop.

Price shopping, in particular, should be easier in 2022, given the new hospital price transparency rule that takes effect Jan. 1, 2022. Employees will now be able to see specific prices for procedures and other services. This incentivizes employees to educate themselves before making costly health decisions.

3. Offer Savings Accounts with Carryovers

Health plans with savings components are becoming more popular each year. That’s because these tax-advantaged savings accounts empower employees to control their own spending and improve their health literacy. The accounts include health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and others.

Many accounts allow for fund carryover year to year, or allow employers to add that option onto their plan designs. Allowing carryover encourages employees to contribute more funds, since they’re no longer “use it or lose it.” Since many employers match contributions up to a limit, more money added to these accounts means greater tax savings for everyone.

4. Embrace Virtual Health Options

One major takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic has been that virtual solutions can offer high-quality outcomes. This is so true that many companies are allowing employees to work remotely permanently. Virtual health options are no exception to this trend.

There are countless telehealth services available these days. Individuals can connect with health professionals in just a few clicks—no waiting times or driving to a clinic. Additionally, individuals will not need to take large chunks of time off work, allowing for greater productivity. As such, telehealth solutions are often much less expensive than a typical in-person doctor visit. Even the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) acknowledges the usefulness of telehealth services, seeking to expand access.

Employers can consider adding telehealth services into their plan designs. In some cases, it may be cost-efficient for employees to schedule a virtual health visit before an in-person appointment, under certain circumstances. In any case, having a telehealth option expands access to care and lowers expenses for everyone.

5. Consider Plan Funding Alternatives

A more drastic option for reducing health costs is restructuring how plans are funded. For instance, a self-funded plan may be more cost-effective than paying a monthly premium for a fully insured plan. Other options include level-funding or reference-based pricing models, each of which carries its own set of administrative rules and legal constraints.

Funding decisions should not be taken lightly and should be based on several factors, such as the size of an organization, risk tolerance, and financial stability. Employee financial stability should also be considered, especially while the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic can still be felt. Employees may not be able to burden large premium increases, constraining some plan funding flexibility options.

Historically, employers have shifted costs onto their employees (usually through higher premiums) as a way to reduce spending. However, that trend is not expected to be widespread in 2022. Considering the tight labor market and how many individuals are struggling financially due to the pandemic, employers will likely be hesitant to shift too much of the burden. Doing so may cause employees to seek other jobs or simply forego preventive care, which can lead to chronic conditions and higher future health care costs.

Conclusion

Employers have a variety of ways in which they can help contain health care expenses. Choosing the right method will depend on unique employee populations and budgets.

Reach out today for help strategizing your best options.

Are You Using Penetration Testing To Keep Your Business Safe From Cyber Risks?

penetration testing

Keeping workplace technology up and running is vital to any organization’s success. While this task seems feasible, it’s growing harder and harder each year as cybercriminals expand their reach. It’s not enough to simply protect workplace technology with software and security protocols. It’s also critical for your organization to test the overall effectiveness of these protocols on a regular basis. That’s where penetration testing can help.

Essentially, penetration testing consists of an IT professional mimicking the actions of a malicious cybercriminal to determine whether an organization’s workplace technology possesses any vulnerabilities and can withstand their attack efforts. Conducting a penetration test can help your organization review the effectiveness of workplace cybersecurity measures, identify the most likely avenues for a cyberattack and better understand potential weaknesses.

Review this guidance to learn more about what penetration testing is, the benefits of such testing and best practices for carrying out a successful test within your organization.

What is Penetration Testing?

Put simply, penetration testing refers to the simulation of an actual cyberattack to analyze an organization’s cybersecurity strengths and weaknesses. This testing usually targets a specific type of workplace technology, such as the organization’s network(s), website, applications, software, security systems or physical assets (e.g., computers and smart devices). Penetration testing can leverage various attack methods, including malware, social engineering, password cracking and network hacking, among others.

Generally speaking, penetration testing is often performed by a professional from a contracted IT firm who is not associated with the organization being assessed in any way. This helps the cyberattack simulation seem as authentic as possible. Penetration testing is typically either external or internal in nature. The primary differences between these forms of testing are as follows:

  • External penetration testing requires the IT expert to attack an organization’s external-facing workplace technology from an outside perspective. In most cases, the IT professional won’t even be permitted to enter the organization’s physical establishment during external penetration testing. Rather, they must execute the cyberattack remotely—often from a vehicle or building nearby—to imitate the methods of an actual cybercriminal.
  • Internal penetration testing allows the IT expert to attack an organization’s internal-facing workplace technology from an inside perspective. This form of testing can help the organization understand the amount of damage that an aggrieved employee could potentially inflict through a cyberattack.

In addition to these testing formats, there are also two distinct types of penetration tests. How much information an organization provides the IT professional prior to the cyberattack simulation will determine the penetration test type. Specifically:

  • An open-box test occurs when the IT expert is given some details regarding the organization’s workplace technology or cybersecurity protocols before launching the attack.
  • A closed-box test occurs when the IT expert is provided with no details other than the organization’s name before conducting the attack.

Ultimately, the penetration testing format and type should be selected based on the particular workplace technology elements or cybersecurity measures that an organization is looking to evaluate.

Benefits of Penetration Testing

Penetration testing can offer numerous advantages to your organization, including:

  • Improved cybersecurity evaluations—By simulating realistic cyberattack situations, penetration testing can help your organization more accurately evaluate its varying security strengths and weaknesses—as well as reveal the true costs and of any security concerns.
  • Greater detection of potential vulnerabilities—If any of your workplace technology or other cybersecurity protocols fail during a penetration test, you will have a clearer picture of where your organization is most vulnerable. You can then use this information to rectify any security gaps or invest further in certain cyber initiatives.
  • Increased compliance capabilities—In some sectors, organizations are legally required to engage in penetration testing. For example, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard calls for organizations that accept or process payment transactions to execute routine penetration tests. As such, conducting these tests may help your organization remain compliant and uphold sector-specific expectations.
  • Bolstered cybersecurity awareness—Mimicking real-life cyberattack circumstances will highlight the value of having effective prevention measures in place for your employees, thus encouraging them to prioritize workplace cybersecurity protocols.

Penetration Testing Best Practices

Consider these top tips for executing a successful penetration test within your organization:

  • Establish goals. It’s crucial for you to decide what your organization’s goals are regarding the penetration test. In particular, be sure to ask:
    o What is my organization looking to gain or better understand from penetration testing?
    o Which cybersecurity threats and trends are currently most prevalent within my organization or industry? How can these threats and trends be applied to the penetration test?
    o What specific workplace technology elements or cybersecurity protocols will the penetration test target?
  • Select a trusted IT professional. Consult an experienced IT expert to assist your organization with the penetration test. Make sure to share your organization’s goals with the IT professional to help them understand how to best execute the test.
  • Have a plan. Before beginning the penetration test, work with the IT expert to create an appropriate plan. This plan should outline:
    o The general testing timeframe
    o Who will be made aware of the test
    o The test type and format
    o Which regulatory requirements (if any) must be satisfied through the test
    o The boundaries of the test (e.g., which cyberattack simulations can be utilized and what workplace technology can be targeted)
  • Document and review the results. Take detailed notes as the penetration test occurs and review test results with the IT expert. Look closely at which cybersecurity tactics were successful during the attack simulation and which measures fell short, as well as the consequences of these shortcomings. Ask the IT professional for suggestions on how to rectify security gaps properly.
  • Make changes as needed. Based on penetration test results, make any necessary adjustments to workplace technology or cybersecurity protocols. This may entail updating security software or revising workplace policies.
  • Follow a schedule. Conduct penetration testing at least once every year, as well as after implementing any new workplace technology.

For more risk management guidance and insurance solutions, contact us today.

What Is Two-factor Authentication And Why Is It Important?

two-factor authentication

two-factor authentication

As cyber attacks become more and more common, protecting your data is increasingly difficult. In fact, a study from Juniper Research found that by 2023, cyber criminals are expected to steal an estimated 33 billion records. In light of the growing number of cyber attacks, many companies are turning to two-factor authentication to enhance their cyber security. This is also commonly called 2FA or multifactor authentication. While no cyber security method is foolproof, using two-factor authentication can add an extra layer of security to your online accounts. So how exactly does two-factor authentication work?

What is Two-factor Authentication?

While complex passwords can help deter cyber criminals, they can still be cracked. To further prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to employee accounts, two-factor authentication is key. It adds a layer of security that allows companies to protect against compromised credentials. Through this method, users must confirm their identity by providing extra information when attempting to access corporate applications, networks and servers. Examples can include a phone number or unique security code.

With two-factor authentication, it’s not enough to just have your username and password. In order to log in to an online account, you’ll need another “factor” to verify your identity. This additional login hurdle means that would-be cyber criminals won’t easily unlock an account, even if they have the password in hand. A more secure way to complete two-factor authentication is to use a time-based one-time password (TOTP). A TOTP is a temporary passcode that is generated by an algorithm. Meaning it’ll expire if you don’t use it after a certain period of time. With this method, users download an authenticator app, such as those available through Google or Microsoft, onto a trusted device. Those apps will then generate a TOTP, which users will manually enter to complete login.

Why Two-factor Authentication and Password Management Is Important

As two-factor authentication becomes more popular, some states are considering requiring it for certain industries. It’s possible that as cyber security concerns continue to grow and cyber attacks become more common, other states will follow suit. Even if it’s not legally required, ongoing password management can help prevent unauthorized attackers from compromising your organization’s password-protected information. Effective password management protects the integrity, availability and confidentiality of an organization’s passwords. Above all, you’ll want to create a password policy that specifies all of the organization’s requirements related to password management.

This policy should require employees to:

  • change their password on a regular basis
  • avoid using the same password for multiple accounts
  • use special characters in their password


For additional cyber risk management guidance and insurance solutions, contact us today.

Business Email Compromise, What Is It And How To Prevent It

Business Email Compromise

Business Email Compromise

Cybercriminals continue to become more sophisticated, leveraging a wide range of tactics in order to attack their victims. One tactic that has increased in frequency, complexity and resulting losses over the past few years is the use of business email compromise (BEC) scams.

Put simply, a business email compromise scam entails a cybercriminal impersonating a seemingly legitimate source—such as a senior-level employee, supplier, vendor, business partner or other organization—via email. The cybercriminal uses these emails to gain the trust of their target, thus tricking the victim into believing they are communicating with a genuine sender. From there, the cybercriminal convinces their target to wire money, share sensitive information (e.g., customer and employee data, proprietary knowledge or trade secrets) or engage in other compromising activities.

BEC scams can lead to numerous consequences within your organization—including stolen data, financial hardship and potentially severe reputational damages. Nevertheless, these scams can be deterred through various cybersecurity techniques. Review this guidance to learn more about what BEC scams are and top measures that your organization can implement to prevent such scams.

Business Email Compromise Scams Explained

Essentially, BEC scams consist of cybercriminals impersonating an individual or entity within their targets’ trusted networks for malicious gains. These scams are categorized as a form of social engineering—which refers to a broader cyberattack method that preys on key human behaviors (e.g., trust of authority, fear of conflict and promise of rewards) to obtain unwarranted access to organizational systems, funds or data.

Cybercriminals who execute BEC scams often utilize these social engineering strategies:

  • Creating confusing variations—In an attempt to convince their targets that they are a trusted source, cybercriminals may create email addresses that are nearly identical to the source they are impersonating, with the exception of a few characters (e.g., altering the email address “janedoe@samplecompany.com” to “janedoee@samplecompanyy.com”).
  • Using spear-phishing techniques—Cybercriminals may engage in spear phishing by conducting additional research on their targets and leveraging any extra details they discover to further motivate victims to believe their false identities. When spear phishing, cybercriminals often impersonate sources who are more directly connected to their targets (e.g., a close colleague or department leader).
  • Deploying malware—When sending fraudulent emails in BEC scams, cybercriminals may encourage their targets to download harmful attachments or click on deceptive links in an effort to launch malicious software—also known as malware. Once activated, this software can help cybercriminals more easily gain access to their victims’ systems, funds and data.

According to the FBI, there are several different types of BEC scams, including the following:

  • False invoice scheme—In such a scheme, a cybercriminal impersonates an organizational supplier to trick their target into paying fraudulent invoices or transferring funds to a phony account.
  • CEO fraud—This scam method entails a cybercriminal impersonating a senior-level employee or executive and requesting that their victim conduct a wire transfer to a fake account. The request is often demanding in nature, threatening the victim with work-related consequences or other punishments for failing to comply.
  • Account compromise—Within this scam tactic, a cybercriminal hacks into an employee or executive’s actual email account and distributes messages to various contacts—attempting to fool these recipients into paying fraudulent invoices.
  • Attorney impersonation—This scam technique refers to a cybercriminal impersonating a lawyer or other legal representative and requesting a payment be made to a phony account in order to handle an organizational matter deemed “sensitive” or “pressing.”
  • Data theft—In such a scam method, a cybercriminal impersonates an HR professional to trick their target into sharing personal information about employees or executives. The cybercriminal can then leverage this sensitive data during future attacks.

Preventing Business Email Compromise Scams


Any employee can become the target of a BEC scam, putting the security and financial stability of your entire organization at risk. Be sure to implement the following cybersecurity measures to help deter BEC scams:

  • Educate your employees. Minimizing losses from BEC scams starts with training your employees on how to detect and prevent such instances. Equip your staff with these best practices:
    o Refrain from sharing personal or work-related information on social media platforms, as cybercriminals could use those details to help launch a BEC scam.
    o Avoid opening or responding to emails from individuals or organizations you don’t know. If an email claims to be from a trusted source, be sure to verify their identity by double-checking the address.
    o Be wary of emails that lack personalization, contain spelling and grammatical errors, request sensitive details or use threatening language. Don’t divulge financial information over email.
    o Never click on suspicious links contained in emails. Similarly, avoid downloading email attachments or from unknown sources.
    o If you suspect a BEC scam, contact your manager or the IT department immediately for further guidance.
  • Implement effective payment protocols. Having safe and secure payment procedures within your organization can help put a stop to BEC scams before any money is lost. As such, instruct employees who handle your organization’s financial operations to carefully analyze invoices and fund transfer requests to ensure their validity. When possible, these requests should be discussed in person before moving forward—especially if they involve alternative payment procedures or changes in account numbers. Further, consider utilizing several verification methods to confirm payment requests.
  • Restrict access to sensitive data. Only provide employees with access to sensitive organizational data if they are trusted, experienced and require such information to conduct their work tasks. Protect this data with access controls and multifactor authentication measures.
  • Utilize security features. Make sure all organizational devices possess adequate security features to help deter BEC scams—including access to a virtual private network, antivirus and malware prevention programs, email spam filters, data encryption capabilities and a firewall. Update these security features as needed.
  • Have a plan. Lastly, ensure that your organization has an effective cyber incident response plan in place. This plan should specifically address response protocols and mitigation measures for BEC scams. In particular, your organization should plan on contacting your financial institution as soon as a BEC scam occurs to determine whether funds have been stolen from your account. If money has been taken, the account should be temporarily frozen to prevent further theft. Apart from consulting your financial institution, your organization should also report BEC scams to your local FBI field office and log such scams with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

For more risk management guidance, contact us today.

7 Ways Conservation Can Save Your Business Money

Embracing conservation can be advantageous for your business. Not only does it benefit the environment, it also can save your company money, increase employee productivity, enhance a company’s reputation and make it more attractive to environmentally conscious employees and applicants.

Reduce Energy Usage

Here are some tips to make your organization more environmentally friendly:

  • Employees should turn off lights if they plan to leave a room for more than 15 minutes.
  • Purchase Energy Star-rated light fixtures and bulbs, which use two-thirds less energy than normal lighting. Visit www.energystar.gov for more information.
  • Install timers or motion sensors that shut off lights when no one is present.
  • Purchase LED desk lamps that use minimal energy.
  • Arrange your workspace so more employees have access to natural light. This is proven to increase productivity and job satisfaction as well as use less electricity.

Use Computers Efficiently

Computers waste an enormous amount of electricity each year, particularly in the business sector.

  • Employees should turn off their computers and power strips they are plugged into (if applicable) before leaving work each day.
  • Employees should set their computers to “go to sleep” when they are away for a short period of time since sleep mode uses 70 percent less energy than a normal screen. This is not the same as using screensavers and standby settings, which still draw power even when the machine is not in use.
  • Invest in energy-saving computers, monitors and printers when purchasing new materials for the company.
  • Recycle electronic equipment properly when the company has no more need for it. Visit www.epa.gov for more information on recycling electronic waste safely. Or, donate electronics that are less than five years old to a charity such as www.techsoup.org. Tax deductions generally apply to these donations.

Print with Care

On average, an office worker uses 10,000 sheets of printer and copy paper per year.

  • Instruct employees to print on both sides of the page or use the back of old faxes, scrap paper or drafts to make new copies.
  • Print in draft mode versus regular mode and avoid using colored ink whenever possible.
  • Purchase remanufactured toner and ink cartridges, and recycle the old ones.
  • Request 100 percent recycled paper when using a print company to make copies or print materials for your company.
  • Ask that employees reduce font sizes, use narrower fonts, decrease line spacing and decrease margins when feasible, to use less paper when printing.
  • Purchase chlorine-free paper made from a high percentage of recycled materials. Be wary that not all paper labeled “recycled” is truly made from recycled materials. In fact, some paper simply contains the trim waste from the production process which reduces costs for the manufacturer but does not necessary help the environment. Instead, purchase post-consumer recycled (PCR) or post-consumer waste (PCW) paper. This is still high quality and can be used in inkjet and laser printers. Also consider paper made from bamboo, hemp, organic cotton or kenaf as an alternative.

Reduce the Paper Trail

The following strategies can be used to help cut back on paper usage:

  • Request that employees stop receiving unnecessary industry newsletters, magazines and junk mailings. Instead, sign up for emails on industry-related topics and information, or check if various publications have an e-newsletter as an alternative to receiving a print version.
  • Post employee manuals and policies online versus printing out paper copies of these documents. This makes updating policies and procedures easier and more efficient too.
  • Store documents electronically instead of using a filing cabinet, write emails versus sending paper letters and review documents as a PDF versus printing.
  • Make use of a company intranet to cut down on printed materials. Post or distribute an e-newsletter (instead of mailing out a printed company newsletter), host an online bulletin board, and provide materials and communications online rather than in printed form.

Recycle

Considering the following recycling tactics to assist with conservation efforts:

  • Post employee manuals and policies online versus printing out paper
  • Recycle paper from faxes, envelopes and junk mail company-wide.
  • Visit www.epa.gov to learn more about recycling employee electronics such as cellular phones and PDAs.
  • Make recycling bins easily accessible to employees by placing them in high traffic areas and post information (electronically) about what can and should be recycled on a daily basis.
  • Reuse shipping boxes and use shredded paper as packing material.
  • Purchase office furniture and supplies made from recycled materials. Visit www.conservatree.org or www.thegreenoffice.com for more information on how to purchase these products.

Look for office products that do not contain harmful materials. These items are certified by The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) and The Rainforest Alliance and are made from wood from sustainable harvested forests.

Eat with the Environment in Mind

Being mindful of the environment when purchasing and eating food can go a long way in helping reduce waste:

  • Ask that employees bring their own reusable dishes, utensils and glassware to work for eating meals, rather than items made of plastic or foam. Also suggest that employees bring food in a reusable lunch sack or container.
  • Purchase organic coffee or tea for employees, and organic and local foods for company parties and events.
  • Provide filtered drinking water devices to deter employees from drinking bottled water.
  • Suggest that when employees place food orders, they do so with others to eliminate added waste from individual orders.
  • Recommend that employees bike or walk when going out to eat for lunch.

Maintain a Healthy Environment

To promote a healthier workplace, consider the strategies outlined below:

  • Use nontoxic cleaning materials, biodegradable soaps, and recycled paper or cloth towels.
  • Buy cleaning materials in bulk and recycle their containers.
  • Suggest that employees bring a plant into work for their desks to absorb indoor pollution.
  • Purchase furniture, carpeting and paints that are free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

If You Own A Child Care Business, You Need To Be Aware Of These Risks

child care

Owning and operating a child care business, such as a day care center or preschool program, can be a fulfilling experience. And, studies suggest an increasing number of parents are working full time. This means there are more opportunities for industry growth.However, with a higher number of families utilizing these services, it’s more important than ever that child care providers understand the risks and challenges associated with their business.

Child Safety

When operating a child care facility, safety is of the utmost concern. Inadequate policies or a single lapse in oversight can lead to serious injuries or even lawsuits.To ensure you are doing the most to protect the children in your care, it’s important to understand some common safety concerns and how to address them:

Lack of Supervision

Children in your care need to be watched closely at all times. Just one momentary distraction can result in an accident. To help prevent incidents and to ensure children are appropriately supervised, keep a low child-to-adult ratio. Experts suggest caregiver-to-child ratios should be at least 1:3 for infants and young toddlers, 1:6 for older toddlers and 1:9 for preschool-aged kids. Be sure to follow any state or local laws related to caregiver-to-child ratios.

Improper Medication Use

It may seem unlikely, but children can be accidentally poisoned quite easily if prescribed medications are administered improperly. To help prevent this, instruct parents to give their children medications at home whenever possible. If this is not possible, medications should be provided to your staff members in their original containers along with specific instructions. Staff members will also need to be trained on proper medication handling and storage. You should also have written parental authorization when it comes to administering medicine.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between 1 month and 1 year of age. SIDS is generally the diagnosis given for the sudden death of children in this age group and has no known cause. However, there are a number of precautions you can take to ensure the safety of infants in your care:

  • Put babies to sleep on their backs.
  • Never place bumper pads, fluffy blankets or toys in cribs.
  • Avoid soft bedding.
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The Presence of Toxic Substances

Accidental poisoning is a leading cause of death among children. As a child care facility, it is likely you will have harsh chemical cleaners, medicines and other potentially hazardous substances on-site. To safeguard children, it’s important to store these substances in locked, childproof cabinets. In addition, to prevent accidental poisoning, you should never store food and cleaning supplies in the same area.

Unsafe Toys or Equipment

Just because a product is made for children does not mean that it is safe. In fact, even when manufacturers test their products, safety issues can be easily overlooked, compounding injury risks for child care providers. To keep children safe:

  • Discard damaged toys. Inspect toys on a regular basis to ensure they are safe for children in your care.
  • Understand the intended use of toys and equipment you make available to children. Prevent children from using toys and equipment in an unsafe manner.
  • Stay up to date on toy and product recalls.
  • Keep play areas for younger and older children separate. This is particularly important when you consider that many toys are only appropriate for older age groups.
  • Ensure play areas are free of tripping and choking hazards.
  • Keep playground surfaces and equipment in good condition.

Poor Food Safety

There are a variety of risks associated with food for child care providers. For one, children are prone to choking and will need to be monitored during designated snack times. Also, foodborne illnesses can affect multiple children at once, making food safety all the more important. Instruct your staff to keep cooking surfaces, equipment and utensils clean to avoid cross contamination. In addition, food should be properly cooked, cut appropriately and allowed to cool before serving. It’s also important to be aware of any food allergies. Consider documenting these allergies so staff members can easily identify what foods are safe for each child in your care.

Maintaining a Clean and Healthy Facility

Ensuring the health of children and staff members alike can be a challenge for child care businesses. This is especially true when you consider that small children are vulnerable to a variety of illnesses and often carry germs that are easily spread to others. All it takes is one illness to infect all the children in your care as well as your staff. When this happens, not only can you experience staff shortages, but your child care facility can suffer serious reputational damage as well. It’s important to be proactive when it comes to protecting against contagious illnesses. The following are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Clean play areas daily, making sure to thoroughly sanitize all surfaces and toys.
  • Create and communicate a strict sick child policy. This policy should specify when children should stay home and procedures you will follow should a child get sick in your care.
  • Ensure staff members and children wash their hands regularly.

Staff Challenges

Hiring qualified and trustworthy staff members is critical to ensuring children receive the appropriate care. Poor employment practices can lead to safety hazards and affect your business’s bottom line. Child care facilities should be appropriately staffed. For added safety, and to avoid potential employee-related claims, consider doing the following:

  • Screen all of your employees, performing a detailed background check.
  • Ensure staff members are at least 18 years old.
  • Train staff members on child safety. Consider enrolling them in child-development related courses to further their education and learn new child care skills. Staff members should also be trained on pediatric CPR and first aid.
  • Create a reporting procedure for your staff members to follow should they suspect abuse, whether that abuse occurs in or outside of your facility.
  • Have at least two adults per each group of children in your care.
  • Hire enough staff to ensure children get the most one-on-one care possible. This can also protect you in the event that multiple staff members can’t come to work.

Behavior Concerns

As a child care provider, you must ensure children behave in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the safety of others in your care. However, this is easier said than done, and you must navigate potential disciplinary issues carefully. Just one poorly handled incident can lead to negative publicity or even costly litigation.

Your facility should have a clear disciplinary policy, to ensure behavior issues are addressed appropriately, . This policy should set expectations, account for appropriate disciplinary actions in a variety of scenarios and be communicated to parents. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of behavior issues and inform parents of recurring issues.

Above all, staff members should never physically discipline children. Staff members need to act tactfully when disciplining children, making sure to avoid any actions that could be considered verbal or psychological abuse. Thorough staff training is a must to ensure care providers know what is and isn’t appropriate when addressing child behavior concerns.

Further Managing Your Risks

There are considerable risks to consider when owning a child care business. While proactive risk management can help reduce potential liability concerns, the proper insurance coverage is equally important. To gain a better understanding of the risks associated with your operations and secure adequate coverage, contact us today or click here to learn more about business insurance. 

5 Strategies You Need To Know To Reduce Benefits Costs In 2021

Reduce Benefits Costs

Reduce Benefits CostsHealth benefits costs are almost certainly going to rise in 2021. They’ve been trending upward for years—over 50% in the last decade, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation—and the current state of economic uncertainty over COVID-19 won’t slow things down. Realistically, after enduring months of business closures and managing exhausted workforces, many employers will be lucky to maintain uninterrupted operations.

That’s why it’s critical for employers to think about reducing health costs right now—figure out cost-effective benefits first so money can be shuffled as needed later. Having a solid plan going into 2021 will better position organizations facing limited budgets.
Here are five strategies employers should explore when looking to reduce benefits costs:

1. Dig Into Health Costs

Employers don’t let themselves overpay for the materials they use during production, so why is health care any different? Employers should look into every health care figure they can, from overall premium costs to individual employee expenditures. Understanding where money goes can help focus cost-cutting efforts.
For instance, if employees are going to the emergency room for every health visit, employers know they must promote more health literacy among their workforce.
Speak with Rinehart, Walters & Danner for details about digging into your health plan cost data.

2. Embrace Technology

The health care landscape of today is starkly different than the one of even a few years ago. Now, the name of the game is virtual health care or “telemedicine.” There are numerous ways for individuals to take charge of their health care without the hassle—and added cost—of in-person consultations.
For example, there is tech that can monitor glucose levels to help diabetic employees without test strips; there are virtual visits available for doctors, psychiatrists and other health professionals; and there are countless wellness apps that can help individuals make proactive health choices.

3. Consider Alternative Plan Options

Not every plan option will work for every organization. For years, PPOs were the standard, but now high deductible health plans with savings options are having their moment. These plans enable greater heath consumerism and put the decision-making power into employees’ hands. Employers should consider offering mechanisms like HSAs, FSAs and HRAs to help shift costs without compromising health care quality.

4. Require Active Enrollment

Some organizations allow employees to passively enroll in their health benefits. This may seem like a nice timesaver, but it can actually hinder employee health literacy. Instead, employers should require active enrollment among employees. This approach would force employees to review all their benefits options each year before making selections. Not only does this make employees consider important life events, it also affords them an opportunity to reevaluate the benefits they’re paying for and potentially not using. Ultimately, active enrollment can make employees wiser health care consumers, improve proactive health care and lower overall health expenditures.

5. Change the Funding Structure

Another, more drastic, cost-cutting strategy is changing how health plans are funded. Most organizations use a fully insured model, where employers pay a set premium to an insurance provider, but that’s not the only option. For some employers, self-funding, level-funding or reference-based pricing models may be more attractive solutions.

Let us help you review your options to reduce benefits costs

Suffice it to say, there are a variety of ways that employers can structure their health plans—even if that means requiring employees to seek insurance in the individual health market.

Whatever your needs, know that Rinehart, Walters & Danner is here to help. Contact us today to discuss your 2021 benefits and ways to reduce benefits costs.

Telecommuting, Is It Right For Your Business?

Telecommuting

Telecommuting

Telecommuting is the term for working from a remote location, usually an employee’s residence. Workers are connected to employers and company servers via the internet and are able to communicate regularly in real time using email, instant messaging, webcams and conference calls. Telecommuting can range from working exclusively from a home office to only working at home a few hours every week.

History and Prevalence

The term “telecommuting” was coined in the early 1970s by a University of Southern California professor researching communication and transportation. Companies and government offices began seriously promoting the idea later that decade during the energy crisis.

Technological innovation allowed telecommuting to increase over the next three decades. By 2011, data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 24 percent of employed Americans work from home on a weekly basis. Another survey by Global Workplace Analytics showed that the rate of telecommuting had increased 73 percent since 2005, and that 2.5 percent of the non-self-employed workforce (roughly 3 million people) primarily works from home.

But while the overall usage of telecommuting has steadily increased, many companies have chosen not to adopt it, and some have chosen to push back. For example, in 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer prohibited telecommuting in her offices, where it had been established company policy. Yahoo’s shift in policy highlighted some of the downfalls of this way of conducting business.

Pro and Cons

Telecommuting brings advantages and disadvantages to the way companies do business. Here’s a look at some of them the pros.

  • Increased productivity. While it’s easy to imagine workers shirking their duties at home more readily than in the office, numerous studies show that workers who telecommute are 15 to 55 percent more productive. Two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among their telecommuters.
    • Additionally, AT&T reports that employees work an extra five hours per week when telecommuting versus when they are at the office, and Sun Microsystems’ data shows that employees spend 60 percent of the time they would have used commuting working for the company.
  • Fewer costs. Over half of all employers reported cost savings as a significant benefit to telecommuting. By allowing workers to telecommute, companies reported big savings on real estate, absenteeism and relocation costs. In many areas there are also grants and other financial incentives for companies that offer telecommuting.
  • Increased employer flexibility. Telecommuting gives employers the option to hire from across the country without worrying about relocating workers to a central location. Employers can also more readily hire part-time, semi-retired, disabled or homebound workers.
  • Healthier employees. Telecommuting relieves the stress caused by commuting and other issues related to the workplace or being away from home. Telecommuters eat healthier and exercise more than their office-bound counterparts, and are less likely to get sick from contagious germs.

Below are some of the potential disadvantages of telecommuting:

  • Disengagement. Many employers say that telecommuting interferes negatively with the relationship between workers and management, and can foster jealousy and rivalries between telecommuters and non-telecommuters. Staying connected and supervising employees who work from home can also be a challenge for managers.
  • Lack of collaboration. Innovation can be stifled when workers are not physically interacting with each other. This is the main reason cited by Mayer for the discontinuation of Yahoo’s telecommuting policy.
  • Technology and security concerns. Not all employees are tech-savvy, and there can be problems trying to remotely access an office network or set up remote meetings. Sensitive company information carries the potential for greater risk of being compromised through unsecure home computers. Additionally, 59 percent of telecommuters do not use their company’s data backup system, risking the loss of hard work and valuable information.

Legal Issues

In addition to the strengths and weaknesses of telecommuting, employers must recognize legal issues associated with it before deciding it is right for them. The following are legal issues that may need to be addressed.

Property

Make sure you have a clearly stated company policy for employees who are issued company electronics that addresses what to do in the event they are lost, damaged or stolen. Consider insuring more expensive items.

One way to handle company property issues is to have a written policy in place. If you are issuing electronics to your employees, have them sign something that acknowledges their receipt of the equipment, and indicates who is responsible for maintenance and damages.

Privacy

Employees should be made aware of their privacy rights when working from home. Just because work is being performed on a home computer doesn’t mean that it’s exempt from being monitored or inspected by the employer. Though the location may be personal, employees are still acting under the scope of employment.

Security and Confidentially

Security concerns arise with workers accessing company information from their home computers. One way to guard against intentional leaking is to require that telecommuters sign a nondisclosure agreement. Have your company outline security measures employees should follow to protect information on their computers from exposure to external forces.

Payroll Records and Compensation

Telecommuting presents difficulties for employers in complying with hourly recordkeeping regulations. Employers with telecommuters should set up a way to track those hours and ensure their accuracy.

Similarly, federal rules on overtime and rest and meal breaks apply to telecommuters as much as they do to employees in the workplace. This makes an employer’s obligation to track employee hours especially important.

Employer Liability

What happens if an employee slips and falls at home, while on the clock? Or what if an employee commits a crime in the scope of his or her employment while telecommuting? What about workers’ compensation?

Employer liability remains a considerable concern for telecommuting employees. For starters, you should have a specific policy in place to address work-related injuries or torts that occur at a telecommuting employee’s home office.

Overtime Pay

Allowing employees to work remotely outside of normal work hours (for example, checking their emails at night) could trigger overtime wage issues for certain eligible employees under the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). An employee working remotely is performing compensable work if he or she is completing a principal activity, or if he or she is on duty.

If employees are performing compensable work and are not covered by an FLSA exemption, they are entitled to overtime pay. FLSA violations can lead to lawsuits, criminal charges and fines. For more information on overtime compliance, contact Rinehart, Walters & Danner.

In Summary

Telecommuting is not the right fit for every company, but it has a decades-old record of being positive for many organizations. As the business world becomes more ensconced online than ever before, and a younger, more internet-connected generation moves up the ranks of the workforce, telecommuting may become far more common than it is today.

Before your company decides to embrace telecommuting, you should carefully weigh the risks and benefits of instituting a telecommuting policy to ensure it will be an asset to your organization.