The COVID-19 pandemic has warped the very structure of how business is conducted in the corporate sector. Organizational cultures, methods of recruitment, and employee benefits are but a few factors that have been significantly impacted by the new standard of precautions in practice today.
Employers are now seeking to mitigate expenses and curtail changes to coverages. Meanwhile, employees have generally taken a heightened interest in their health coverage, even if finances are limited.
Here are some things we can expect regarding employee benefits in 2021:
1. Moderate Increase in Health Benefits Costs
According to a survey conducted by Mercer, a prominent HR consultancy company, employers can expect health plans to experience an approximate increase in costs by 4.4% when compared to the year before.
Only 18% of employers responding to the survey have stated they will take cost-saving measures that would shift more healthcare expense to employees, such as raising deductibles or copays. In fact, most respondents (57%) pledged to make no changes whatsoever to reduce cost in their medical plans in 2021 (compared to 47% last year and 44% the year before).
“Given all the turmoil employees have been through this year, employers are putting big changes on hold, looking to balance economics with empathy,” said Tracy Watts, a senior consultant with Mercer.
2. Addressing the Growing Need for Mental Health Support
Even before the COVID 19 pandemic, behavioral health problems such as stress, anxiety, and depression were widespread and considered to be a leading cause of reduced employee productivity, absenteeism, and healthcare costs.
The pandemic has only amplified the number of cases, and its detrimental impact may even increase this year.
Mental health has become a paramount concern among employers, especially as people continue to face various challenges from the pandemic. Published by the US News, “Employers’ second top initiative for 2021 is expanding access to mental health services, and 43% added new mental health benefits or offerings to support employees working from home.”
3. COVID-19 Vaccination
With the country eager for any new development of an effective vaccine that will, once and for all, end the COVID 19 pandemic. Nearly all insurance agencies & employee health plans would reportedly cover the costs for the vaccinations. Employers can protect themselves by reviewing their insurance & healthcare plans to help mitigate the costs when it comes to the vaccination.
4. The Shift to Working Remotely
A survey conducted by Gartner interviewing 317 CFOs & finance leaders has revealed that 74% of companies have plans to shift “at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19.” This means nearly a quarter of the respondents plan to convert at least 20% of their previously on-site employees into permanent telecommuters.
Several big businesses, such as Twitter & Square, have already taken the initiative and announced that their employees may work from home indefinitely. Even the supermarket giant Walmart has disclosed plans to allow thousands of their tech employees to work remotely.
The pandemic has shown that it is very possible for work to happen right at the very homes of employees. This has set in motion an approach on where work takes place, at least for some employees.
5. Virtual Care
The concept of virtual care was to be a low-cost solution in avoiding the exuberant expenses tied with the emergency room. Shutdowns caused by the COVID 19 pandemic transitioned consultations by doctors to be done over the phone. Broadly speaking, everyone was happy with the financial & time-saving convenience from virtual care. Employers believe in this system, and virtual care will continue to have a major impact on how care is delivered today and in the future.
Employers today are focused in taking the necessary precautions to ensure their business’s survival and that the employees are safe while continuing to operate. Despite the challenges, employers must also consider how to provide appropriate employee benefits. These benefits will, in turn, set the tone of employer-employee relationship as well as contribute to the business’ brand for years to come.