Employee benefits executives have found that employers are offering several types of benefits this year for the first time, many as a result of the pandemic.
Most notably, many employers are offering automatic emergency savings programs and caregiving support, according to Fidelity.
“The financial impact of the pandemic has highlighted the importance of having an emergency fund to help employees avoid tapping their retirement savings to cover financial emergencies,” Fidelity says in a research report, “Top Employee Benefit Trends for 2021.” Recent Fidelity research indicates eight in 10 Americans plan to focus on emergency savings this year. “A growing number of employers are providing information and resources to help employees understand how to create an emergency fund, as well as exploring adding an emergency fund option that would allow employees to contribute directly from their paycheck,” Fidelity says.
Fidelity also says more employers are willing to give “broader support for employee total well-being with an increased focus on employee caregiving roles. Employers are increasingly focused on providing benefits to support caregivers, such as paid caregiver leave, elder care and parent support groups, and child care support and tools to assist new parents.”
Fidelity also says more employers are offering “workplace giving and volunteer programs to help employees support their community and the causes important to them. Many of the events of 2020—including the pandemic, natural disasters and social justice issues—have prompted an increasing number of employers to consider adding a workplace giving program to their benefits offerings.”
Sensitive to the fact that Americans are carrying $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, Fidelity says, more employers are willing to help their workers with this debt. “These include employer contribution programs that make after-tax contributions on their employees’ outstanding student loans,” Fidelity says.
For those whose have lost a relative to COVID-19, or who were laid off or put on furlough, help with mental health has also become important, Fidelity says. As a result, “many employers will be focused on providing emotional and mental health support, additional telehealth and telemedicine benefits, and stress management,” Fidelity says.
Finally, employers are showing “a lot more interest in advocacy and transparency services related to health care benefits,” says Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at DirectPath. Its advocacy program permits workers to call an 800 number and get a second opinion on a medical issue, and its transparency program gives workers various in-network pricing options, Buckey says. Some employers are tying these into rewards options, whereby if the worker selects a less expensive, in-network option, they will get a small reward, such as a $500 gift card, she notes.
Buckey adds that many employers are sticking with the virtual open enrollment sessions and options that they used last year.
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