Around Campus

Employee Forum: benefits enrollment portals, library resources, more

Delegates heard about changes in benefits enrollment process, efforts to increase some staff salaries and free resources through University Libraries.

A screenshot of a zoom call.

Changes are coming to your benefits enrollment process.

That’s part of what Employee Forum delegates learned at their Sept. 7 meeting. The meeting also included a “power-speed” look at the great, free resources that University Libraries offers employees (read The New York Times or stream movies, anyone?); information on a possible state allocation to help with staff retention; and the new UNC Police chief’s openness to community engagement.

Benefits portals: one new, one old

Joe Williams, senior director of benefits and leave administration in Human Resources, said that during the annual benefits open enrollment period of Oct. 10-28, employees will have two portals in ConnectCarolina for choosing benefits.

The State Enrollment Portal will include insurance for health, dental, vision and accidents; flexible spending accounts; and TRICARE supplement. The UNC System Enrollment Portal will house life insurance, voluntary accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance, automatic enrollment for core AD&D, and cancer and critical illness plans.

Here are some action items that employees should take during open enrollment:

  • Complete a tobacco attestation in the State Enrollment Portal to save $60 per month.
  • To elect the 80/20 State Health Plan, enroll through the State Enrollment Portal to override the default to the 70/30 plan.
  • Check life insurance beneficiaries in the UNC System Portal if you currently have life insurance through the state or UNC System.

“This year’s open enrollment is a bit more challenging, but we are working with our communications team on making sure staff and faculty have all the information they need,” he said.

Williams pointed out several pluses:

  • Health insurance premiums will stay the same as 2022 rates, although dental plan premiums will increase a small percentage.
  • Life insurance coverage under the state NCFlex Plan will automatically move under the UNC System life insurance with lower premiums.
  • The UNC System life insurance includes a free accidental death benefit. If an employee dies due to an accident, the policy will double the payout to beneficiaries. The plan offers services such as will preparation, legal advisory benefits and travel benefits.
  • Most benefit selections will re-enroll automatically. The exceptions are the flexible spending accounts under the State Enrollment Portal. You must re-enroll in flexible spending accounts if you want them.

Library services

Maria Estorino, interim vice provost for university libraries and university librarian, took delegates on a tour of library services at what she called “power speed.”

She said that the University Libraries preserve a record of the past, ensure student success and advance the research enterprise. “I want you to think about preservation not as a passive storage that we do, but rather an active way in which we ensure that the resources that we collect and provide are available for a very, very long time.”

Estorino said:

  • The libraries have 10 locations.
  • “We’re powered by people,” she said. Libraries employ 275 people full-time and 160 undergraduate and graduate students.
  • The libraries offer nearly 10 million books in print and electronic versions, scholarly journals, archival materials, photos, audio and video recordings. “We have probably the biggest and most significant special collection at a public research institution in the Southeast with a strong emphasis on the American South and the history of the book.”
  • An employee’s One Card serves as a library card and an Onyen is the key to all online resources such as movies for streaming, e-books, genealogy research and free access to news media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She also said that employees can see exhibits in Wilson Library and online, learn new tech skills through workshops and training and learn new languages.

Estorino gave special plugs to not only exploring the University’s history but also adding to it through the UNC Story Archive, to the children’s collection in the Information and Library Science Library and to the Kenan Science Library’s seed library and makerspace.

New chief of UNC Police

Chief Brian James gave background on his career before he joined Carolina July 1, and offered his department’s assistance. “Campus safety is a partnership that takes everyone on this call and beyond,” he said. “I certainly want us to have great relationships throughout the campus community. We’re going to try to ramp up our community engagement, come up with some creative ideas. If you have any ideas from your respective areas of the campus, we’d like to hear those.”

Annetta Streater, patient care coordinator in the Adams School of Dentistry, encouraged James to meet with leadership of professional schools to assess the schools’ unique safety needs. James said that he would be glad to learn about those needs. “Our community outreach team can do a security survey at individual buildings as well so we can determine opportunities to enhance security.”

Human Resources update

Becci Menghini, vice chancellor for human resources and equal opportunity and compliance, said that:

  • The University will use a state allocation provided through the labor market adjustment reserve to address labor market issues among staff. The reserve is intended to help bring more employees closer to market rates and address some of the areas of greatest need across campus. “It is limited to be spent on 25% of our population. We see this as a staff tool and intend to put it in place accordingly. We expect it will be managed from central campus because its implementation centers on data, and we want to ensure it is allocated efficiently and equitably.” She will share more information after receiving guidance on the allocation.
  • State Service Awards gifts, such as plaques for 20 service years and certificates, will continue. Recognition banquets have not been held because of budget constraints, but names of everyone celebrating a milestone year are on a website for all to see.
  • Employee burnout may be counteracted by increased hiring that she hopes brings more help to units, the recent 3.5% pay increase and improving systems. “I have heard many of you loud and clear. You’re tired of us rolling out new systems, new products, new structures. This next year we’ll spend time making the systems that we have work better and updating many of the forms you all know about. We’re doing some more automation to those forms, which is intended to make your life easier. We’re not planning to roll out a new system.” She’s hearing suggestions for improving Concur, Carolina’s program for travel arrangements.

Human Resources is also:

  • Having conversations about how to address some limitations in the requirements for certain positions that make it difficult to hire people because of a rule that doesn’t apply to the actual job.
  • Listening to the feedback forum delegates are bringing either through HR officers about the hiring process, about what duties employees might be able to drop or about equitable flexibility.
  • Looking at career development opportunities, particularly more staff mentoring.

Williams talked about retiree health insurance, noting that:

  • There’s an $11 billion retiree health liability, and in 2019 state legislators, who oversee retiree health insurance, began phasing out such insurance to the point where, in 2021, it was eliminated for new hires in the university system or state agencies.
  • Some possibility of grandfathering retiree health insurance for employees who worked for the state years ago and were hired after Jan. 1, 2021. “Unfortunately, we’re not hearing that the retiree health benefit will come back,” he said.
  • For those over age 65 when they retire, strong competition for Medicare plans exists. State retirees over 65 must enroll in Medicare Part B and pay a $177 monthly premium. For University employees taking early retirement, the state’s retiree health benefit is much more competitive.