Cos Introduce Special Leave to Ensure Isolated Staff Get Pay

THINKING LONG TERM Move meant to encourage social distancing so that any potentially infected employee does not attend work and spread the virus among others

Top Indian companies are closing ranks to protect their employees in the fight against Covid-19 by introducing special provisions in company policies to assure quarantining staff that their isolation period will not affect their take home salaries.

Steel major Tata Steel has tweaked its leave policy to include a “special leave” provision for any employee who might need to selfquarantine or stay away from office due to perceived Corona virus exposure.

The “special leave” provision, which will be applicable for white as well as blue collared workers, will enable even a person who has not been diagnosed sick but has either been advised or has decided to self-quarantine. The leave can be taken for any number of days required for the employee to recover during which period the person will be entitled to full pay and the other regular leaves such as sick leave and privilege leaves will remain unaffected.

“We have introduced a special leave provision where, in case a person wants to or is recommended to self-isolate, he or she can take leave till as long as required,” said Suresh Tripathy, vice-president – human resources of Tata Steel.

“The idea is people should not worry about leaves at this time. We want to facilitate social distancing whenever the need be, so that the employee does not hesitate to stay at home in fear of leave being deducted or pay getting cut,” said Tripathy.

Others like RPG Enterprises is also advising and encouraging employees to take leave for as long as they need in cases where they are unable to work from home till the time they get better. To facilitate this, RPG has come up with an “exceptional” leave policy with full pay for as long as needed.

Food delivery app Swiggy is currently working on similar policies and is expected to roll it out shortly.

“This is a never-anticipated situation and if someone is unwell they can be away from work for as long as they want till they are fully fit to join back,” said Supratik Bhattacharyya, chief talent officer, RPG Group.

Tata Steel is encouraging people perceived to be more vulnerable to catch the infection, like expecting mothers, to take leave for as long as needed in cases where they cannot work from home. All leaves will be fully paid, said Tata Steel’s head of HR.

While legal experts said that as per laws, employee can avail entitled leave (sick leave, privileged or earned leave, etc), in situations where they are not unwell but is self-quarantining or asked to quarantine, several companies in India are taking the leap forward to allow fully paid special leaves in a bid to encourage social distancing so that any potentially infected employee does not attend work and spread the virus among others.

“Employers are looking at this situation as entirely different from any other and considering such absence from work as paid leave while the other regular annual leaves remained untouched,” said Anshul Prakash, partner, Khaitan & Co, a specialist in employment and labour law.

Legal experts and companies are also looking at how to prevent discrimination on medical ground so that an employer cannot invoke employment contract and terminate someone on medical reasons for being away from work for more than a month.

Auto major Mahindra & Mahindra, however, said that all leaves taken will get deducted from the employees’ annual leave basket. If someone had travelled to one of the red-listed countries (nations that have reported higher number of corona virus affected cases) they are quarantined as part of the tour. However, if someone had gone on a personal holiday, then the person will have to avail from the already existing “exigency leave” which is a combination of casual and sick leave and can be availed up to a maximum of 70 days, said Prince Augustin, executive vice president, group human capital & leadership development at Mahindra & Mahindra. In addition, they can also avail their privileged leaves.

“We can see a lot of discussion going on in companies around policies pertaining to employees’ physical and financial wellbeing that need to be revisited,” said Anurag Malik, partner – people advisory services, EY India.

“Most companies are granting paid time off for employees with symptoms and will also do so for employees who must take care of family members diagnosed with Covid-19 and those who may themselves get diagnosed with Covid-19,” he said.

Source:- The Economic Times

Date:- 18th March,2020-Wednesday


US insurance companies will cover costs of COVID-19 testing and treatment

US health insurance companies will waive copays for testing and cover the cost of treatment for the novel coronavirus, said Vice President Mike Pence during a press briefing today. Medicare and Medicaid will also cover costs without copays.

The CEOs of major insurance companies, including Anthem, Cigna, Humana, and Aetna, attended a briefing at the White House today. The companies also said that there would not be surprise billing for costs associated with COVID-19, the illness caused by the new virus. Details of those policies were not available.

“As the testing is expanding, we wanted to make sure the American people knew that testing was available to them and that cost would not be a barrier,” Pence said.

While there are more tests available in the US than there were a few weeks ago, labs still can only conduct a limited number of tests each day. So although there are more tests available, testing capacity is limited. Analysis suggests only a few thousand people have been tested for the virus in the country, and it is still difficult for people who think they may be infected to receive the test.

The major insurance companies also agreed to cover the costs of telemedicine. Medicare is also covering costs associated with remote care, Pence said during the press conference.

There are currently nearly 1,000 cases of COVID-19 identified in the US, and public health officials expect that number will continue to rise.


Source: The Verge

Date: 10th March 2020

How HR Can Bring Customer Experience Techniques To Benefits

How HR Can Bring Customer Experience Techniques To Benefits

The focus on customer experience (CX) has been gaining popularity in recent years. The term CX refers to the experience a person has with a brand or company at every touch point along the buyer’s journey. A touch point is considered to be any interaction a company has when dealing with a brand. It can be pre-sale (e.g., social media or an ad), purchasing (e.g., salesperson or packaging) or post-sale (e.g., customer service or billing).

At its core, you can think of CX as what someone feels about your brand when they are interacting with it. An outstanding CX makes everything easy and enjoyable.

To look at benefits through the same lens, think about the experience your employee has while they use their company-sponsored benefits.

Some companies depend on an open enrollment meeting where they distribute printed benefit booklets, provide lunch, explain the benefits over the hour and then leave their employees to navigate their benefits on their own. With a poor CX like this, it’s no wonder healthcare costs are nearly $15,000 per employee for companies. The system is complex; prices aren’t transparent, and most people (thankfully) use their health benefits infrequently.

For the last five years, I’ve been part of the team at HealthJoy, working to create a benefits experience platform. Throughout that process, I’ve used many CX techniques to simplify the experience year-round. Human resources can use some of those same techniques to make the benefits experience better. If you are working with benefits, improving your employee experience can start with thinking about CX. Here are some things to consider:

Employees’ Benefit Journey

Your most fundamental information will be a holistic understanding of your employees’ benefits journey. You need to dig in and experience every step along the way. From there, you can build a map of the journey as a whole.

It’s not enough to just guess at what the employee experience looks like. It’s essential to put yourself in the shoes of your employees as they try to navigate the complicated web of benefits we’ve built.

Most benefits packages have 10-20 different vendors, but I’ve seen as many as 100. At the same time, we’re dealing with a “customer” who has a really low level of benefits awareness. In fact, a survey found that 96% of Americans can’t define the four most common health insurance terms.

If you have a lot of benefits, your map of the employee experience can become unwieldy, but the process is worth it. Our ultimate goal is to anticipate an employee’s needs so you can remove friction. You can’t remove friction from a process you don’t understand.

The employee benefits experience falls into three distinct categories:

  1. Onboarding:The first experience your employee has with their benefits is critical. After they attend an open enrollment meeting and select their benefits, what happens? Are your vendors emailing your employees? Are people downloading their app? Do they need to go to your benefits website for more information? Are they reading the emails you are sending?
  2. Maintaining And Using:Signing up for company benefits is one thing. Outside of open enrollment, how many steps do employees have to take to use them? What is customer service like for all your different benefits? What is the support experience like when something goes wrong? What are the hold times for your carriers? How are their websites?
  3. Renewal: The benefits plan renewal step is an important one to map because it can often be complicated and confusing for employees. It will probably look different for every vendor. Are the costs going up for some of your plans? Are you using a benefits admin tool? Consider each step in the renewal process from the employee’s viewpoint.

Review Employee Touch Points

Next, you need to look at all the different touch points provided by you and your vendors. This includes apps, websites, advertising, brochures, etc. You also should understand the support they receive through their journey, call centers, chat, etc.

Touch points can be a source of friction for users, and understanding them will give you a lot of insight into your employee experience. A vendor telling you they “have an app” is different than downloading, and using it. Read the reviews to see what users think of it. Scan through their release notes and see how often their app is updated.

Many companies produce their own benefits websites. As you might already know, it can be an incredible undertaking to make a genuinely engaging benefits website. Creating a static website with WordPress or another content management system is relatively simple, but creating a personalized website that only delivers relevant information to an employee is a daunting task. It requires integration with third-party vendors and constant updating and testing throughout the year. There might be hundreds of touch points for your employees to deal with, but it’s important to review, map and understand the most important ones.

Next Steps

I’ve worked on creating a streamlined benefits experience for the last five years, and I can say that fully understanding the problem is the first step in making it better. Once you understand the potential employee journey, you’ll really appreciate the daunting task we are asking them to undertake. An alphabetical listing of vendors in a benefits booklet with phone numbers and websites isn’t a functional customer experience. It certainly isn’t the answer to lowering your healthcare costs or increasing employee satisfaction.

You’ll find that many of the touch points you identified are under vendor control, and you’ll have no way to change the experience. By mapping the entire customer journey, you can focus your efforts on eliminating friction in areas that are under your control: what you present your employees during onboarding, which specific touch points you highlight and the messages you present throughout the year. Improving your employee benefits CX will take time, but I think this discipline holds incredible potential for HR.



Paytm Arm Gets Irdai’s Brokerage Licence

Paytm subsidiary Paytm Insurance Broking has secured a brokerage licence from sector regulator Insurance Regulatory and Authority of India (Irdai).

The company plans to offer insurance products across categories including automotive, health and life. It will also offer customers policy management and claim settlement services at select merchant points, it said. Paytm, which has so far been a marketplace for all insurance products, said it had “recently surrendered” its corporate agency licence in order to obtain the brokerage licence.

The wholly owned subsidiary of Noida-based One 97 Communications has already tied up with 20 insurance firms to roll out products, and is exploring 30 other partnership opportunities, it said.

Source:- The Economic Times-Mumbai

Date:- 3rd March,2020- Tuesday

Most HR pros say cover letters are still relevant

Dive Brief:

Cover letters are an important part of the hiring process, according to 83% of the 200 recruiters, HR specialists and hiring managers surveyed by OnePoll on behalf of ResumeLab.

A cover letter can help candidates get interviews, even if their resumes are mediocre, the survey found. Also, three-quarters of recruiters said they prefer that applications include cover letters separate from their resumes.

Cover letters help HR pros assess applicants’ motivations to join the company, their career objectives, their reasons for a job change and their personal achievements, the survey said.


Dive Insight:

Sources who have spoken previously with HR Dive hold conflicting views on the importance of the cover letter. The cover letter is not dead yet, according to Vicki Salemi, a career expert for Monster. “Hiring managers will still ask for them. Not all, but many,” she said.


Ally Van Deuren, university relations lead at Korn Ferry, disagreed, describing cover letters as too time-consuming. “I personally rarely look at cover letters,” she told HR Dive. “The average recruiter spends an average of [seven] seconds per resume, so honing a resume is more important!”


With employers struggling to find quality talent, the cover letter could help separate exceptional candidates from the less stellar ones. The high cost of recruiting paired with a bad hiring decision means employers must focus on quality in hiring, according to a recent JazzHR report.




Coronavirus: Travel insurance useful, but governments would step in fully

If you visit a country despite the government’s travel advisory, your health insurance will not pay for your Coronavirus claim


The thought of being locked up in a room for days – quarantined – till you recover from Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) can be depressing. For those who are going through it and are covered through a travel insurance policy, there may be a feeling of relief that at least their medical costs would be taken care of. It doesn’t quite work that way; you may not actually incur any costs, given that governments would step in.


On Monday, PTI reported that around 17 travellers who had returned to Delhi from China and other affected countries before the screening began in mid-January showed symptoms of the disease and were hospitalised. The number of confirmed cases in India is three, all in Kerala. Despite its geographical proximity to the epicentre of the pandemic Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19), India has, so far, remained relatively unaffected by the global health crisis of Chinese origin. No alarm bells have started ringing in India yet, but central and state governments are taking precautions.


Travel policies during advisories


The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has already issued a travel advisory exhorting people to refrain from visiting China. On cue, general insurance companies that offer overseas travel policies, too, are exercising caution. “We are not issuing travel policies to China-bound travellers. We have also limited the issuance of travel insurance policies to Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. For travellers to other destinations where some cases have been detected, we are asking our customers to follow government advisory and take precautions,” says Sanjay Datta, Chief, Underwriting, Claims and Reinsurance, ICICI Lombard. On paper – and as per travel policy documents – COVID-19 or other such contagious diseases are not exclusions – they are treated like any other ailment, provided they are not ‘pre-existing.’


While insurers do pay for the treatment of pandemics, usually, they are completely controlled by the government and regular hospitals rarely enter the picture. “If the treatment necessitates quarantine, including at home, it’s the government’s call to take – travel policies will not come into play,” he adds. Governments tend to take over completely, as symptomatic individuals might need to be placed under quarantine. “Treatment takes place at government-designated hospitals and costs, too, are borne by the governments,” says Nikhil Apte, Chief Product Officer, Product Factory (Health Insurance), Royal Sundaram. The respective countries’ governments need to keep track of such cases to contain the scourge and prevent secondary infection. “Therefore, it is unlikely that insured travellers will file claims with insurers,” he adds.


Settling claims

For Indian health insurance policyholders diagnosed with the disease upon their return, again, similar rules will apply.. If you are, say, evacuated from the epicentre of an epidemic and return to the country, you will be placed under quarantine, as has been the case with Indians airlifted from Wuhan, China. The medical facilities will be controlled and paid for by the government establishments. “So, though any treatment procedure that an insured has to undergo is technically covered by travel and health policies, practically, such situations seldom give rise to claims,” points out Apte.


In case you to travel to regions where no advisory is in place and yet end up contracting the deadly virus, you can turn to your travel or overseas health policy. That is, in the unlikely event that the government of that country does not have a standard protocol in place to deal with COVID-19 patients. “If the government has already picked up your medical tab, you cannot file a claim as you cannot get paid twice. If you are on your own, however, the normal claim settlement process will be applicable,” says Chopra. You will get cashless facilities at network hospitals – the ones that the insurer has tied-up with through global partners, or claim reimbursement later.


A travel policy also covers claims beyond health emergencies – baggage loss, passport loss, third-party liability as also evacuation of mortal remains. “If mortal remains of an insured have to be brought back to India, we will take care of the expenses. However, it is subject to government formalities sanctioning release and insurers cannot play a role here,” explains Datta.


The COVID-19 epidemic, declared ‘Public health emergency of international concern’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has led to 1870 deaths in China, while the number of infected has surpassed 72,000. Globally, it has spread its tentacles to 25 countries that have reported 804 laboratory-confirmed cases and three deaths as per WHO figures as on February 18, 2020.




Cabinet makes crop insurance scheme optional for farmers

The Centre on Wednesday revamped its flagship crop insurance scheme to address challenges in its implementation where farmers invariably have to suffer due to delay in disbursal of claims in case of crop failure.

It made the scheme voluntary for farmers and increased the central share in premium subsidy to 90% for northeastern states from the existing sharing pattern of 50:50.

These changes, approved by the Union cabinet, will be implemented from the upcoming Kharif (summer crop) season throughout the country. The government will separately bring a new scheme for 151 highly water stressed districts.

The changes will apply to two ongoing schemes— ‘Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana’ (PMFBY) and Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (RWBCIS). It is expected that the changes will enable quick and accurate yield estimation leading to faster claims settlement and increase the insurance coverage in north-eastern states.

“Enrolment under the scheme will be made voluntary for all farmers,” agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said .

A separate scheme will be prepared to provide risk mitigation tools through crop insurance, especially for 151districts which are highly water stressed.

Date: 20-02-2020

Source :  The Times of India