In the midst of this pandemic, employers and employees alike are feeling the uncertainty of the future. With many working remotely to maintain personal and family safety, medical benefits and financial security are necessary to press on. Unfortunately, according to an IFEBP survey from April of this year, “31% of employers have temporarily furloughed workers, 29% have reduced worker hours and 21% have laid off workers or reduced their workforce.” Reduced hours often impact eligibility, to say nothing of the impact losing their job altogether has on employee benefits coverage. Furthermore, of companies “that provide matching contributions to their employees’ retirement plans, 2% have reduced the matching contribution and 8% have suspended it.”
And that was all before the recent resurgence in cases. This leaves questions about how and where companies are making cuts and if those cuts impact employee benefits.
What Benefits Are Being Added (or Holding Steady)
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, employers are working diligently to offer benefits that help employees’ financial wellbeing as well as their physical and mental health. Human Resource Executive points out that, “77% of employers surveyed are offering or expanding access to virtual mental health services; 60% are offering new easy-to-implement virtual solutions, like virtual workouts, to support employees who work from home; and 50% say they’re promoting healthy nutrition and weight management for at-home employees.”
Technology has been at the forefront during this pandemic. Biometric screenings as well as telehealth services are keeping employees happy and healthy – in many cases, without increasing medical costs. Expansions to paid leave provide another option for those who are symptomatic or face childcare issues while school is out. These new or updated initiatives help build confidence and community within the workplace.
In Lori Jones’ analysis of the IFEBP survey, she highlights how many employers are continuing healthcare coverage for their furloughed workers and those with reduced hours. Most are trying to maintain existing cost-sharing rates, while other employers are footing a greater part of the bill. Expansions and easing of limits/restrictions are also appearing around prescription drugs.
Communicate Employee Benefits Changes with Remote Workforces
Open communication about these changes in workplace benefits is vital to keeping employees secure and healthy. If there are new or expanded benefits available (or options that are getting cut completely), staff must be made aware. This is especially important for furloughed employees and those who have had their hours cut. As the resurgence of cases ensures that more changes and adjustments are coming – and as open enrollment approaches for many – keeping those away from the office informed is vital.
Regular updates about the state of these benefits changes can actually help prepare HR teams and disparate workforces for annual enrollment. Beyond the opportunity to test communication methods and systems, explaining the changes helps educate workers about benefits generally. Understanding them is the first step to getting the most out of them.
The Positive Impact of These Changes Going Forward
Eventually, these alterations to employee benefits will help everyone return to work feeling confident in their health and their home lives. It’s imperative employers listen to the needs of their staff and to communicate openly, ensuring everyone’s on the same page. Whether working remotely or temporarily furloughed, workers have the right to make sure their benefits match their healthcare needs. It’s on employers to keep them informed and empower them to make those decisions during and after this pandemic.