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2021 Updates to Benefits Package Expectations

As many companies start hiring new college graduates and are returning to a new normal after the pandemic, there are new expectations for employers. (For guidance in getting the most out of your company interviews, check out our Key to A Successful Interview Process blog.) Let’s take a look at these expectations and how to bring them down to a digestible level for your company to aid in a competitive advantage.

How does your company attract applicants to your business? Do you have a sign on bonus? Do you have an unbeatable benefits package? We are finding the first step in the process is realizing that your company in 2021 will not be what it was in 2019. Expectations have been shifted.

Financial Health Focus

People now have a focus on how their employer can provide financial health. Employee assistance programs (EAP) go beyond the mental health support to include financial focus with access to legal or financing counseling and referrals as well as crisis response and management. Benefits packages that include this focus could include financial wellness benefits, emergency funds and student loan repayment assistance.

Expectation for More Benefit Options

Now that many employees has a taste of working from home and having flex options in their workplace last year, this is becoming an expectation in employee benefits. Flexible scheduling, better mental wellness access, gym membership or health class stipends, caretaking benefits and virtual health benefits also play into new expectations for employers. Some companies, such as Noodles & Co in Broomfield, Colorado, added a ‘phase-out, phase-in’ program that allows expectant and postpartum mothers to work an 80-percent schedule for month before and a month after maternity leave.

Technology is at the Heart of Many Solutions

The pandemic taught us the power of technology. As a result, employees have a shift in what they expect their employers to provide as resources. People want be able to have online access to benefit fairs and virtual open enrollment. Now more than ever, your company handbook needs to be up-to-date and readily available for employees to reference.

Work Perks to Include in a Benefits Package

As many companies prepare to present their benefits package, there are new offerings being considered by employers because of the coronavirus pandemic. Since March 2020, the work atmosphere we were once used to changed. Employees now have new expectations of their employer’s benefits as a result. Insurance offerings such as health, dental, life, short-term disability and long-term disability are staples in a benefits package. What about perks outside of these standard benefits?

Caregiving Benefits

In the past four years, there has been an increase of employers providing their employee caregivers assistance. Employers who have not joined this movement in adding caregiving benefits in their benefits package are being urged to do so. The coronavirus added additional pressure to family’s primary caregivers who continue to work whether at home or returned to the worksite. A caregiving offering will address this. The addition of these benefits also gives the message that a company considers stressful circumstances that may impact their employees in their lives outside of work.

Some examples of caregiving needs include:

  • Dependent care flexible spending account (FSA) option
  • Providing employees with the names of childcare providers
  • Subsiding a childcare center or program
  • Providing employees with the names of elder care providers
  • On-ramping program for family members dealing with elder care responsibilities
  • Access to elder care services and information
  • Family and elder care leave beyond the time required by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Family and elder care leave beyond state-mandated family and medical leave

Well-Being and Voluntary Benefits

Companies are investing more in well-being programs and voluntary benefits to assist employee’s financial and emotional stress. These benefits provide a way for employers to provide their employees peace of mind with the movement from financial instability to stability. Although many employers saw value in these benefits prior to the pandemic, the increased employee attraction and retention establishes a need for these benefit offerings.

Some examples of well-being and voluntary benefit offerings include:

  • Working from home or flexible hours
  • Supporting financial well-being
  • Retirement savings assistance
  • Student loan guidance and refinancing
  • Student loan repayment
  • Long term care insurance
  • Enhancing mental health support

Emergency Savings Accounts

Employees with financial stress struggle to stay motivated and do their work. Emergency Savings Accounts (ESAs) have been established by some employers as an easy step employees can take to set themselves up with emergency funds when financial burdens hit. Payment towards ESAs are like 401(k) accounts as funds will be deducted from payroll automatically. However, unlike retirement savings, emergency accounts are taxed as income and are available when employees have immediate financial needs. ESAs is one way employers are helping their employees be more financially resilient preventing the need to dig into long-term savings during times of financial stress such as that which many American families experienced by the coronavirus outbreak.

Converting PTO Funds to Student Loan Relief

The topic of paid time off (PTO) has a wide range for employers. Some companies allow for PTO to roll over year after year with implications on paying out once employment ends. Others take on the approach of “take it or lose it” with PTO being discarded at the end of the year, posing employee relations challenges. An addition to the mix are employers who give employees unlimited PTO which may result in employees taking fewer days. Meanwhile, a new option is to allow employees to convert unused PTO into student loan-repayment funds or cash out for other financial needs.

As your company begins to navigate its way through the ever-changing human resources atmosphere, reach out to Vinna Human Resources. We are here to help employers establish a benefits package that is cost-effective for the company and enticing to its employees.

Information for this article was gathered from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM).

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