January 5, 2021
In our last article, we took a closer look at what 2020 brought with regard to changes in employee benefits and business. The pandemic had businesses scrambling to adjust quickly to the abrupt changes in the workplace. Many of the trends are expected to continue, especially telehealth, increased mental health benefits, and work from home arrangements.
In order to continually adapt to the changes ahead, businesses and employees alike must remain flexible in job duties, work arrangements, and benefit offerings. As we look toward the future, there are several benefit trends we can expect to see.
Since every employee’s personal situation is different, companies may increase talent retention by offering a flexible benefits package that can be customized for each employee. Many companies are starting with a base package that includes health insurance and paid time off. Employees may then choose from a menu of optional benefits; both employer-paid and employee-paid. Some of these benefits include disability coverage, pet insurance, cancer support, fertility support, tuition assistance, and financial wellness. This gives employees freedom to choose the benefits they need at each stage of life.
Support for All Areas of Life
Because the work from home trend will remain in 2021, employees will need continued support and understanding as they juggle work responsibilities and dependent care duties. More employers are offering additional dependent care benefits to assist working parents. While some companies are providing onsite daycare, others are teaming up with companies to offer discounted back-up care options in participating centers or in-home care as well as tutoring services to help students complete their schoolwork.
Another consequence of the pandemic has been financial hardships. Between the record unemployment rates, rising debt, closure of businesses, and volatility in the stock market, financial concerns are creating a massive impact on people’s well-being.
Many employers are addressing these concerns with financial wellness programs. They are partnering with a variety of companies that offer programs, such as student loan refinancing, budget tools, debt relief, and expert financial advisors. Some employers are opting to cover the cost of disability insurance to give employees peace of mind that their regular financial obligations will still be met if they are sick and unable to work.
Paid Time Off and Sick Leave
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) has brought paid sick leave policies into the spotlight in many states. In states that previously did not have laws requiring employers to provide paid sick leave, there has been legislation introduced that would protect workers. The outcomes of this legislation will be decided in 2021.
Over the past few years, many companies have been offering one bank of paid time off instead of separate policies for vacation or sick leave. Since some employees do not want to use vacation days for sick time, often they come in to work even during an illness. To combat this and provide a safe work environment, companies may revert back to separate banks for sick time and vacation time. This will encourage sick employees to stay home until they are free of symptoms.
In 2021, we may also see a shift in PTO policies with some employers changing the carryover and payout rules or allowing employees to donate PTO time to other employees who may need it.
Changes to Healthcare Plans
One troubling trend that has been taking place over the last decade has been the steep annual increase in health insurance premiums. In fact, health insurance premiums have grown by 54% over the last 11 years, as reported by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Employees have generally been responsible for absorbing most of the cost increase. However, both employees and employers are no longer able to afford the continued rise in premiums.
To combat this trend, employers are beginning to rethink healthcare plans and look for alternative solutions that offer affordable, usable benefits. Some companies have partnered with providers that specialize in a specific treatments or conditions, such as cancer or fertility. Working with these providers offers better care at a more reasonable cost. Other companies are offering health plans that provide higher levels of coverage when receiving care from a smaller provider network. There are also some companies who are looking outside the box to health plan solutions. It will be important to pay attention to what emerges.
With the landscape of business and benefits administration so uncertain, it is important to build partnerships that will help you grow your business. Here is how we can help.