A Win-Win: Add Value to Your Employee Benefits With Life and Disability

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh

Accident and tragedy are two things no employer wants to see for employees.

“Disability products and life insurance give employees peace of mind, knowing they have financial support in the event of unforeseen circumstances,” says Chuck Whitford, consultant at JRG Advisors. “They also give employers peace of mind in knowing that they help protect their employees. Ancillary benefits can even help businesses recruit and retain the best employees.”

Smart Business spoke with Whitford about how life insurance and disability coverage benefits employers and their employees.

Why should employers consider getting a disability plan?
According to the Council for Disability Awareness, every 7 seconds someone in the U.S. suffers an illness, injury or accident that will keep them out of work for more than one month. For individuals out of work for three months or more, the average time off of work due to a disability averages 2.6 years. That’s 136 weeks without a paycheck.

The cost of implementing a long-term disability plan is relatively small. For most business owners, the problem escalates as the owner tries to satisfy the current work demand and take care of the disabled employee. Providing long-term disability coverage is also valuable to employees — buying coverage on their own can cost as much as an entire group account because of stringent underwriting. Plus, the program can be structured so that the premiums are deducted as a business expense, but benefits can be received on an income tax-free basis.

What’s the difference between short-term and long-term disability?
Short-term disability fills the gap between day one of disability and when the long-term benefits kick in. Typically, a short-term disability contract covers the first 13 or 26 weeks of disability. Unfortunately, many people live paycheck to paycheck. Short-term disability can benefit those lacking sufficient savings.

Long-term disability is usually fully insured, with the exception of extremely large employers that self-fund the benefit. For most employers, the cost is determined by employee demographics and industry classification. Claims experience isn’t a significant factor. Long-term disability pays a portion of the disabled employee’s income after he or she runs out of both sick leave and short-term disability benefits, typically after 90 to 180 days. Depending on the plan design and how the policy defines disability, it may pay a monthly benefit for a specific number of years, such as two years or until normal retirement age under Social Security.

However, an employer shouldn’t administer its short-term disability program. Most employers aren’t equipped to assess when an employee is unable to perform his or her own job or when he or she is able to return, and employers are estimated to pay out 30 percent more in benefits than if the plan was managed by a claims professional. It is possible to outsource the claim adjudication process to a qualified third party, often referred to as ‘advise to pay.’

How has life insurance changed and why is this coverage important?
A recent study found nearly 70 percent of U.S. workers, across all generations, believe having a life insurance benefit available at work is important. This importance has grown over the past five years, an increase of 22 percent. For many, it is the only life insurance they own. Group life insurance can fill gaps in coverage and the purchasing power of a large group helps keep the coverage affordable for the employer.

Sixty-five percent of employees with group life coverage believe they need more life insurance beyond what their employer provides. Depending on the plan design and type and amount of coverage elected, employees may be able to buy additional life insurance without answering health questions. Some plans allow employees to purchase coverage on a spouse and/or dependent children. Buying life insurance at work is convenient because premiums can be paid through payroll deduction. When they leave the employer, people typically can choose to maintain coverage, paying premiums to the insurance company.

Employers that don’t have group life or group disability should meet with their insurance consultant. They most likely will be surprised by the relative low cost involved in establishing a program that can provide additional value to their employees.

Tax Reform Plan Expected to Save Middle Class Taxpayers

Congressman Lou Barletta speaks to members of the Columbia Montour Chamber at a breakfast in October.

The average person in Pennsylvania will save over $2,000 annually on their taxes with the passage of a tax reform plan being ironed out between the House and the Senate, according to Congressman Lou Barletta. When Barletta spoke to Chamber members in October, he pledged that any tax reform plan would have to benefit the middle class. Following the passage of a House plan in mid-November, the Senate plan passed along party lines in the early morning of Saturday, Dec. 2. The bill now goes to a conference committee to work out the differences between the plans with a goal of having a final version to President Trump by Christmas.

Here is a full article on the passage of the Senate bill and the path forward from the Harrisburg Patriot News.

Apprenticeship Training at Penn College is Starting Soon

In early 2018, Penn College will begin training to support apprenticeship programs in Mechatronics and CNC Machining with funding available from the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation (CPWDC) to offset the cost to companies.

To learn more, please attend one of the upcoming curriculum planning meetings on Dec. 11 at:

Penn College’s Workforce Development & Continuing Education (WDCE) Office
1127 West Fourth Street
Williamsport, PA

Mechatronics: 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
CNC Machining: 1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

To RSVP or for questions, please contact John Paul via email

See this flyer for more information.

Career Hub Website to Help Young People Explore Career Options

Here at the Chamber, we continue to hear from our member businesses and organizations about the challenges of finding the talent needed to compete and grow. The Chamber and Chamber Foundation are working to increase the awareness of local opportunities among students and their parents in helping to meet future needs. Many members have also told us that their organizations would welcome chances to engage with students to help them better understand the career opportunities available in the region. 

We have been engaged with the Central PA Workforce Development Board (CPWDC), Career & Technical Education Administrators, PA CareerLink® staff, and other Chambers of Commerce to strategize the answer to the question: How might we get more students to see the value of pursuing a career in the skilled trades?  One idea being pursued is the creation of an online career hub with a searchable database that helps match students with local employers offering career experiences, such as company tours, job shadowing, internships, and educator in the workplace tours. 

The Columbia Montour Chamber and our Foundation are working with the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, CPWDC and PA CareerLink® to collaboratively develop the platform, and we are seeking your input to make sure a site serving our area will be responsive to your needs.  A brief survey has been developed to allow you to indicate what you would like to see in this career hub. We would appreciate it if you could let us know how this tool could be most beneficial to you and your business. To provide your input, please complete this survey by Wednesday, Dec. 6.

Shop Local All Year Long

By Fred Gaffney, President, Columbia Montour Chamber

The Saturday after Thanksgiving has become known as Small Business Saturday, thanks to a campaign started by the American Express credit card company in 2010 to encourage holiday shopping at small businesses. Indeed, small businesses should be patronized and celebrated, but not just one day a year. The vibrancy of our communities is dependent upon people supporting local businesses all year long.

When you spend money locally, more of that money stays in our area. Your dollars support local jobs. Those businesses pay local taxes, and contribute back to the community in other ways. Local businesses support non-profit organizations, youth sports, and cultural activities that enhance our quality of life. The parades, festivals, and visits with Santa that will help us get into the holiday spirit in the coming days are possible thanks to the support of local businesses.

Online shopping may provide endless options and convenience in checking items off your list, but think about the value of talking with someone in a store when trying to find a special gift, or how much you appreciate dining options when you need a break from that shopping. Local businesses also provide the choice and customer service that we often take for granted. They also are an important part of what makes our area a great place to live. 

Contact the Chamber of Commerce if you need ideas on how you can support local businesses this holiday season, and throughout the year. The Chamber offers special gift certificates in any amount that can be redeemed at any local business during the year. They can be purchased at the Chamber office at 238 Market St. in downtown Bloomsburg.