The continuing COVID-19 pandemic and “The Great Resignation” is forcing many employers to look at revamping their benefits programs to attract and retain employees. COVID-19 has increased financial, physical, and emotional stress for many employees and employers are reviewing their overall benefit programs. The general trend in benefit offerings is related to continued support of remote work, caregiving for children and adults, and physical and mental health. According to a recent SHRM Employee Benefits Survey, the top-ranking benefits employers are offering in 2022 are:
- Health care
- Telework and flexible work schedules (the option to continue working remotely)
- Flexible PTO programs
- Leave to care for children or adult family members
- Family friendly policies (paid leave options beyond FMLA or state-required programs )
- Physical Wellness
- Retirement (Traditional 401(k) or similar defined contribution plans offering pre-tax and Roth post-tax options
The top benefits employers are looking to expand for employees are:
- Telework and flexible schedules
- Many employers are continuing to offer remote work options. Many new employees are demanding remote work options before accepting an employment offer.
- Telemedicine services
- Telemedicine or telehealth services boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing doctors to provide patients with all types of physical and mental services, including prescription management and physical and occupational therapy, and other services such as tracing health goals and managing chronic conditions. Many employers are adding it as a permanent benefit to assist employees.
- Expanded Leave programs to care for children or adult family members
- Some companies are revamping paid leave policies such as increasing paid time off (PTO) or offering unlimited/flexible PTO, as well as implementing or expanding policies for paid family and medical leave to care for family members. These options can help employees have financial peace of mind and when medical emergencies arise allows employers to show trust in their employees.
- Mental health services
- Many employers are focusing more on employee mental health benefits to assist employees, and this helps to achieve better productivity and engagement. Health insurance plans should be reviewed to determine if more comprehensive services can be added that includes counseling and therapy. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is another benefit that can assist employees with issues related to stress, finances, and other non-work issues. EAPs are even more beneficial when mental health services are offered via in-person, telephonic or video counseling and that the providers within the EAP network align with the health insurance plan.
- Financial wellness and education programs
- 401(k) plans – Automatic Enrollment of new and existing employees and Automatic Increase of Annual Contributions in 401(k) Companies’ participation has increased in an effort to help employees with financial retirement goals.
- Financial wellness and education programs saw cutbacks since the pandemic. As companies review benefits and perks it can offer its employees, financial education can be a good and easy offer, and can may include tax benefits for the employer and the employee.
- Student loan repayment benefits – The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) allows companies to make tax-free contribution of up to $5,250 toward employees’ student loans. This is a benefit that lowers both the company’s payroll taxes and the employees’ income taxes, which is currently approved through 2025. A recent survey by American Student Assistance revealed that 4 out of 5 young employees will remain with an employer for 5 years if the employer assists with student loan repayment as it alleviates financial and psychological burdens on employees.
As companies and municipalities go into budget season for the upcoming year it is important to review the health care and other benefit programs to ensure alignment with the culture and organizational goals related to hiring, retention, engagement, and productivity, as well as supporting employee’s physical, mental, and financial health.