This week’s post covers three workplace issues that affect employers and employees alike: work-related stress, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, and job discrimination against pregnant women.
Work-related Stress Costs Employers and Society
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) recently released a report on the high cost of work-related stress titled “Calculating the Cost of Work-related Stress and Psychosocial Risks.”
The EU-OSHA defines work-related stress as “when the demands of the work environment exceed the workers’ ability to cope with (or control) them.” According to the report, work-related stress leads to increased absenteeism and staff turnover rates and decreased productivity and performance.
Together, these stress-related factors are estimated to cost the U.S. economy as much as $300 billion annually.
The study reviewed the cost-benefit impact of employer-driven stress reduction interventions. Though individual results varied, early intervention was shown to reduce the prevalence of stress-related problems and ultimately result in employer savings.
The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) is set to expire Dec. 31, 2014, and both chambers of Congress are working to pass bills to update and extend TRIA.
The TRIA program was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when insurers suffered great losses and some even stopped offering terrorism risk insurance on commercial buildings.
Under the program, insurers must offer certain types of terrorism risk coverage at affordable rates. If losses from a terrorist attack exceed a set amount, a federal backstop kicks in, providing a measure of certainty as to the maximum size of losses the insurer would have to pay.
The backstop keeps coverage available even if the threat of terrorism remains.
The Senate recently approved its version of the extension, while the House is still considering its own version, which scales back the TRIA program considerably.
To learn more about the TRIA and whether the extension could affect your insurance coverage, contact Thams Agency at 712-263-3193.
New Job Discrimination Guidelines for Pregnant Workers
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new guidelines on the treatment of pregnant employees under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The guidance clarifies that the PDA prohibits discrimination based not only on an employee’s current pregnancy, but also on past pregnancies and an employee’s potential or intention to become pregnant in the future. It also states that a covered employer (an employer with 15 or more employees) must treat women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions in the same manner as other applicants or employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.
A significant update to the guidelines states that lactation and breastfeeding are pregnancy-related medical conditions protected under the PDA. Therefore, employers must ensure that employees have the same freedom to address lactation-related needs as other employees have to address other similarly limiting medical conditions.
The new guidelines also focus on light duty requirements for employers. Employers must provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave or unpaid leave to pregnant workers if other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work are offered these benefits as well.