How to ready your employee benefit offerings for uncertain times
A holistic benefits strategy allows you to provide employees with value beyond their paycheck and prepare them for whatever's next.
HR managers, benefits professionals and business owners are grappling with a myriad of challenges brought about by the new coronavirus. But looking ahead, both employees and their employers will likely be focused on building greater resilience, so that they are better prepared for tough times–if and when they come.
As an employer or benefits manager, if you can offer employees access to coverage options, as well as equip them with educational resources to help them make smart decisions, you’ll provide them with value beyond their paycheck, making it easier for your business to attract and retain talent.
That’s where a holistic workforce benefits strategy comes in – one that takes into account a combination of both employer-funded and voluntary benefits and resources for work/life balance. These offerings can provide additional support for both you and your employees, both in our current environment and in the future:
Disability income insurance
Disability income insurance programs are in the spotlight as employers and employees comb through the options available to individuals who may be unable to work due to a medical condition associated with COVID-19. While pandemic-specific sick pay programs are being implemented at both the federal and state level, these don’t replace the broader coverage provided by private short- and long-term disability income insurance plans.
Having the right balance of both is critical in preparing for the full range of possibilities. Short-term disability income benefits, which typically last for 13 or 26 weeks, are more common, but long-term disability income benefits can provide protection for years. Both are essential parts of protecting your greatest asset: your employees.
Leave policies and administration
The employers who meet the Federal Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) requirements are provided with specific job protection guidelines. And more recently, these guidelines were restructured to also provide a temporary financial component in response to COVID-19. Additionally, more and more states are implementing leave program regulations for businesses.
Even if your business isn’t subject to standard FMLA requirements, and even if you don’t have employees in a state with a leave program, it’s still a good idea to consider a structured plan that provides a consistent process for all of your employees. This will help you ensure that you can continue to run your business effectively in the absence of your most relied-upon staff members.
Employee assistance programs
While an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides a broad range of resources to employees on a day-to-day basis, it’s in a time of crisis – whether it’s a personal or global one – that having a solid, easily accessible program is essential. And EAPs often offer employer services as well, providing you with the support and guidance you need to make sound decisions quickly.
Even in a strong economy, the research demonstrates that many individuals with dependents don’t feel prepared to manage through emergency financial needs without dire consequences. While never an easy topic to discuss, the best benefits managers navigate it with sensitivity, mindful that offering life insurance through the workplace is key to employees’ ability to ensure their families are financially prepared against the loss of a steady income.
The group insurance marketplace has made several other types of insurance coverage available for employees. Products such as critical illness insurance, which covers expenses associated with specific conditions, and hospital indemnity insurance, which covers expenses that may not be picked up by major medical insurance, can be additional protection you offer to employees. If offered on a voluntary basis, you allow your employees to choose the products that make the most sense for their personal situations and their financial planning needs.
These are strange and challenging times, but employers and employees may have more options than they realize. Taking control of what you can and putting these measures into place now can bring peace of mind to your entire workforce, and help toward ensuring your business and your talent emerges from this more resilient than ever before.