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Experts’ Top Employee Benefits Concerns

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on organizations and their employees continues to grow, Newfront continues to bring together benefits industry experts to answer questions, address concerns, and offer advice in our Return to Workplace webinar series. Because changes to legislation and local regulations regarding COVID-19 are frequent, especially as many states have seen rising rates of infection in recent weeks, understanding how these changes impact employee benefits plans is crucial for returning to the workplace safely.

This week’s webinar featured Darren Brown, Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer of Newfront’s Employee Benefits Practice, Brian Gilmore, Vice President and Lead Benefits Counsel for Newfront’s Employee Benefits Practice, and James Slotnick, Assistant Vice President of Government Relations for SunLife Financial.

  1. Extended Deadlines – Many deadlines will be extended during the outbreak period, so make sure to adjust your own timelines to keep employees informed.
  2. Relaxed Section 125 Cafeteria Plan Elections – There are many options, so remember to get carrier/stop-loss approval.
  3. CARES Act – OTC medications and drugs, as well as menstrual care products, are now allowable under HSA/FSA/HRA.
  4. FFCRA Leave Provisions – For companies with less than 500 employees, Emergency Paid Sick Leave and FMLA Expansion are allowed and may be offset by payroll tax credit. This is likely to be extended to 2021.
  5. Telehealth HDHP Expansion – This includes an optional provision for first-dollar coverage for telehealth services to encourage use.
  6. 2020 Tax-Free Employer Assistance – Includes options for student loan repayment and disaster relief reimbursement.
  7. COVID-19 Testing Coverage Mandate – This applies to testing when medically appropriate – does not apply to return to workplace testing.
  8. HIPAA/ADA Confidentiality Concerns – Under HIPAA, COVID-19 notification not PHI, but ADA confidentiality still applies.
  9. Reduction of Hours and Furloughs – Many exceptions for loss of eligibility because of reduced or zero hours.
  10. What’s Next? – PPP likely to include employee benefits premiums and PPE costs as forgivable. Next COVID-19 legislative package is coming before August recess.


Two questions that were asked, yet not addressed during the session:
Q: If we place employees on unpaid personal leave policy which is not FMLA protected, our company does offer coverage continuation for 90 days.  Are we in violation? 
A: This is perfectly fine. Company policies to extend active coverage are optional and not required. For a longer summary see the beginning of slide 24 in our Newfront COVID-19 and Employee Benefits Guide.
Q: If an employee spent their full election for the FSA and then drops the plan, do they still owe contributions?

A: The IRS has specifically stated that employers can limit employee election reduction requests to no lower than the amount already claimed and reimbursed to prevent this type of loss. For a longer summary see the beginning of slide 57 in our Newfront COVID-19 and Employee Benefits Guide. 

Visit the Newfront's Event Page to register for upcoming webinars in our Moving Forward Together: Return to Workplace Series.


About the author


A Better Day Starts Here

Newfront is transforming the delivery of risk management, employee experience, insurance, and retirement solutions by building the modern insurance platform. Transparent data delivered real-time translates into a lower total cost of risk and greater insights. Newfront makes insurance work for you.

The information provided is of a general nature and an educational resource. It is not intended to provide advice or address the situation of any particular individual or entity. Any recipient shall be responsible for the use to which it puts this document. Newfront shall have no liability for the information provided. While care has been taken to produce this document, Newfront does not warrant, represent or guarantee the completeness, accuracy, adequacy, or fitness with respect to the information contained in this document. The information provided does not reflect new circumstances, or additional regulatory and legal changes. The issues addressed may have legal, financial, and health implications, and we recommend you speak to your legal, financial, and health advisors before acting on any of the information provided.

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