Posted by: Altura Benefits in Insurance
Offering a strong benefits package can help your company attract and retain top talent. But what exactly counts as a strong benefits package these days? Although some of the most popular employee benefits remain the same, today’s employees have new expectations. Heading into 2021, here’s a look at the most desired employee benefits.
For many employees, health insurance is the most important employee benefit. Given the high cost of healthcare in the United States, this should come as no surprise. Workers have different needs, so offering several health insurance options – including high deductible health plans with a health savings account option – can ensure that everyone has access to a plan that fits their needs. In addition to standard health insurance, dental insurance and vision insurance are important to many employees.
Telemedicine is also increasingly desirable. Although telemedicine has been gaining steam as a convenient and cost-effective option for years, the pandemic helped push many people to give this care delivery method a chance. According to the CDC, there was a 154% increase in telehealth visits in the last week of March 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
In 2020, 55% of small firms and 99% of large firms offered health benefits to at least some of their workers, with an overall offer rate of 56%. Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $21,342 on average, up 4% from the year before, with workers paying $5,588 toward the cost of their coverage on average, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation 2020 Annual Health Benefits Survey.
Approximately one in five U.S. adults suffers from a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Stress is even more prevalent – 65% of workers say workplace stress has caused difficulties, according to the American Institute of Stress, and approximately half of workers say they need help learning how to manage stress.
Benefits that help with mental health and stress management are viewed as increasingly important. In addition to mental health coverage under health insurance plans, employers can offer Employee Assistance Programs and mental health days, as well as other stress-busting perks, such as massages or apps that help with sleep, meditation and relaxation.
Successful wellness programs may contribute to a healthier workforce with lower healthcare costs, improved productivity, and reduced absenteeism.
There are many different types of wellness programs, and they can target specific problems that are prevalent in a workforce. Possible wellness program benefits include smoking cessation programs, diabetes prevention programs and exercise programs.
COVID-19 has increased focus on self-care, making wellness perks an increasingly desirable feature in employee benefit plans.
The Federal Reserve says that only 36% of non-retired adults think their retirement savings is on track. Many people worry that we are headed toward a retirement crisis, and some people may have to delay retirement due to money issues. As a result, retirement savings plans – such as 401(k) plans – remain a critical employee benefit.
However, these days, employees may want even more from their employers. Many workers aren’t just struggling with retirement savings – they’re also struggling with their day-to-day finances. Employee benefits that help with financial wellness can help reduce employee stress. These benefits might include financial counseling, tools and calculators to help workers manage their finances, and identity theft protection.
With the increased financial stress caused by COVID-19, financial wellness programs are more important than ever.
Voluntary benefits can create a win-win situation for employers and employees. Employees get access to the benefits they want at affordable group rates, while employers pay little to nothing while offering great employee benefits.
Popular voluntary benefits include life insurance and disability insurance. Other benefits that could be provided this way include dental insurance, vision insurance and critical illness insurance.
Compared to many European countries, the United States offers little in the way of paid time off. However, there are some calls to change this.
Many employers offer some vacation time, as well as paid holidays. Some employers have started experimenting with unlimited vacation time for employees. Paid volunteer days, paid mental health days and paid personal days are also desirable to many employees.
Paid family leave is another attractive offering. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), covered employers must provide eligible employees with job-protected leave for certain reasons related to the employee’s health or the care of an immediate family member. However, the federal law does not require employers to offer this as paid leave. As a result, many workers may not be able to afford to take the leave that they are legally entitled to.
Some employers choose to offer paid family leave and paid parental leave voluntarily. This may include both paid maternity leave and paid paternity leave.
Additionally, some states have recently passed laws requiring paid family leave. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, these states include California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York and Washington, as well as Washington, D.C.
In addition to paid time off, many employees want flexible work benefits that will help them achieve work-life balance.
During the pandemic, many workers switched to remote work arrangements. Although this sudden transition was not always seamless, it demonstrated that many jobs can be done remotely. Now, many workers want to continue working from home even when the pandemic ends – and some want it enough that they’ll leave if it’s not made an option. According to USA Today, a survey from LiveCareer found that 29% of working professionals say they will quit their jobs if they aren’t allowed to continue working remotely.
Remote work can help employees save time and money on commutes, and these arrangements can also help workers care for their children or aging parents while working. Whether people are working from home or the office, another key part of this is flex time – the ability to adjust working hours needed instead of sticking to a strict 9:00 to 5:00 schedule.
Without loans or scholarships, college tuition is unaffordable for many Americans. Companies have offered tuition assistance as a benefit for workers and their families. Now student loan repayment assistance is catching on as another coveted benefit.
According to Investopedia, more than half of American college students take on debt, and the average debt was more than $37,500 in 2020. Many people struggle with student loan debt and may delay buying a house or starting a family because of it.
For employers trying to attract college-educated workers, student loan reimbursement arrangements are an obvious choice. Because of recent changes to the legal code, these student loan reimbursement arrangements can also provide tax advantages. According to SHRM, new legislation allows employers to offer student loan repayments as a tax-free benefit through 2025, with contributions of up to $5,250 per employee.
Programs that facilitate professional growth and help employees achieve career goals are also attractive. These programs may include both training programs and mentorships that pair newer workers with more experienced workers.
These programs offer clear benefits to the employees who use them. By helping to build a strong future workforce, these programs can also help the employer. Furthermore, by providing more assistance to underserved groups, training and mentorship programs may also help employers achieve diversity and inclusion goals.
Many of the other perks and benefits that employees want will depend on the specific needs of the workforce.
For example, before the pandemic, office kitchens stocked with healthy food, transportation credits and gym memberships were all popular employee benefits. However, now that many people are working from home and many gyms are closed, these benefits may hold far less appeal.
As a result, employers have to shift their focus to employee benefits that help remote workers. This may include a home office credit so that employees can get the computers and office furniture they need to work comfortably and effectively from home. Because many schools have also closed their doors, childcare benefits are also increasingly important for many employees.
Pet insurance is another employee benefit that may be gaining popularity because of the shift to remote work. Many people got “quarantine puppies” during stay-at-home orders. As a result, Employee Benefit News says that many employees are now asking for pet insurance, a benefit that about 15% of employers currently offer.
Some benefits – like health insurance, life insurance, and retirement savings programs – will always be popular. Other benefits and perks will change depending on the current needs of the workforce. In 2020, the pandemic caused major shifts in what employees want, and employers will need to respond to these changes with new and evolving benefits for employees in 2021.
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