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As society’s understanding of mental health continues to grow, so has government acknowledgment and efforts to protect workers with such conditions. Workers who have a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, are often protected against discrimination and harassment at work because of the condition. They may also have workplace privacy rights and a legal right to reasonable accommodations to help them perform the essential functions of their jobs.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal law that protects individuals with disabilities. In most cases, individuals with diagnosed mental health conditions are covered under the ADA.
This article highlights mental health conditions, outlines the EEOC’s enforcement plans and offers ADA compliance guidance for employers.
Mental Health and the ADA
The ADA only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. The law defines “disability” as a physical or mental impairment substantially limiting one or more major life activities. When qualified job applicants or employees have a mental health condition meeting those criteria, they have workplace rights under the ADA. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 broadened the definition of disability to provide legal protections against employment discrimination for more individuals with disabilities, including people with psychiatric disabilities. “Psychiatric disability” and “mental illness” are often used interchangeably. The term “mental illness” is typically used in a medical context to refer to a wide range of emotional and mental health conditions. In contrast, “psychiatric disability” is typically used in a legal or policy context to refer to impairments covered under the ADA.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 18% of U.S. workers have a mental health condition in any given month. This means that psychiatric disability is one of the most common types of disability covered under the ADA. Since mental health conditions can substantially limit brain function, individuals with such disorders will usually be determined to have an ADA-covered disability. The following mental health conditions may qualify under the ADA:
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Major depression
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorders
- Personality disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Examples of reasonable accommodations for an employee with a mental disability may include:
- Allowing the employee to telework
- Allowing more frequent breaks
- Alternating supervisor methods (e.g., providing written instructions and providing more frequent or different reminders of tasks and due dates)
- Changing the employee’s work schedule
- Changing the employee’s work location (e.g., moving to a quieter space or allowing the use of a white noise machine or headphones)
- Reassigning to a vacant position
- Permitting a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act, state law or company policy
EEOC Enforcement Plans
In fiscal year (FY) 2021, employee allegations of unlawful discrimination based on mental health conditions accounted for about 30% of all ADA-related EEOC-filed charges. That figure significantly increased from the 20% reported in FY 2010. Anxiety and PTSD are the leading conditions contributing to this trend.
The EEOC recently released its strategic enforcement plan (SEP) for FYs 2024-28, emphasizing a greater focus on discrimination against vulnerable populations, including employees with mental health disorders. The plan aims to focus and coordinate the agency’s work to advance equal employment opportunities sustainably.
Supporting employees battling mental health conditions is not only important for compliance reasons. While organizations seek to avoid liability under the ADA, support and guidance can help foster an inclusive environment for employees with mental health conditions.
Consider the following employer strategies to stay compliant and create a supportive culture:
- Monitor EEOC compliance. Organizations should stay current on all EEOC updates and consult local legal counsel before making any workplace changes. Employers can be proactive with compliance responsibilities by setting calendar reminders well before deadlines and meeting regularly to review compliance with EEOC guidance.
- Review workplace policies. Various workplace policies have the potential to generate discrimination claims. Employers can review and assess policies such as background-check practices, pre- and post-hire personality or behavioral tests, inequitable leave policies and unnecessary physical requirements.
- Review compensation practices. When reviewing their compensation practices, organizations may discover disparities that adversely affect employees based on certain protected characteristics. With a clearer picture, employers can then address those disparities to ensure equal opportunity.
- Train managers. Supervisors and managers can be trained to identify and respond to requests for reasonable accommodation to ensure decision-making isn’t based on outdated biases or misunderstandings about mental health.
- Train all employees. Mental health awareness can help fight the stigma often associated with conditions. Open and honest conversations about mental health can help foster an inclusive work environment. Training can help increase empathy and understanding to ensure all employees feel valued, respected and part of the team.
As outlined in the EEOC’s latest SEP, the federal government continues to crack down on organizations that discriminate against workers with mental health conditions. As such, employers should continually monitor for EEOC updates and review applicable workplace policies and practices that could cause a discrimination claim. Aside from compliance, mental health awareness is critical for fostering a successful and inclusive workplace environment.
Contact us today for additional workplace resources.
This article is from RISQ Consulting’s Zywave client portal, a resource available to all RISQ Consulting clients. Please contact your Benefits Consultant or Account Executive for more information or for help setting up your own login.
Organizations thrive through a sense of belonging and shared purpose. As employers navigate on-site, hybrid and remote work models, many may worry that those critical success factors could get lost in the workplace. Luckily, there are still ways for employers to promote their organizational mission with all employees, regardless of location. In times when employers may struggle to find and keep the workers they need, a strong and authentic organizational mission can help attract and retain top talent. Workers are more likely to be engaged and loyal to organizations with a mission they believe in and trust.
This article explores opportunities for employers to engage and unite their employees in both on-site and distributed workplaces.
A Mission Everyone Believes
According to Indeed.com, an organizational mission—or a mission statement—is a brief, broad statement about a company’s goals and how it intends to meet them. It can address what the organization offers and how it hopes to serve its customers, community, employees, investors or other key stakeholders. Strong missions develop a human connection or an idea or behavior that employees can get behind and truly believe.
Cultural values are a way for the organization to achieve its mission. They define employee behavioral expectations and explain how leadership expects employees to work. Ultimately, everyone is working toward the same goal and demonstrating the values and behaviors aligned with and expected from the organization.
Connecting with Employees
It’s much easier to implement an employee engagement plan with a solid understanding of the organizational mission. Employers should consider the following tips to promote an organizational mission while keeping all employees engaged and firmly believing in the company:
- Involve employees early. The sooner organizations get the mission in front of employees, the sooner employees see how their role impacts the mission. The organizational mission and other company information are critical components of the onboarding process. This step reinforces that employees’ work does matter.
- Celebrate and communicate wins. Whether big or small, celebrating any organizational success that upholds the mission and delivers value to stakeholders not only reminds employees about how performance is measured, but demonstrates that those actions are important and truly make a difference.
- Reward behaviors that support company goals. Recognizing and rewarding employees who contribute to the progress and achievement of company goals is crucial. For example, encourage employees to share insight about what the mission means to them and how they live it. This can help provide concrete examples for other employees and demonstrate that the organization truly believes in and strives for that behavior or mindset. Recognition in a public format ensures that all employees are aware of the star behavior, which now comes to life in the workday.
- Foster belonging in the workplace. Many factors can contribute to employees’ sense of belonging in the workplace; however, a critical element revolves around whether employees are proud of their employer’s mission or purpose. When aligned with the mission, employees are often proud of their work and the organization.
- Continue organizational traditions. Everything that once drove formal and informal culture in the physical workplace needs to be reformatted to ensure inclusivity and connection between the physical and virtual workforces. This includes team-building activities, wellness initiatives, milestone celebrations and companywide events that allow employees to preserve or strengthen social attachments.
- Establish informal and formal engagement opportunities. Employers can encourage team leaders to create formal stand-up or check-in meetings to keep the team regularly connected. It’s equally important to support informal opportunities such as mentorship, walking meetings and coffee breaks. It’s all about encouraging and, to a certain extent, facilitating communication among employees.
- Drive employees to an intranet or other shared platform. It’s critical that all employees have access to the latest company happenings. For example, a company intranet can become a one-stop destination for employees to get to know each other and communicate. When there’s a designated destination for all updates, all employees receive the same information at the same time, and there’s no advantage of being on-site or remote. Additionally, communication apps and channels can serve as engaging employee channels and provide a shared platform for employees to stay in touch.
Lastly, employers should be intentional about communication by ensuring there’s a communication plan in place or, at a minimum, establishing guidelines about how the organization communicates and how frequently. Communication formats and other employee preferences should be taken into consideration to make sure organizational information and updates resonate with and engage the entire workforce.
If working situations have changed, it may be helpful for employers to ask employees about current challenges and opportunities for living out company values, whether formally through a survey or informally during department meetings. A baseline survey can help organizations identify disparities between the company’s mission and values and how employees actually feel about the company and workplace, and ultimately address such issues.
In a distributed work environment, the in-person work culture typically dominates, which could isolate employees working remotely full- or part-time. That means it’s imperative for employers to prioritize employee engagement in workplace strategies. Contact us today for more information on distributed workplace strategy and management.
Deciding how many HR professionals an organization needs to operate effectively is a hotly debated topic. Some organizations rely on metrics to guide them in making this decision. One of the most common metrics organizations use when deciding whether to hire HR professionals is the HR-to-employee ratio. When properly analyzed, this ratio can aid employers in meeting their HR needs and benchmarking their organizations against others. It can help employers determine not only how to fill their HR staffing needs, but also analyze how well their HR professionals are delivering on organizational goals.
This article explains the HR-to-employee ratio, how organizations can use it and what employers should consider when deciding whether to hire HR professionals.
What Is the HR-to-Employee Ratio?
The HR-to-employee ratio measures how many HR professionals there are for each employee in an organization. It’s calculated by dividing the total number of full-time HR professionals by the total number of full-time employees in an organization and then multiplying that number by 100. For example, the HR-to-employee ratio for an organization with one full-time HR professional and 73 total full-time employees would be 1.37. As the total number of employees increases, the HR-to-employee ratio usually decreases, though this varies by organization.
The HR-to-employee ratio is a useful measurement for evaluating HR departments. It can guide an organization’s decisions regarding HR staffing, including whether its HR department needs additional support, is overstaffed or can delegate or outsource certain functions. It can also help determine an organization’s HR efficiency, as a higher ratio could indicate a lower efficiency in delivering HR services.
According to Bloomberg’s HR Department Benchmarks and Analysis report, annual survey results revealed the median HR-to-employee ratio is 1.4 full-time HR professionals per 100 employees. This ratio is currently at an all-time high, as it previously peaked in 2013 at 1.3 HR professionals per 100 employees. The recent increase in the HR-to-employee ratio is primarily the result of unprecedented workforce growth and employers’ need to address the increased HR burden on their organizations.
Smaller employers (organizations with fewer than 250 employees) generally have a significantly higher HR-to-employee ratio—averaging between 1.7 and 3.4—because of the minimum number of HR professionals required to perform core HR functions, such as recruiting and benefits administration. It’s not uncommon for smaller organizations in the early stages of growth needing to focus more on people management than more established organizations, resulting in a higher ratio. As organizations grow, the HR-to-employee ratio tends to decrease because of the cost advantages employers gain by increasing the size of their organizations.
Factors Impacting the HR-to-Employee Ratio
Determining how many HR professionals an organization requires is difficult and depends on the organization’s needs and growth strategy. While the HR-to-employee ratio can guide employers as they make HR staffing decisions, there are several factors that may influence this ratio. These factors include the following:
- Technology—Automating HR operations will reduce an organization’s need for HR professionals, lowering the HR-to-employee ratio. Organizations that invest in digital and self-service HR tools can improve overall accuracy and empower managers and employees to self-manage many HR functions, which can allow HR professionals to focus on higher-value work.
- HR involvement—The role of HR can influence the HR-to-employee ratio. For example, a highly operational HR department may require more HR professionals to perform a variety of functions, such as employee training and development, recruiting, onboarding, benefits and compliance.
- Budget—A larger budget allows an organization to staff more HR personnel, while a smaller budget can restrict the total number of employees the organization is able to hire, thus impacting the HR-to-employee ratio. Increasing the size of an HR department will often result in a higher HR-to-employee ratio; however, a high-functioning HR department can ideally help reduce costs elsewhere in an organization.
- Industry—The HR-to-employee ratio generally varies by industry, as some sectors require more HR involvement than others—resulting in a higher ratio. Industries such as consulting, insurance and finance typically have higher ratios than manufacturing, construction, retail and health care because sectors with highly skilled professionals tend to require more training and personal development to engage and retain staff compared to their lower-skilled counterparts.
Other factors that may impact an organization’s HR-to-employee ratio include whether the organization is centralized or decentralized, where employees are located (e.g., a single location versus multiple locations) and the level of employee sophistication. The HR-to-employee ratio only accounts for full-time HR professionals, so there may be a gap between the metric and actual organizational needs.
Does a Smaller Organization Need HR Professionals?
Regardless of an organization’s size, HR practices and processes play a role—whether completed by an owner or a formal HR professional—in the organization’s success. Small and midsized employers tend to implement more formal HR processes as they grow. This is because their compliance needs, cultural challenges and talent struggles become increasingly complex with more employees.
Small and midsized organizations generally have the following HR needs:
- Recruiting job candidates
- Onboarding new hires
- Providing training and development opportunities
- Handling compensation
- Managing benefits
- Setting up and overseeing payroll
- Reviewing timekeeping records
- Ensuring compliance
- Fostering employee relations
- Promoting health and safety
- Boosting organizational morale
Owners and executives of smaller organizations often take on HR responsibilities themselves rather than hiring new employees. According to industry research, owners and executives of smaller organizations can spend as much as 12 hours each week on HR administration. However, as organizations grow, small and midsized employers often need HR support because executives and owners often do not feel confident managing HR functions and processes or may have other areas that require their limited time and resources. Utilizing the HR-to-employee ratio can help theses employers decide when to hire HR staff.
Before deciding to hire an HR professional or adding additional HR staff, employers need to decide where their staffing needs are the greatest and how much value HR professionals could add to their organization versus an investment in other departments. They also need to consider the skills an HR professional brings to ensure organizational needs are met.
Understanding the HR-to-employee ratio and factors that affect it can help employers evaluate the role of HR in their organizations. When making HR staffing decisions, employers should consider their organizations’ specific needs and long-term goals. Using the HR-to-employee ratio can provide employers with insights regarding HR hiring practices and improving organizational efficiencies.
For more HR-related resources, contact RISQ Consulting today.
The workplace continues to change as the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic approaches—and employer-sponsored wellness programs are no different. The pandemic has put employee health and wellness in the spotlight, and employers’ wellness initiatives will continue to grow in 2022. According to the Business Group on Health’s 2022 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey, employers recognize that COVID-19 may have long-term impacts on employees. Notably, many employers anticipate increasing medical services due to delayed care (94%) and are concerned about long-term mental health issues (91%).
Given the pandemic’s immediate and lasting impacts on employee health, it’s no surprise that employers are expected to expand their wellness offerings in 2022. Here are four popular employee wellness trends to look out for in 2022.
1. Expanded Mental Health Resources
Many organizations have prioritized mental health during the pandemic. Many workers continue to battle stress and anxiety in both their personal and work lives. Not only are employees faced with changing workplace policies and responsibilities, but they are also navigating how to reconnect with friends and family. Fortunately, the mental burden of the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled more transparency and empathy around the topic, especially in the workplace.
Many employers will continue to work on ways to address employees’ short- and long-term mental health issues, as there’s a significant need and desire for mental health support in the workplace. According to a 2021 Calm for Business workplace mental health survey, 97% of employees said that employers should be trying to improve employee mental health. Consider the additional survey findings:
- 76% of employees find mental health benefits critical when evaluating a new job.
- 87% of employees feel nervous, anxious or stressed working through a pandemic.
- 80% of employees are having difficulty falling and staying asleep during the pandemic.
- 43% of employees attribute poor mental health to their job based on a lack of recognition and belonging.
Employers who are invested in their employees’ mental health often yield healthy employees who take fewer days off, contribute to positive workplace culture and are more productive. One way to address employee mental health is by ensuring mental health is an essential part of overall health care offerings. Additionally, employers may expand telebehavioral health and employee assistance program (EAPs), as well as increase the use of mental health apps. Employers who provide diverse health care resources that deliver behavioral, emotional and social services are in a great position to improve their workforce’s overall well-being.
2. Advancement of Health Equity
The pandemic has undoubtedly shed light on health disparities. Several underlying social and economic challenges (e.g., health care, income and childcare) can influence overall well-being. To tackle health inequalities, some employers are making employee benefits and wellness programs more affordable and inclusive. The goal is to ensure all employees have access to the health care they need. That can look different for every employee, so employers may start with focusing on general goals to help employees manage any chronic conditions or severe acute needs, such as cancer, or receive recommended prenatal care.
Furthermore, some health insurance providers are working with local, state and federal governments to improve health equity to ensure Americans have an equal opportunity to thrive and achieve their best health. Employers can select providers striving to make health care more affordable and accessible to all employees. Employers have a great chance to help employees maximize their full health potential by supporting efforts that advance health equity in the communities where employees live and work.
3. Increased Focus on Hybrid Work-life Balance
Employee wellness programs must continue to evolve to meet the demands of the current workforce. At this point in the pandemic, it appears the hybrid workplace is here to stay. As such, many employers are shifting their perspective of hybrid work from a novelty to the new standard in 2022; but with that shift, employers must recognize the unique challenges employees face as hybrid workers. As the boundaries between work and home are blurred, employees may experience burnout or undergo a decrease in their physical or mental health.
A healthy work-life balance seems like an unattainable goal for many Americans. Still, employers can do their best to help and offer robust resources and support, especially for hybrid or remote employees. A holistic approach helps address all aspects of the body and mind. Health plans may include access to mental health professionals and assistance dealing with stress and depression. To support varying personal responsibilities, organizations may also consider how to increase schedule flexibility or time off for mental health or recharging. Such companies may also be focusing on key performance indicators like employee satisfaction and retention. As more organizations operate in hybrid or remote settings, employees are more likely to expect such comprehensive wellness offerings from their employers.
4. Expanded Financial Wellness Resources
Money is a top stressor for employees, and the pandemic has reinforced that fact. Seventy-three percent of Americans rank their finances as their number one source of stress, according to a 2021 CreditWise survey. As the pandemic evolves, employers are uniquely positioned to support employees with much-desired financial guidance and educational resources.
First, employers should be aware of the most common financial goals of employees:
- Building an emergency savings
- Navigating cashflow changes
- Choosing the proper health insurance and benefits
- Preparing for significant life events
- Saving for retirement
Many organizations employ a multigenerational workforce, which means employees often face unique financial stressors. To provide relief, some employers offer financial wellness programs that vary in complexity but can include virtual personal financial planning meetings, tuition reimbursement and seminars. The idea is to provide a wide variety of services for the workforce. Employers can help reduce employee financial stress by exploring financial wellness resources and support options and offering attractive programs for current and prospective employees. Financial wellness is a critical component of well-being and can be a competitive offering in today’s labor market.
All signs indicate that mental and financial wellness will become significant pain points in 2022. The pandemic also continues to expose health inequalities and an unattainable work-life balance for many American workers. The most robust 2022 employee wellness offerings and programs will likely be employee-centered, focusing on how to provide the most comprehensive, attainable and affordable benefits. Many employees will not only need resources for handling new pandemic-related mental and financial challenges but also support for working in a remote or hybrid setting as the lines blur between their home and work lives. This year, employers are expected to explore programs and initiatives that ensure all employees have access to the physical, mental and financial benefits they need to address the pandemic’s short- and long-term impacts.
Organizations can start with evaluating current wellness initiatives and thinking about ways to improve them. To ensure offerings and investments will resonate with the workforce, it can be helpful to survey employees first and see what they find most valuable and necessary for their overall well-being after two years of living through a pandemic.
Contact RISQ Consulting today for more wellness program ideas or ways to get started.