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Dec 28
DFS: Licensees Whose Licenses Renew Before 4/1/22 Not Required to Show Compliance with New CE Subject Requirements

​​The ​​DFS has responded to Big I NY's request for clarification about the implementation of new continuing education requirements. 

On November 12, 2021, the Sixth Amendment to 11 NYCRR 20 (Insurance Regulations 9, 18, and 29) took effect. This amendment mandates that of the 15 continuing education required to be completed every two years by certain insurance producers and public adjusters (collectively, “licensees") at least one credit of Insurance Law instruction, one credit ethics and professionalism instruction, one credit of diversity, inclusion, and elimination of bias instruction, and, for those licensed to sell one or more lines of property/casualty insurance, one credit of flood insurance instruction, must be completed. In addition, if the licensee sells flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, the licensee must take at least three credits of enhanced flood insurance instruction.

The regulation states that the requirements “shall apply to a licensee whose license renews on or after April 1, 2022." According to DFS:

“…the intent of this applicability date was to give the Department sufficient time to revise and test the renewal application to accommodate the amendments to this regulation and to approve continuing education courses. However, because the Department continues to revise and test the renewal application and approve continuing education courses, licensees whose licenses renew before April 1, 2022 may continue to renew their licenses without showing compliance with the new continuing education requirements, through March 31, 2022 (emphasis added). Beginning on April 1, 2022, licensees who are required take continuing education will not be able to submit renewal applications without having completed the continuing education courses mandated by the amendment."


Dec 28
Industry Roundup: Stay Lifted on Federal Shot-or-Test Mandate for Large Employers; Trends That are Reshaping the Insurance Market; Cyber Disruptions of Infrastructure Networks Can Cost Millions in a Day

Trends That are Reshaping the Insurance Market

It's no secret that advances in technology have pushed those in the insurance industry to make major changes and a recent 2022 analysis explores four major trends insurers may see as we enter the new year.

 

Berkshire's Candymaker Must Face Worker's Suit Over Husband's COVID Death

A California candymaker must face a lawsuit by an employee who says she caught COVID-19 at work and gave it to her husband, resulting in his death, a state appeals court held on Tuesday, upholding what appeared to be the first ruling allowing a worker's lawsuit against an employer over a family member's COVID death.

 

Tornadoes Have Pushed Insurers' Weather Claims Above $105B for 2021

Devastation from tornadoes that slammed parts of the United States this month will push the insurance industry's 2021 bill for weather-related claims well above the predicted $105 billion, industry experts said, and premiums should rise on worries that climate change will drive more severe weather.

 

Cyber Disruptions of Infrastructure Networks Can Cost Millions in a Day

The resilience of America's critical infrastructure networks has been tested over the last year by a number of serious disasters – both natural and manmade — including winter storms shutting down electrical grids in Texas and the ransomware attacks on the Colonial Pipeline and meat producer JBS USA.

 

What Does Workers' Comp Look Like for Remote Employees?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the way millions of people work and it is estimated that 22% of the workforce (36.2 million Americans) will work remotely by 2025.

 

Stay Lifted on Federal Shot-or-Test Mandate for Large Employers

The Biden administration's emergency COVID-19 shot-or-test rule for large employers can go into effect now that a federal appeals court in Cincinnati lifted another tribunal's order that had blocked the measure.

 

Insurance Outlook for Entertainment and Live Events in 2022

At the start of 2020, the live event business already had major issues related to risk management and insurance and COVID-19 made those risks seem like minor plot points in a movie about natural disasters.

 

Embedded Insurance: A Potential Solution for the Underinsured

Though small business insurance helps build resilience to mitigate that risk, insurance coverage isn't always foolproof as evidenced by the fact that 75% of businesses in the U.S. are underinsured by 40% or more.

 

Shipping and Logistics Costs Expected to Keep Rising in the Year Ahead

Companies are bracing for even steeper increases in shipping and logistics costs next year, after supply-chain costs skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Catastrophe Claims 48% Above Average by End of November

Jefferies analysts reported that insured natural disaster losses are 48 percent higher than the long-term average as of the end of November, and 34 percent higher than the 10-year average.

Dec 22
State Proposes HERO Act Workplace Safety Committee Rules, Schedules February Hearing

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The New York State Labor Department today a proposed a regulation​ on workplace safety committees. Some private employers in New York were required to permit employees to form these committees as of last November 1. The proposal is not binding on employers yet, but it previews the final rules.

The New York State HERO Act​, enacted and amended last spring, requires private employers with 10 or more employees to permit them to form workplace safety committees. The Labor Department is required to issue relevant regulations. The proposal published today is step one of that process.

The proposed rules include:

  • No obligation for employers to notify employees of the right to form committees.
  • An employer’s total number of employees includes all employees “within the State.” It includes employees on paid or unpaid leave if the employer “has a reasonable expectation that the employee will later return to active employment.” Further, it includes part-timers, new hires, temporary and seasonal workers. “Employees jointly employed by more than one employer shall be counted by each employer …” 
  • A committee may be formed “following a written request for recognition by at least two non-supervisory employees who work at the worksite.” Employers must respond “with reasonable promptness.”
  • Employers may deny requests if they already have committees that meet the HERO Act’s requirements.
  • A committee at a single worksite must have at least one employer representative and at least two non-supervisory employees. The maximum number of members is one-third the total number of employees at the worksite or 12, whichever is less. Worksites with less than 10 employees will have a committee of three.
  • Employers cannot choose which non-supervisory employees are on the committees.
  • The committees are authorized ​to:
    • Raise health and safety concerns, hazards, complaints and violations to the employer. The employer must respond
    • Review policies implemented as required by New York Labor Law relating to occupational safety and health, and provide appropriate feedback. 
    • Review policies adopted in response to any health or safety law, ordinance, rule, regulation, executive order, etc.
    • Participate in site visits by workplace safety and health regulators.
    • Review any reports the employer files related to workplace health and safety.
  • The definition of what constitutes a single worksite depends on a number of factors, but for insurance agencies and brokerages it probably means a single office location.
  • The committees can provide for up to four hours of training with pay for each member per calendar year. 
  • Meetings must be scheduled “at times that do not unreasonably conflict with the Employer’s business operations.”
  • Meetings must occur at least once per quarter for no longer than two hours per meeting. Employees are to be paid for time spent in the meetings. Additional meetings may be held outside work hours and without pay.
  • Employers can prohibit employees from performing committee duties during work hours, other than attendance at the quarterly meetings. Workplace safety committee duties, other than meeting attendance, may not interfere with regular work duties.
The Labor Department will hold a public hearing on the proposed regulation at 11:00 am on February 9, 2022 at a location to be determined. It is accepting comments from the public from now until five days after the last scheduled public hearing. 

Dec 20
URGENT: New Security Hole Threatens Computer Networks

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The federal government is warning that a newly-discovered computer software vulnerability poses a major threat to the security of computer networks. We urge all members to address this threat immediately with either their internal information technology staffs or with qualified technology consultants.

Federal government agencies, including the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security announced the discovery of the vulnerability on Dec. 10. Here is what you need to know:

The vulnerability lies in the Log4j software library, written in the Java programming language and created by the Apache Software Foundation​. The Apache Software Foundation is not a company; it is a volunteer community of hundreds of thousands of people who build "open source" software products that are free for organizations to use and are constantly being modified by the community. Think of it as content in the public domain that anyone with an interest can modify (Wikipedia is an example of this.) Open source software created by volunteers is very common in the technology industry. For example, the Linux operating system has always been developed and maintained this way.

The Log4j software library records network security and performance information. Many software vendors incorporate the library into their products such as websites, applications and application services. It is quite likely that some of the software your staffs use every day is built around Log4j. 

The government agencies announced on Dec. 10 that they were "responding to active, widespread exploitation" of the vulnerability. They warned that, "An unauthenticated remote actor could exploit this vulnerability to take control of an affected system.​" (emphasis added) In short, if your software has this vulnerability, a criminal could seize control of your network and cripple your ability to do business.

Since Dec. 10, Apache has published three software patches to address the problem. Software developers who use Log4j are likely applying the patches and making updates to their software available to users like you. If you are notified that a software update is available, it is probably a response to this threat and you should install the update promptly.

The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) advised on Dec. 17 that "All regulated entities should promptly assess risk to their organization, customers, consumers, and third party service providers based upon the evolving information and take action to mitigate risk." Translation: Find out how big a threat this is to your operation, customers and vendors, and do something about it. If your agency is large enough to have dedicated IT staff, this should be their focus today. Most of you are not large enough to afford or need an IT department. In that case, you should contact a computer network consultant as soon as possible to get advice on how to proceed. Any qualified consultant will be very familiar with this problem.

While this alert came from the New York regulators, this is not a New York specific issue. All members in Connecticut should take similar actions, even those who are exempt from the Connecticut Insurance Data Security Law​This is not a matter of a government mandate; this is a threat that could stop you from doing business.

The goverment agencies have technical information on this threat available on a dedicated website. Much of this information will not be clear to you, but it will be to your IT experts. We encourage you to direct them to that site, take appropriate actions as soon as possible, and monitor the site for further updates to the situation. 

Lastly, if you are a New York agency or brokerage and you determine that someone has used this vulnerability to break into your network, the Cybersecurity Requirements For Financial Services Companies​ regulation requires you to report that to DFS within 72 hours of your determining that it has "a reasonable likelihood of materially harming any material part" of your normal operations. You can do so on the portal on the DFS website.

If you are a Connecticut agency or brokerage who has made the same determination, and you are subject to the state Insurance Data Security Law, you must notify the state Department of Insurance within three business days if you believe consumer information has been exposed, or if you believe it will affect more than 250 state residents and must be reported to the federal or state governments. The DOI has created a form that must be completed and emailed back to them if this happens.

Under current law, Connecticut agencies with fewer than 20 employees (including independent contractors) "having access to the nonpublic information used by such licensee or in such licensee's possession, custody or control​" are exempt from the law. That number drops to 10 on Oct. 1, 2022. 

Dec 17
Would You Like to Help Agents Affected by the Tornado?

Contribute to Kentucky Agents Foundation

 
Help fellow agents in Western Kentucky by contributing to areas of need during this difficult time. 100% of these tax-deductible funds will be allocated to instant relief for the services and needs in Western Kentucky (tax ID number is: 30-0553110).
CONTRIBUTE NOW
Donate to the Trusted Choice Disaster Relief Fund
 
Alternatively, you may make a donation to the Trusted Choice Disaster Relief Fund, which is also supporting agents in need.
DONATE NOW


Dec 17
Industry Roundup: ​Staggering Cost of Covid-19's Impact on US Workers' Compensation Revealed; Upcoming Revision to ISO's Homeowners Program; How to Make Your Insurance Agency Future-Ready in 2022; 2021 Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame

Staggering Cost of Covid-19'S Impact on US Workers' Compensation Revealed

National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has reported that 45 jurisdictions were analyzed and represent $630 million in incurred loss dollars, across some 80,000 COVID-19 claims last year.

 

Upcoming Revision to ISO'S Homeowners Program

Taking effect March 1, 2022, ISO is filing changes and updates to many of the homeowners forms, as well as withdrawing and introducing new endorsements in all jurisdictions where ISO files effective dates.

 

Increased Attention on Intellectual Property Creates New Exposures

The commercial upheaval caused by COVID-19 has prompted businesses in many sectors to analyze their existing revenue streams and one area that has come under particular scrutiny is intellectual property (IP).

 

EEOC Addresses When COVID-19 May Be a Disability Requiring Accommodation

An applicant or employee whose COVID-19 results in mild symptoms that resolve in a few weeks—with no other consequences—will not have a disability that could make someone eligible to receive a reasonable accommodation, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

 

How to Make Your Insurance Agency Future-Ready in 2022

One way to make your agency future-ready is to embrace the technology available to you, either through your own digital marketing efforts or tools provided by your preferred insurance carriers.

 

From Wildfires to Floods, Climate Change Worsens Extreme Weather Across Globe

Many of the extreme weather events in 2021 shattered records and were exacerbated by climate change. Scientists say there are more to come – and worse – as the Earth's atmosphere continues to warm through the next decade and beyond.

 

The Evolution of Extortion Tactics in Ransomware Attacks

Over the past year, ransomware attacks and related cyber insurance claims have surged in both frequency and severity. One factor driving this concerning trend is the evolution of extortion tactics.   

 

2021 Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame: Their Depravity Knows no Bounds

Mask up fast and hide while you can; a new set of viral spreaders have arrived. Let's un-welcome the newest members of the Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame.

 

Senate Votes to Block Vaccine Mandate for Large Companies

The U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday night to block President Joe Biden's mandate for coronavirus vaccinations or testing for private-sector workers in a mostly symbolic defeat for the administration but one that illustrates the nation's political polarization over dealing with the pandemic.

 

AM Best Sees Tornado Losses as Manageable for Insurers

Analysts at ratings firm AM Best said they expect the insured losses from the tornadoes that devastated central and southern U.S. last weekend will dampen underwriting results for insurers but that insurers will be able to absorb them, even though supply chain and inflation challenges may exacerbate losses.

Dec 17
Sign Up Now for January Pre-licensing

​Our January Pre-Licensing session starts on Tuesday, January 4th.  Start the year off right by checking “Getting Licensed” off your 2022 goals list.  Do you have an employee ready to enter a new stage of their career?  Are YOU ready to enter a new stage of your career?  If so, sign up now.


Big I NY jumped into the Pre-Licensing circle at the end of 2020.  We had a very successful 2021 and would love to continue building momentum in 2022.  We are happy to announce that Don Reese will be teaching January’s Pre-Licensing class.  If you aren’t familiar with Don Reese, you are missing out on one of the best instructors in New York State.  If you have already taken a class with Don, then you know how passionate he is about Pre-Licensing.  He has the uncanny ability to take a subject that can sometimes be, ahem, dry, and make it interesting enough that you actually remember it for the exam!    

Don’t miss your chance to learn from the best.  


Dec 13
3, 2, 1 with Sue Keegan: Pre-Licensing, Cyber Evolution, & Your Favorite Holiday Music

By Sue Keegan, AIC, MBA, Learning & Development Manager


3 Things

Our January Pre-Licensing session starts in just 2 weeks. We will be offering Personal Lines and P&C Pre-Licensing​ starting January 4th, 2022.  There’s still time to get in on this session!​
The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) is urging the entities it regulates to implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) in their cybersecurity programs, regardless of their size.

Sign up for Cyber – Evolution, Exposures, Incidents & Insurance.  It’s a 3 CE class good for PC, BR, C3 and PA licenses and is on the calendar this Thursday from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.  


2 Ideas


Do you want a feel good story?  It just so happens that I have one.


1 Question

What’s your favorite holiday song / album?  This is a toughie because there are so many good ones, but for song, I am going with Stevie Wonder’s What Christmas Means to Me. For album I am going with Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red. Let me know your favorites via email at  ​skeegan@biginy.org or post in our Community.
Dec 10
HR December 2021 Q&A - Year-End Bonuses

Q: Our employees have worked really hard this year and we wanted to acknowledge it with a year-end bonus? Would this create any issues for us if we do not do it again?

A:  It's wonderful that you are acknowledging the role your employees played in this year's success - we love to hear it! 

You can always make a one-time decision based on current circumstances. We recommend explaining that to your employees up front so they do not have the expectation of receiving this bonus each year going forward.  

As a one-time occurrence, this bonus should be able to be classified as a discretionary bonus, meaning there is no expectation on behalf of the employees to receive it and they did not have to meet certain criteria (like sales numbers) to get it. A discretionary bonus does not need to be calculated into compensation rate for overtime purposes whereas non-discretionary bonuses do. It may or may not be taxable so be sure to check with your accountant or payroll provider.

Affinity HR Group, Inc.,  is Big I NY’s affiliated human resources partner​.  Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as Big I NY and their member companies.  To learn more, visit www.affinityHRgroup.com​.


Dec 10
Surviving The Great Resignation

​By Susan Palé, CCP, Vice President for Compensation – Affinity HR Group, Inc.

You're probably sick of hearing about The Great Resignation but listen up! Not only isn't it going away, it is gaining momentum. Consider the following statistics from the US Department of Labor:

  • 3% of the total US workforce left their jobs in September. That is an astonishingly high number.
  • As of November 5, there were 11.2 million job openings in the US. That is also a record.
  • Education and health services lost more than 50,000 workers in September. Remember that these are essential workers.
  • 300,000 women left the workforce in September.

These are jaw-dropping statistics. For employers who want to recruit, retain, and expand in 2022, the challenges are daunting. There are some actions you should take now to help prepare for the bumpy road ahead that will be 2022.


1.       Review Paid Salaries
If you typically award year-end salary increases, now is the time to determine whether you'll award them and the amounts necessary to maintain both external competitiveness and internal equity. The challenge is that sometimes external competitiveness and internal equity are at odds. For example, entry-level pay has increased 15%-20% in many locations, and you may have needed to hire at those increased rates. That means some of your longer service employees may require larger salary increases.

Across the board year-end increases don't work well when compensation for certain groups is this volatile. Now is the time to look at other pay increase models, such as equity increases, bonus payments vs. base salary increases, and special incentive programs.

A recent Business Insider survey reported that 54% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. While advancement opportunities, good supervision, and work-life balance are important to many workers, so is salary.  Make sure your compensation is and remains competitive.


2.       Review Those Bonus and Incentive Plans Too
Now is the time to determine whether you'll pay 2021 bonuses and incentives. If you are a home improvement retailer or sell to a home improvement retailer, chances are you've had a good 2021. If, on the other hand, you're a brick-and-mortar department store, 2021 probably isn't your best year.

The wild economic fluctuations of the last two years make planning difficult but more important than ever. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you begin to set bonus and incentive goals and measures for 2022:

  • What are the objectives for your plans? Do they complement the organization's business strategy?
  • How will you pay for these plans?
  • Do individual goals support business strategy? Do you need to establish new goals/revise existing goals as you develop new products, enter new markets, etc.?
  • Are your performance measures appropriate? Have you included non-financial metrics such as customer satisfaction, resource utilization, people and project management where appropriate?
  • Do employees understand the plans and what they must do to be successful?
     

3.       Get Ready for More – and More – Legislative Changes

We've been noticing for quite some time that state legislatures and municipalities have enacted all types of legislation that impacts employee compensation. The list below is just a sampling of changes scheduled for 2022: 

  • Illinois HB-1207 prohibits employers from seeking an applicant's salary history but allows employers to provide compensation information about the position applied for
  • California AB-701 requires warehouse distribution center employers to provide written descriptions of quotas at time of hire
  • District of Columbia B-285 amends the Universal Paid Leave Act to increase the amount of paid leave to 6 weeks of medical leave and 2 weeks of parental leave per year
  • Several bills in different areas of North Carolina prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of protected class.  The definition of protected class is amended to include gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and natural hairstyle

This is particularly important if you do business in multiple locations. And don't forget that 26 states also have minimum wage increases scheduled for 2022. The Affinity HR Support Plan is a great tool that not only tracks the legislative changes happening in the states where you do business but also provides next steps for how to stay compliant.

4.       Do a Deep Dive Into Employee Retention

Most likely you've had some employees leave during 2021, and you've probably collected some basic exit interview information.  Have you looked closely at the information you've collected to determine if there are patterns or reasons for leaving? 

According to a 2021 survey by NerdWallet, the top 5 reasons employees left their jobs this year were:

  • Lack of respect or trust
  • Low pay
  • Poor company culture
  • Overwork and underappreciation
  • Bad management and supervision


Recently a large manufacturing client that had been experiencing high turnover took a closer look at their turnover statistics and discovered that most of the employees who left had worked in two workgroups. Further analysis revealed that the first-line supervisors in these workgroups were new and pretty much untrained. These supervisors are now receiving additional training and are working closely with their managers and more experienced peers to help reduce turnover in their areas.

5.       Plan Your Year End Compensation Communications Now

We hope 2021 has been a successful year for your business, and that you have good news to communicate to employees. Regardless of what the news is, there are some things that are critical to communicate:

  • Legislative changes and how they will impact employee paychecks
  • Plans for year-end base salary increases and incentive and bonus plan payouts
  • 2022 planned changes to base salaries, incentive and bonus plans, and related compensation policies and procedures


Here's hoping your organization doesn't just survive The Great Resignation – but thrives in 2022!  We welcome the opportunity to work with you on compensation planning or HR challenges.  Connect with us at 877-660-6400 or contact@AffinityHRGroup.com


Susan Headshot.jpgSusan Palé is a contributor for Affinity HR Group, Inc., Big I NY's affiliated human resources partner.  Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as Big I NY and their member companies.  To learn more, visit www.affinityHRgroup.com.​


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