Tag Archives: pregnancy

5 Insurance Apps to Download Today

Forward-thinking insurance companies are leveraging technology to improve customer experience and differentiate themselves from the competition. Here are the top five insurance apps you should download today, to help with tasks ranging from creating a home inventory to improving your driving skills.

  1. Home Gallery App
    Cost:
    Free
    Benefit: Helps you create a home inventory

A home inventory makes filing an insurance claim easier should your things be stolen or damaged. It also gives you an estimate of how much your possessions are worth, which is helpful when you shop for homeowners insurance. Fortunately, the Home Gallery app from Liberty Mutual makes cataloging your possessions a cinch. The app allows you to take photos of your items, note important information such as purchase price and date and share your inventory with family members or your insurer. Best yet, you can use the Home Gallery app whether or not you’re a Liberty Mutual customer.

  1. Driver Feedback App
    Cost:
    Free
    Benefit: Gives you information to become a better driver

State Farm’s Driver Feedback app helps you become aware of driving habits that increase your chance of being involved in an accident, which could raise your auto insurance premium. The app uses your smartphone’s accelerometer and GPS locator to collect data about how you brake, corner and accelerate. Once you arrive at your destination, the app gives you a score for your trip and offers tips about how to improve your driving.

Using the Driver Feedback app, you can also compare data from one trip with another and share the results via email or text. These features can help new drivers form good driving habits and allow parents to monitor their teen’s performance behind the wheel. Plus, using a driving app is one way your teen might reduce her auto insurance premium. You don’t need to be insured with State Farm to use the app, and your driving data isn’t shared with your insurance company.

  1. Text4Baby App
    Cost:
    Free
    Benefit:
    Provides tips to help expectant moms stay healthy during pregnancy

The Text4Baby app provides pregnant women with a wealth of information to help them have a healthy pregnancy and avoid preventable complications. When a mom signs up, she receives a “starter pack” of messages. Then, every week, she receives three text messages about prenatal care, ranging from doctor appointment reminders to information about symptoms that could warrant concern.

Major insurance providers, like Aetna, CIGNA and Blue Cross and Blue Shield, are Text4Baby “outreach partners.” This means the companies encourage expectant moms to use the app to stay healthy, which can reduce the chance of complications that can make pregnancy-related costs skyrocket.

  1. Infinity App
    Cost:
    Free
    Benefit:
    Allows you to create a secure digital inventory

The MetLife Infinity app gives you the power to create a digital inventory of photos, videos and audio files, plus important documents like wills and insurance policies. The app stores as much as five GB of data in the cloud, and it’s password-protected and permanently backed up. You can organize your information in collections and securely share the information with anyone, from a family member to your insurance agent. You can take advantage of the app even if you’re not a MetLife policyholder.

  1. Defend Your Income
    Cost:
    Free
    Benefit: Explains how a disability can affect your life

Defend Your Income is an online game produced by the Council for Disability Awareness. Its goal is to help you understand how a disability may affect your life. Throughout the game you defend yourself from health-related issues like pregnancy complications, cancer, and respiratory disease. After you complete each round, you answer trivia questions and learn miscellaneous facts about the disability.

By the end of the game, you’re more aware of your disability likelihood and have an idea of how much income you could lose if you become disabled. This information is useful when you’re calculating the amount of disability insurance you need.

These apps are transforming the insurance industry by elevating customer service to a new level. Download one or more of them and then share your experience. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Why to Take a Positive View of Maternity Leaves

“We just hired her two months ago. Now she is telling us she is pregnant and will need three months off for the birth and for bonding with the child. Didn’t she have to tell us she was pregnant when we interviewed her? How are we supposed to run a business this way?” 

These sentiments of frustration are fairly common for employers in California, particularly those with fewer employees and less frequent encounters with maternity leaves of absence. Generally, these sentiments do not arise from hostility toward the employee or pregnancies in general, but rather from the difficulties the employer will face with staffing,  and the potential for increased  costs. These are real and legitimate concerns. Nevertheless, employers should consider taking a positive view of maternity leaves.

Taking a positive view begins with accepting that pregnant employees are protected by multiple laws. Disagreement with the laws should be directed toward the legislature, Congress and industry associations that lobby for employers. It should not be directed toward or communicated with employees. They did not create the laws, and raising disagreement or frustrations with them will only create bad evidence in pregnancy discrimination cases. 

Let’s look at some of the most basic rules.

Hiring

An employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition. Nor can an employer refuse to hire because co-workers, clients or customers have a negative view of a pregnant employee.

Pregnancy and Maternity Leave

An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee's ability to work. Requiring a doctor's certification about the employee’s ability to work or the need for a leave of absence is permissible, but only if the employer requires similar certification for other kinds of medical issues and disabilities.

If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of her pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. The employee may also have the right to transfer to a different position. Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs.

As a general principle, employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave. But, even if the employer gives no time off for other leaves, a pregnant employee must be given as much as four months of leave while disabled by the pregnancy. Employers with 50 or more employees will also have to provide as much as 12 weeks of leave for bonding with the new child.

Health Insurance

Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. Employers must continue to pay for the health insurance during a pregnancy disability leave or mandated bonding leave on the same basis as though the employee were working.

Fringe Benefits

Pregnancy-related benefits cannot be limited to married employees. If an employer provides any benefits to workers on leave, the employer must provide the same benefits for those on leave for pregnancy-related conditions.

No Discrimination or Retaliation

It is unlawful to discriminate or retaliate against an employee for a pregnancy, for a leave of absence taken in relation to the pregnancy or for complaining about the employer’s policies or practices related to pregnancy.

These basic rules only scratch the surface of the details in the multiple and overlapping laws that apply to a pregnancy. Accordingly, it is often wise to get expert assistance when handling an employee pregnancy.  

It is also wise to carefully plan your communications related to the pregnancy. While poorly planned communication can create bad evidence, well-planned communications create positive energy and strengthen employee relations. 

Let’s take the example of an employer who is bothered because a new employee did not disclose that she was pregnant during the interview process. 

Taking a positive view requires the employer to understand that there are many legitimate reasons why an applicant might not tell. Fear of the employer’s reaction, desire to keep work and family matters separate and shame about an unwanted pregnancy are just a few. Wise employers can use this situation as an opportunity to set a positive tone, build openness and strengthen the relationship. It can start with a simple question asked in a friendly, non-threatening tone: “Is there a reason you did not tell us you were pregnant?” 

Where the conversation goes from there will vary. Here are a couple of possibilities:

Example 1: “I was concerned I would not get the job.” 

“That is understandable, but that’s not how we operate. In the future, we want you to feel comfortable that you can have open communications with us on this kind of thing or any matter. That’s the kind of employment relationship we want to have.”

Example 2: “I’m just private about my family things and did not think it was the company’s business.” 

“We understand and respect your desire for privacy. We are not going to try and become involved in your private affairs. On the other hand, your pregnancy is not entirely a private matter.  Because you will be taking time off from work, it has an impact on the company.  Communications and planning are important for the company. We want an employment relationship where you feel comfortable letting us know about family matters that directly affect the company because you know we are going to respect your privacy.”

Taking a positive view of pregnancies and maternity leaves may not be second nature for employers. The approach, however, will reduce the potential for the creation of bad evidence and increase the potential for high-quality employment relationships and the productivity and profit that result from them.

This article originally appeared in the Sacramento Business Journal.

The New Pregnancy Disability Regulations – Clarity and Complexity

For years, California has been one of the few states with specific, independent pregnancy disability protections. The protections include freedom from discrimination and the right to take time off from work. Further protection was added last year with the mandate to continue employer-paid health care benefits during a pregnancy disability leave of absence.

California's new pregnancy disability regulations recently took effect. If you are responsible for human resources in your organization, you likely already knew. You may have already seen summaries of the new regulations, or even reviewed the entire 28 pages yourself. If not, a brief summary of the notable changes follows. After the summary, we use the complexity of new regulations to show the importance of careful planning and documentation when handling an employee's pregnancy.

Summary Of New Regulations

Expanded Definition Of “Disabled by Pregnancy”
California law has long stated that a woman is disabled by pregnancy if, in the opinion of her health care provider, she is unable because of pregnancy to perform any essential function of her job or to perform the essential functions without undue risk to herself. The new regulations add a host of specific conditions that could meet the definition of “disabled by pregnancy.” One such condition is “bed rest.” The regulations go on to state that the list of conditions is non-exclusive and illustrative only. The regulations do provide that lactation, without medical complications, is not a condition requiring pregnancy disability leave, but it may require transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position or other reasonable accommodation.

Amount Of Pregnancy Disability Leave Allowed
The law allows up to four months of unpaid leave for women who are disabled due to pregnancy. The new regulations change the definition of “four months.” The new regulations provide that it is the number of days the employee would normally work within four calendar months (one third of a year equaling 17 1/3 weeks), if the leave is taken continuously, following the date the pregnancy disability leave commences. If an employee's schedule varies from month to month, a monthly average of the hours worked over the four months prior to the beginning of the leave shall be used for calculating the employee's normal work month. Thus, the total amount of leave available will be based on a “one third” year measurement of an employee's normal work schedule. The regulations provide several examples of the calculation.

Intermittent And Reduced Schedule Leave
The law continues to allow an employee who is disabled due to her pregnancy to take her leave in less than four month increments. Under the revised regulations, an employer may account for increments of intermittent leave using an increment no greater than the shortest period of time the employer uses to account for use of other forms of leave, provided it is no greater than one hour.

More Guidance On Reasonable Accommodations And Transfers
The new regulations included detailed provisions on the employer's obligation to provide a pregnant employee with reasonable accommodations and/or transfers to alternative positions. While the regulations should be consulted to guide the handling of a specific situation, the new regulations closely track the employer's obligations under the state and federal disability law to engage in an “interactive process” and provide reasonable accommodations.

Reinstatement Rights And Rules Expanded
Under state and federal family/medical leave law, a returning employee must be reinstated to the same or an equivalent position. The new regulations provide that an employee returning from pregnancy disability leave must be reinstated to her “same” position. The alternative of a “comparable” position is only available if the employer is excused under the regulations from returning the employee to her same position.

The employer must “guarantee” the right of reinstatement in writing upon request of an employee. The guarantee must be honored, whether or not in writing, unless an exception applies.

The new regulations do not contain the previous language that permitted an employer to deny reinstatement if it would undermine the employer's business. Reinstatement must be made within two business days, or if that is not feasible, as soon as possible after the employee notifies the employer of her readiness to return. The new regulations specify that a position is considered “available” for the employee if the position is open on the day of the employee's scheduled return or within 60 calendar days thereafter. The employer has an affirmative duty to provide the employee with notice of available positions.

Perceived Pregnancy Protection Added
The new regulations specify that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee or applicant because of “perceived pregnancy.” Perceived pregnancy is defined as being regarded or treated by an employer as being pregnant or having related medical conditions.

Employer-Paid Health Benefits
Beginning last year, California employers became obligated to continue paying for health care benefits for employees on pregnancy disability leave at the same level and under the same conditions as if the employee had continued working. The new regulations provide the details on this requirement and its relation to the similar requirement under family and medical leave law.

Notice Requirements Changed
The regulations continue to require employers to provide notice to employees of their pregnancy disability leave rights, but provide more detail on how employers must meet the requirement and the consequences for failing to do so. The standard form notices created by the government have been modified to reflect the changes in the law.

Example Of The Importance Of Careful Planning And Documentation

The regulations state that an employee who takes pregnancy disability leave is “guaranteed a right to return to the same position.” They state further that the employer must provide the “guarantee” in writing to the employee if it is requested. After reading or being told of these mandates, an employer with limited time and limited global understanding of the regulations might prepare the following letter and give it to an employee heading out on pregnancy disability leave:

Dear Debbi,

We have received your request to take pregnancy disability leave. We have also received your doctor's certification stating that you will need to be off work for four months. We guarantee that you will be reinstated following your leave.

Sincerely,
Well-Meaning Employer

Well-Meaning Employer has created multiple problems, but we will focus on just one. The new regulations provide that an employee is not entitled to reinstatement if the employee's job would have ended notwithstanding the pregnancy leave. For instance, if the employee's position is eliminated or the employee is included in a layoff for reasons that have nothing to do with the pregnancy or leave. Let's assume that Debbi's position is legitimately eliminated during her leave. She has no right to reinstatement under the regulations.

The regulations, however, also provide that a position is “available” and must be provided to the employee if the employee is entitled to the position by “company policy” or “contract.” The letter and the statement “We guarantee that you will be reinstated…” could certainly be interpreted as a contract entitling Debbi to reinstatement, even though her position was eliminated and she has no reinstatement rights under the pregnancy disability law.

The new regulations were designed to provide employers with clarity, and in many cases, they do. Because of the complexity, however, they also create traps for those employers who fail to carefully plan and document pregnancy leaves.