Planning for 2021 Benefits Changes in the COVID-19 Era

Employee Benefits Changes with Unique Challenges

There are several unique challenges for human resources professionals planning employee benefits in 2021. However, it’s never too early to start planning which benefits programs to offer and how to communicate changes to employees.

While the future, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, is unknown, one thing is certain – that 3 in 10 employees in the U.S. use their benefits to their fullest potential. It is crucial to offer benefits in 2021 that work for both your company and for your employees.


What Do Potential Changes Look Like?Employer handing employee card

Thirty-seven percent of employers do not anticipate changing benefits for 2021, while 48 percent are currently still supervising the situation according to a June 2020 survey conducted by the benefits consulting firm Mercer.

Mercer also found that of the companies that are considering making changes to benefits, they are considering the following options:

  • Expanding virtual or telehealth programs
  • Enhancing mental health support, such as employee assistance programs or additional services
  • Increasing cost-sharing for plan expenses such as deductibles, premiums, or co-payments
  • Adding or expanding voluntary benefits
  • Augmenting services for managing high-cost claims, including specialty pharmacy claims

Additionally, some COVID-19 employers may need to reduce their retirement plan contributions for the next year, both matching and discretionary amounts, depending on how the economy performs.

While some companies may need to cut back on benefits due to the economy, others may expand benefits to include additional options. The addition of telehealth and mental health care could be perceived as positive moves by employees. During this stressful time, these benefits could be greatly appreciated as COVID-19 changes the way people get medical care.

Voluntary BenefitsTwo employees interacting

Voluntary benefits provide group rates for insurance that employees pay for themselves. Employers can expand voluntary benefits to help bolster their health care coverage with hospital and critical illness coverage. If employers are going to add voluntary benefits programs, they must take the time to comprehend how they can help employees meet their insurance coverage needs.

Voluntary benefits are designed differently than other benefits. For example, employees may not realize that critical care insurance doesn’t always provide coverage for all illnesses – including COVID-19.

Employers should work with insurance carriers to offer benefits that align with their employees’ specific needs and concerns.

Use Clear Communication with Employees

During a time of uncertainty – especially going into 2021 –transparent communication with employees is crucial. Employers may face difficult choices when it comes to deciding which health plans should be offered and how to structure cost-sharing.

Avoid miscommunication or upsetting employees by clearly communicating benefit changes. They need to fully understand what they are signing up for and have full knowledge of what specific benefits are not included.

As the pandemic continues to be a threat to individuals’ health and financial well-being, employers need to take into account what their employees desire while making these decisions.

Contact Employer Support Services today for more information or help from one of our representatives while making crucial benefit change decisions for 2021.

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