Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: employees

Employer considerations for COVID-19 vaccines

The speed and efficacy with which COVID-19 vaccines have been developed is a testament to human ingenuity and the drive to create a safer world for us all. The three vaccines that are widely available in the U.S. (Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson) have all received emergency authorization by the FDA after demonstrating both efficacy and safety, but there are still some points you may want to consider when deciding on how your company should approach a vaccine policy.

What are my options as an employer?

There are three main courses of action you could take when it comes to employees and vaccines:

  • Do nothing. This means choosing not to implement a company-wide vaccine policy and not advocating for and encouraging vaccinations. Doing nothing may not be the optimal choice from a public health perspective, but it’s certainly a valid one from a legal standpoint. Mandating or incentivizing vaccination could help to reduce increased costs or absenteeism from employees, but it can also expose your company to legal liability depending on how such policies are implemented (and how litigious employees are).
  • Encourage and incentivize vaccination. This is a gentler approach than outright mandating vaccinations as a condition of continued employment. Encouraging employees to get vaccinated is legally safe, although it may run the risk of upsetting employees who don’t believe in vaccination, who have concerns about vaccine safety, who have health considerations that keep them from getting vaccinated or who simply don’t like feeling pressured when it comes to managing their health. Incentives, such as offering paid time off or a bonus to employees who get vaccinated, must be carefully implemented, however. Aside from the cost considerations that comes with bonuses and incentives, you may find yourself legally liable for any issues that arise if you implement on-site vaccinations.
  • Mandate vaccination. This is an aggressive option, but it’s certainly the most effective from the point of prioritizing the health and safety of employees. Mandating that employees get vaccinated is generally legal (although it may not be in some states), but it’s possible that some implementations of such a policy could put you at legal risk (for example, setting up on-site vaccinations or inquiring about employees’ personal health to determine their eligibility for vaccination).

Which employees should get vaccinated first?

Until vaccines become more widely available, it’s best to prioritize employees who are most vulnerable to exposure and at greatest risk of complications from COVID-19. Of course, in health care and senior care industries, everyone with regular contact with the ill and elderly should be vaccinated. Outside of these industries, consider prioritizing:

  • Employees who work in close physical contact
  • Employees who have regular exposure to customers and other members of the public
  • Employees who have regular exposure to heavily trafficked enclosed spaces, food products or other settings where infection may be a risk
  • Employees who are 65 or older
  • Employees who are 16–65 with underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of life-threatening COVID-19 complications

What are the risks of implementing a vaccine policy?

You could get into legal trouble if pre-screening vaccination questions aren’t job-related and consistent with the requirements of your business. To avoid this outcome, make sure that any pre-screening questions are related to the job and that you can prove that unvaccinated employees pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other employees. Similarly, you could get into legal trouble if you attempt to prevent workers’ concerted activity, such as expressing opposition to mandatory vaccines.

Make sure to follow state and local laws, as well. Some locales may have prohibitions against mandating vaccines that aren’t required by state or federal law.

Setting a policy and moving forward

Before settling on the policy that’s best for your company and your employees, there are a few final things to consider.

  • Make sure you follow all federal, state and local laws. You don’t want to put your organization at risk of legal exposure. Do some research to make sure you stay up-to-date on the latest laws and regulations.
  • Get a sense of how employees feel. If you have employees who feel very strongly about vaccines, either adopting a mandatory policy or doing nothing may cause disquiet. Taking surveys of employee sentiments can be a good way to decide how to craft your message.
  • Identify who should be doing the communication. Figures like respected managers, team leaders and union officials can be excellent ambassadors for your company’s policies, especially in larger organizations where employees may not have personal relationships with upper management.
  • Be transparent. As always, communication is key when it comes to rolling out new policies that can affect employees’ work lives. Let employees know both what your COVID-19 vaccine policy is and how that position was reached. Be sure to listen to and address employee concerns, even if your policy remains firm.

Regardless of what policy you decide to implement, wearing masks and respecting social distancing will stay important aspects of infection management. Even as vaccines become more readily available, maintain practices and procedures to minimize the chance of infection and help your entire organization stay healthy.

Common questions employees may have about the COVID-19 vaccine

As the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming more accessible throughout the country, you may find that employees are talking about it and asking questions. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of conflicting and inaccurate information being spread through various media channels. Staying on top of the truth can be a full-time job, but here’s a list of common questions and some points you can bring up in case you hear concerns about the vaccine.

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes. Multiple expert sources, such as the Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have attested to the vaccines’ safety. There are multiple reasons given why someone might be concerned about the vaccine’s safety, but the most common include:

  • Concerns about catching COVID-19 from a vaccine shot. There is no live virus used in the vaccines, so people who receive them can’t contract COVID-19.
  • Concerns about the vaccine damaging cells’ DNA. mRNA vaccines don’t alter cell DNA. Instead, they teach cells how to make a protein, which generates a response that will help the immune system target identical proteins in the COVID-19 coronavirus.
  • Concerns about the vaccines being developed recklessly or too quickly. The vaccines have been tested on tens of thousands of patients. Pfizer and Moderna have published ingredient lists for their vaccines, and the mRNA technology used to make the vaccines has been in development for over 30 years.

I’ve heard reports of people having aches, chills and other symptoms after getting vaccinated. Is this an issue?

No. Some people who have gotten the vaccine have reported muscle pain, chills and headaches, but that is not unusual for vaccines. These are part of the body’s normal immune response. But those who have had allergic reactions to vaccines in the past (which are due to the ingredients used in the vaccines), should first consult with their health care providers before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Should I still get a vaccine if I’ve had COVID-19 previously?

Yes. It’s not clear if having contracted COVID-19 previously grants long-term resistance and immunity, like having contracted chicken pox does. Even for those who have been infected previously, the CDC still recommends getting vaccinated.

COVID-19 doesn’t seem that deadly. Should I get a vaccine if I’m not in a high-risk category?

Yes. It’s true that as a percentage, most people who contract COVID-19 don’t die from it. Still, there can be serious long-term consequences such as lung, heart or brain damage. And even someone who doesn’t get seriously ill can still spread the disease among others who are more vulnerable. Getting a vaccine helps us protect not just our families and loved ones, but also society as a whole.

Once I’ve been vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask or socially distance?

Yes. Even if a person has been vaccinated, that doesn’t mean that he or she can’t still spread the virus. It takes at least 10 days for the body to develop antibodies to the virus, and the number of antibodies present only goes up with more time. Additionally, research hasn’t conclusively determined if the vaccines prevent asymptomatic infection and spread (although it is likely that they do). Wearing a mask and socially distancing are also good behaviors to model for those who haven’t been vaccinated yet. By getting vaccinated and following other preventive measures, we can all do our part to end the pandemic sooner!

I’ve heard that the vaccine contains a chip inside that lets the government and corporations track people who get vaccinated. Is this true?

No. Some syringe makers include a microchip within the labels of their products so that health care providers can track the shipping history and origin of doses of vaccine. There is no chip within the vaccine itself.

I heard that the vaccine targets a protein that occurs naturally in pregnant women and can cause fertility issues. Is this true?

No. An amino acid sequence is shared between COVID-19 and a placental protein found in pregnant women, but the sequence is too short to trigger an immune response by itself. COVID-19 vaccines won’t cause fertility issues in women.

4 ways to create a motivating workspace

2‑minute read

Earlier this year, we shared how celebrating your employees can boost happiness and productivity. While showing appreciation for your employees is key, it’s not the only way to inspire your workforce. Designing the right work environment — from paint colors to plants — can also help motivate your employees. Check out our tips below to learn how the right office décor can uplift and encourage your team.

1. Don’t fear color. What color are the walls in your workplace? Are you surrounded by neutral tones or bold color? Research suggests that certain colors can affect a person’s productivity. If you want to spark some creativity in the office, try incorporating the color purple. If a laid-back vibe is what you want to evoke, try adding more blue and green to your surroundings. If you don’t want to saturate your entire workplace in color, consider painting a couple rooms to match the energy you’re after.1

2. Bring the outside in. You know how we just said green is a calming color? This is great news if your workplace has a view — nature is full of it! Try arranging your employees’ desks in a way that maximizes their view of the outdoors. What if your windows look out to a concrete jungle? Create your own lush landscape by decorating the office with plants and hanging artwork inspired by nature.

 3. Let there be (sun)light. While we all know too much sunlight can be harmful, sunlight in moderation can have mood-lifting benefits and may even help your employees stay focused.

“Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused.” – Healthline Media2  

Keep the blinds open to let as much natural light in as possible. If your workplace lacks natural light, resist the urge to crank up the overhead lights, which can be a nightmare for migraine sufferers. Instead, try providing individual desk lamps so your employees can adjust lighting to meet their own preferences.

4. Live your brand. A great way to get your employees excited about your business is to put it right in front of them. Why not display your mission statement on the wall? What about painting accent walls or providing office supplies in your brand colors? By immersing your employees in your brand, you’re helping them become invested in the business, its goals and its success.

 

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1 http://www.arttherapyblog.com/online/color-psychology-psychologica-effects-of-colors/#.W4Qt5cJry01

2 https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight

What do your employees really want to know about their dental plan?

The answers are all in one place

Whether you’re new to Delta Dental or have had a PPO plan with us for years, we want to make sure your employees are making the most of their plans. With the second half of the year in full swing, it’s a good time to check in and see if your employees’ dental plan is keeping them smiling.

To help you better serve your employees’ benefit needs, here are the most common enrollee questions our PPO customer service team receives — and the best way to answer them.

  1. Q: How do I find out if my dentist is in-network?
    A: Simply log in to deltadentalins.com with your enrollee information. From the home page you can type your dentist name or practice into the Find a Dentist feature.
  2. Q: What do dentists charge for a normal visit?
    A: This varies depending on your location. Once you’re logged onto deltadentalins.com, click on the Explore Your Costs link on the home page to estimate costs for common services in your area.
  3. Q: Can I receive an ID card for each family member on my plan?
    A: While you don’t need an ID card for each family member, you can print additional copies of your ID card by logging on to deltadentalins.com and clicking Print ID Card from the home page.

Our online tools make it easy for enrollees to find what they’re looking for. Save yourself some time and help your employees manage their PPO plans right from the Delta Dental home page.

Skating, Sinatra and Sitcom

From plan setup to ongoing support, there’s something special about the way we treat our clients — and our contact center is no exception. One of our top-performing Customer Service Representatives, Fred Henderson, shows me how the healthy work environment at Delta Dental can inspire our team to help keep your enrollees well.

Q: What’s your favorite part about working at Delta Dental?

A: Honestly, I feel valued here — and that’s not something you see very often. Whether it’s my coworkers, my supervisor or the company leadership, everyone here is on the same team encouraging each other. And I take pride in knowing the work I do is important. I’m keeping people healthy!

Q: How do you connect with your customers in such a short time?

A: No matter the caller or the situation, within seconds I need to figure out how to help by actively listening, and showing that I’m genuinely interested in what the caller is saying.

Q: How do you think your team contributes to Delta Dental’s very high client satisfaction rating? 1

A: We’re all about one-call resolution — our customers shouldn’t worry about dental benefits. We resolve a situation so it’s easier for everyone. For example, if a benefits administrator (BA) asks about covered services on a plan, odds are their enrollees are having questions too. So we don’t just want to help the BA in that moment, we work to make sure they’re prepared to point enrollees in the right direction too.

Q: Is being part of this collaborative environment what motivates you every day?

A: Definitely. My own department is like a real family, and you don’t want to disappoint family. Putting in extra hours doesn’t feel like work when you like the people around you, and you like working with our customers too.

Q: So, if you had to compare your team to a TV show, what would that be?

A: I’d say we’re as close to each other as the characters in The Office, but we work like we’re on Law & Order, because we’re seriously committed to our customers. Helping them is our main focus.

Q: What’s the most memorable call you’ve had?

A: I recently spoke with a senior customer who was concerned about copays for several services. Before I even got a chance to respond she said “If I was Mrs. Frank Sinatra I’d never have to worry about things like copays.” Then she told me all about her evening out with Sinatra years ago — from him picking her up in a limousine to ordering both lobster and prime rib for dinner, plus dessert.

Conversations like that that make my day. But I think I made hers too, because I got to tell her that there were no copays on her plan for the services she needed.

Q: Do you have a good work-life balance? What do you do in your free time?

A: I’ve got a work hard, play hard mentality. I like that working here gives us time to recharge so we can perform our best. I spend a lot of time with my family, and I’m really active. I swim three days a week. But my real passion is roller skating. I’m pretty good.


Want to see a video?


 

Q: Wow! You don’t wear skates to work do you?

A: I’m already fast enough at helping my customers. Besides, it might be a little dangerous.

Q: Touché. Wellness is definitely an important part of our culture here. How do you pass that along to enrollee callers?

A: While we want to be quick, it’s not just about answering a question and moving on to the next. It’s about keeping our enrollees healthy long-term, whether that’s pointing them toward our wellness resources, or making sure they know how to get the most out of their plan. If someone asks me about a routine cleaning, I’m going to make sure they know to go twice a year.

So if you could leave our clients with one piece of advice what would it be?

A: Take every opportunity to learn about your benefits. It truly is our goal for enrollees to get the most out of them. If you have a question, call me before it’s a problem. Or go to our website to find helpful tools for you and your enrollees.

 

Hopefully you’ve seen that skating by at Delta Dental isn’t an option, unless you’re Fred Henderson (after work of course). Stay tuned to learn more about your support team.

1 Delta Dental Annual Report, 2015

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