If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that the world can change quickly and in unexpected ways. A pandemic has upended lives on a global scale, and the permanent state of our economy remains to be seen.
What changes in employee benefits can union leaders expect to see in the upcoming year? And how can you best accommodate and serve your members' shifting needs?
Here are five employee benefits trends to consider for 2021:
1. Employer-Sponsored Mental Health Support
Amid our economic and health climate, people are coping with spectrum of experiences and emotions: anxiety, depression and grief. Life is stressful, and the future can seem uncertain. Folks may face health scares and deal with the stress associated with loss of daily routine and a blur between family life and work life.
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) should evolve to meet the current needs of members to give them the help and support they need. The employer's role is to provide its employees with access to remote mental health services without any significant disruption to their work lives.
According to the National Safety Council, there should be a variety of ways one can tap into these resources:
- Telehealth via texting or videoconferencing platforms, such as Skype, Zoom or FaceTime
- Crisis counseling lines available 24/7
- Information for behavioral health support and online groups
- Information for resources for affordable childcare
2. Expanded Telehealth Programs
People are increasingly looking for virtual ways to get the care they need. Look to see how you might be able to enhance programs to include virtual platforms. As members lead busy lives and juggle multiple priorities, consider what sort of structure and availability might be in place to facilitate ease of use and accessibility.
3. Support in Plan Expenses
According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), 20% of companies are considering cost-sharing for expenses related to health care plans, such as co-payments, deductibles and premiums. This is to help employees afford the rising costs of care and to offset financial stressors such as loss of income in the household or increased costs for childcare.
4. Prioritizing Spousal and Family Benefits
As the coronavirus threat continues, spousal and family benefits such as disability and life insurance need a careful reassessment. More members might be contemplating an increase of coverage, so leaders may want to consider negotiating a more comprehensive benefits package that includes expanded benefits for loved ones.
5. Revisit Voluntary Benefits
As members' needs will continue to change, it's essential for employers to continually revisit the benefit mixes. In 2020 alone, we've seen a need to expand telehealth and virtual programs, as well as a more pressing need to provide additional resources to support members. According to SHRM, 15% of employers will be looking at potentially adding or expanding voluntary benefits.
One such voluntary benefit will be to boost critical illness and hospital indemnity coverage. If employers are going to invest time and resources into expanding such benefits to their workers, they should look at what products are most relevant and useful for their workforce to ensure all parties benefit.
As we are in the final months of 2020, it's worth assessing our members' needs and exploring options now. Leaders should take the long view and keep in mind the wellness and satisfaction of members. Especially now, union leaders should revisit employee benefits trends often and plan for the years ahead.
Jackie Lam is a personal finance writer who has written for both Fortune 500 companies and fintech startups. In a former life, she worked in the communications department of an entertainment labor union. Now a full-time freelancer, she enjoys helping fellow freelancers build a successful business.