New financial benefits give small business employees early wage access

 


Mandatory quarantines and business closures during the coronavirus pandemic have taken a particularly large financial toll on small businesses, forcing many employers to reduce wages and health coverage.

Sixty-five percent of small businesses said they were either extremely concerned or very concerned about how the coronavirus will affect their business, according to a survey by Freshbooks. In addition to financial pressure, small business employers are also tasked with providing benefits that will support struggling employees.

“COVID-19 just exacerbated what was going on in the market and put even more pressure on small companies and their employees,” says Emily Ritter, head of product marketing at Gusto, a payroll and employee benefits platform for small businesses. “Employees across America are living paycheck-to-paycheck and the stress of that can be expensive for households.”

Gusto has launched a new set of health and financial wellness benefits to provide employees with early access to earned wages, medical bill reimbursement and a savings account.

These financial tools are especially beneficial as healthcare costs drive many employees into debt, Ritter says. According to a Salary Finance survey, 32% of American workers have medical debt, and 28% of those who have an outstanding balance owe $10,000 or more on their bills.

“Financial health and health coverage is so inextricably linked, which has come into the limelight with COVID-19,” Ritter says. “We're seeing that small group health insurance is something that is really important, so if we can help small businesses help their employees with health bills, that's another component of financial health.”

Gusto’s new benefit offering allows employers to contribute to employees’ monthly health insurance costs. Contributions can vary from $100 to amounts that would cover an employee’s entire premium. The contributions are payroll-tax-free for the business and income-tax-free for employees, and employers also have the flexibility to adjust their contribution at any time.

“A large portion of American workers say that they wouldn't be able to handle the financial implications of a large injury or illness, and of course illness is top of mind in the midst of a global pandemic,” Ritter says. “So it was really important for us to show up with these solutions.”

Additionally, Gusto has launched Gusto Cashout, which gives workers early access to earned wages without any fees, helping them avoid having to turn to payday loans, overdraft fees or credit card debt between paychecks. With a new debit card function and cash accounts — which also provide interest — workers can put aside savings straight from their paychecks, helping them better navigate short-term emergencies and unexpected expenses.

Even before coronavirus, less than half of adults living in the U.S. had enough savings to pay for a $1,000 emergency expense, according to a Bankrate.com study, and 50% of employees said they live paycheck to paycheck, a CareerBuilder survey found.

“We're really trying to help people be prepared in those rainy day moments and avoid the debt cycle that happens,” Ritter says. “Because this product is free [for our clients’ employees] and the wages come out of their paycheck on payday, there is no continuous debt cycle that happens with a payday loan.”

Fifty-one percent of Americans feel at least somewhat anxious about their financial situation following the coronavirus outbreak, according to a recent survey from NextAdvisor, and nearly three in 10 Americans’ financial situation (29%) has been negatively impacted since the pandemic began.

Providing employees with financial wellness resources and other support can help small business owners build a more efficient and competitive business, despite the challenges faced during COVID, Ritter says.

“It's a win win for their employees and for their business,” Ritter says. “When employees are more financially stable, they're able to show up more effectively at work.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (13 October 2020) "New financial benefits give small business employees early wage access"(Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/new-financial-benefits-give-small-business-employees-early-wage-access


How employers and the economy win with remote work

Employers have been highly affected by the situations that the coronavirus pandemic has brought upon them, but so has the economy. The coronavirus has seemed to bring in a dark cloud over most situations, but now it can be looked at as helping both employers and the economy with the remote working situations. Read this blog post to learn more.


As high profile employers such as Twitter and Slack announce that they will allow employees to work from home indefinitely, other organizations have also noticed the advantages of a remote work model.

Aside from increased productivity and improved mental health for employees, employers can save $11,000 per employee on office costs and even reduce their carbon emissions, says Moe Vela, chief transparency officer at TransparentBusiness, a company that provides a remote workforce management platform.

When it comes to remote work, ”everyone wins across the board,” he says. “Remote work should be viewed no differently than a healthcare insurance package, dental insurance, paid time off, sick leave, or family leave.”

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Vela shared his thoughts on why remote work is the new normal and how employers can use technology to ensure that the experience for their employees is seamless.

How does remote work benefit employers and employees?

Employers benefit tremendously. On average, an employer saves $11,000 per year per employee in a remote workforce model. They need less commercial office space, so their bottom line actually improves because they can cut down on their office expenses. If you have 500 people in an office setting, that's 500 people you need supplies, equipment and infrastructure for — those costs get dramatically reduced or go away completely.

The other benefit to the employer is that productivity goes up in a remote workforce model. There is less absenteeism, workers are happier and also healthier because you're not confined in an office space spreading germs.

Your work life balance is improved dramatically by a remote workforce model for employees. On average, an employee gets two to three hours of their day back into their life because they don't have to commute. That's two to three hours you can spend with your family, that you can engage in self care, that you can run your errands, whatever it is you choose to do.

What advantages does remote work have outside of work?

One beneficiary in a remote workforce model is the economy. When those employees get those two to three hours back, guess what they're doing: they're spending money that was not being put into the economy before.

Another beneficiary is the environment. During this pandemic, there are around 17% less carbon emissions being emitted into the atmosphere and the environment. Climate change is impacted and our environment is a winner in a remote workforce model.

How can employers ensure a seamless remote work experience?

There are three fundamental technologies on the marketplace that every employer should immediately start using. Number one, video conferencing. We're all using it, it works just fine, you’ve got a lot of options in the marketplace from Skype to Zoom, to Google. Number two, file sharing. You have all kinds of file sharing software and services out there in the marketplace. Number three, remote workforce management and coordination software. All you have to do is implement them, and the risk is mitigated almost to nothing.

How can an employee approach management about working from home permanently?

Don't be afraid to ask your employer. Communicate your request very succinctly and very clearly. Let your boss know that you've thought this through. Prove to them that you have the self-discipline, that you have the loyalty, that you're trustworthy, and that you have the environment at home to be effective at working remotely. Use the fact that you've already been doing it as an affirmation, to attest to the fact that it can be done seamlessly and productively.


How COVID-19 could be a financial wellness springboard

Although the coronavirus pandemic has brought many implications to watch during these times, health isn't the only thing. Many businesses could use COVID-19 as a way to monitor their financial wellness. Read this blog post to learn more.


Physical health isn’t the only thing to monitor during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recent studies, which suggest the fate of businesses could depend on an ability to use financial wellness initiatives to restructure their financial and cultural mindset.

But what is financial wellness, and what can businesses do to cultivate it?

To enjoy financial wellness is to have control over daily and monthly finances, be able to meet financial goals, have enough rainy day money to survive an emergency and be able to splurge a little, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Of course, at this stage in the COVID-19 crisis, it’s all about step one — staying afloat day-to-day — according to Neil Lloyd, who heads Mercer’s US DC and financial wellness research.

But as the workforce gradually returns, there’ll be opportunities for major reinvention, the way Lloyd sees it.

“I think this is a time when you can look back at your benefits and say, ‘Well, given what we just learned, is there a better way to structure benefits that meet the needs of people?’ ” Lloyd said. “Because this is going to be in people’s minds. They’re not going to forget it in six months’ time.”

For some organizations, that might mean introducing an emergency savings account option to cover unexpected events, or providing tools that help staff understand and build their credit scores — widely expected to take a tumble in the coming months.

Why bother with financial wellness?

Even before COVID-19, 67% of employees reported feeling personally stressed, according to PwC’s 2019 employee financial wellness survey, which found 57% had less than $1,000 in emergency savings and 49% struggled to meet their financial obligations each month.

Those kinds of money worries are a bane for productivity, morale and turnover, according to the Retirement Advisor Council, which says the best way to reduce stress in the workforce is to tackle employee’s financial problems at their source.

Likewise, Mercer’s 2020 global talent trends survey of 7,300 senior business executives, HR leaders and employees across nine industries concluded that economics and empathy can and should coexist.

Though an organization’s ability to survive and expand depends on the talent and engagement of its workforce, Mercer found 63% feel at risk of burnout. And though 78% of employees said they want long-term financial planning, only 23% of companies said they provide it.

That means COVID-19 and its aftermath could present an opportunity for human resources departments to step up.

“Employers are also going to have a lot on their minds, so it’s going to be quite tough,” Lloyd said. “But ideally, try and see what you can learn from what we’ve just been through. What were all those stresses and strains that your people had? Maybe survey them and talk to them. Learn from this.”

Financial wellness initiatives only became popular about five years ago, according to Lloyd, who said Mercer’s latest survey suggests a change in the winds. While executives used to focus on the financial returns for each initiative, Lloyd says they’re developing a new understanding that, “If you look after your people well, they will ultimately look after you.”

“When we were talking to clients, what tended to happen quite quickly was, ‘Let me see the return on investment for financial wellness.’ I.e., ‘I put a dollar in here, what do I get back?’ Lloyd said. “People are beginning to not look at it like that.”

How to increase financial wellness

There’s plenty of room for financial wellness initiatives in 2020, according to Mercer, as its survey revealed only 29% of HR leaders have a health and wellbeing strategy in place, even though 61% of employees said they trusted their employer to look after their wellbeing and 48% of executives labeled it a top concern.

Offerings could range from group training sessions or one-on-one consultations to online resources or classes aimed at helping employees budget, save and manage debt, or even buy their first home. They might also help establish emergency funds, automatically enroll staff in retirement plans and open benefits up to all family members.

Mission: Money outlines six steps to establishing a financial wellness program — starting with deciphering the root causes of money woes. For some, it might be credit card or student loan debt, while for others it could be health care or retirement plan savings.

That information, coupled with an organization’s business objectives, is what employers should base their offerings on.

Above all, Lloyd says every initiative should build financial confidence, as opposed to unwittingly tearing it down. That means placing less emphasis on where an employee started and more on celebrating what they’ve achieved.

“It doesn’t help to say to somebody, ‘We did a financial literacy test and you scored 35%,’ when everybody knows 35% is bad. That can actually make somebody feel a lot worse about things,” Lloyd said. “Avoid getting into that situation where people think they’re a failure and want to avoid this topic. Rather, ensure that whatever we do in the financial wellness side is empowering and makes people more confident to keep on engaging with financial issues.”

Crucially, as employee needs, business objectives and markets change, so should financial wellness strategies. “Financial wellness is not something we’ve had 30, 40 years of success with, so you have to be prepared to try something new,” Lloyd said. “There’s a very good chance something’s not going to work, and you change it. That’s the process.”

SOURCE: Lean, R. (30 April 2020) "How COVID-19 could be a financial wellness springboard" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2020/04/30/how-covid-19-could-be-a-financial-wellness-springboard/


IRA spousal contributions can mitigate the high cost of women’s work breaks in retirement plans

According to a November 2018 study, women who took a year off from work in a 15-year period had 39 percent lower average annual earnings than women who worked continuously through that time. Read this blog post for more on how spousal contributions can mitigate the high cost of work breaks in retirement plans.


Women employees face special retirement savings challenges compared with their male counterparts. On average, they earn less and log fewer years of earned income compared to men. That’s because, in part, because women take multiple breaks from work, turn down work or decline promotions because of family care obligations.

The cost of a career break can be high. A November 2018 study by the Washington-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that women who took just one year off from work in a 15-year period had 39% lower average annual earnings than women who worked continuously through that time. The study also showed that the number of women taking at least one year off of work during a 15-year period was nearly twice the rate of men — 43% of women compared to 23% of men.

As a result, women are less likely to set aside money in a savings arrangement or to contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Spousal advantage

Married women (and men) who take work breaks may stay on track with their retirement savings goals by making IRA (traditional or Roth) contributions based on their working spouse’s income — if they meet these requirements.

  • The couple must file a joint federal income tax return
  • The working spouse must have enough earned income to make any IRA contributions on behalf of the nonworking spouse, or, if both spouses are contributing, enough income to support both spouses’ contributions
  • Assuming enough earned income, each spouse can contribute up to $6,000 (plus $1,000 if turning age 50) for 2019. This limit applies to traditional and Roth IRA contributions combined
  • The spouse receiving a traditional IRA contribution must be under age 70 ½ for the entire year
  • To be eligible for Roth IRA contributions, the couple must also satisfy income requirements.

Roth IRA income restrictions

The amount that an individual is eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA depends on the amount of the couple’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). If the couple’s joint MAGI for a tax year is less than the IRS phase-out range, each spouse can make the maximum Roth IRA contribution allowed for that tax year (assuming enough MAGI to support both spouse’s contributions). If it’s above the phase-out range, neither spouse is eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA. Keep in mind that they could still contribute to a traditional IRA, if under age 70 ½. If the couple’s joint MAGI falls within the phase-out range, their maximum contribution amount is reduced. The MAGI phase-out range is subject to cost-of-living adjustments each year.

Traditional IRA income tax deductions

Note that separate MAGI phase-out ranges apply to traditional IRA contribution deductions — another way for non-working married individuals to potentially benefit when saving for retirement with an IRA. The ability to take a federal income tax deduction for a traditional IRA contribution — if eligible — appeals to many savers. But deduction eligibility depends on whether either spouse is an “active participant” in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. An active participant is generally making or receiving contributions to her retirement plan accounts for the applicable year. Because active participants have access to a workplace retirement plan, the IRS uses its MAGI to determine whether each spouse can take a full deduction, a partial deduction or no deduction at all.

No minimum required

Regardless of which IRA a couple chooses to, the main thing is to contribute — even if it’s a small amount. There is no minimum amount that must be contributed to either type of IRA. Couples can contribute whatever they’re comfortable with, up to the previously described limit. For those concerned about not having enough to set aside in an IRA during a career break, contributing even just $500 or $1,000 for the year will still make a difference.

It certainly beats not saving at all.

SOURCE: Van Zomeren, B. (9 December 2019) "IRA spousal contributions can mitigate the high cost of women’s work breaks in retirement plans" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/ira-spousal-contributions-can-mitigate-cost-of-womens-work-breaks-in-retirement


A benefits wishlist for millennial employees

Did you know: 63 percent of millennials would struggle to cover an unexpected expense of $500. With millennials becoming the new core of today's workforce, many employers are tailoring their job postings, descriptions and benefits to correspond with the millennial wish list. Read the following article to learn more.


Millennials are the new core workforce. Their concept of work is different than the standards set by previous generations. They bring bold, new approaches of what work should be, how and where it should be performed, and what the rewards for work should be.

While this has made some employers uncomfortable, millennials are not likely to change their ways. Employers must reassess their concepts to bring out the best of the unique millennial personality.

When I look at the U.S. workforce, I see a dramatic shift in the attitudes, personalities and attributes of millennials, which makes up the majority of the workforce. Millennials bring many positive attributes to the table, including a preference for flat management structures, multiple degrees, technological skills, energy and self-confidence. They also have high expectations for themselves, prefer to work in teams, are able to multitask and seek out challenges.

However, millennials have the highest levels of stress and depression of any generation. About 20% of millennial workers have suffered work-related depression. Millennials want their own living space, but they’re less likely to become homeowners because of student loan debt. Only 6% of millennials feel they're making enough to cover basic needs, according to an Economic Innovation Group national survey of millennials. As a result, 63% of millennials would struggle to cover an unexpected $500 expense. This generation wants to live within their means, but they’ve never been taught how — they need and want to be educated on how to achieve financial independence.

Think about your corporate strategy for attracting millennials. Here are just a few of the ways companies are tailoring their job postings, descriptions and benefits to correspond with the millennial wish list.

Working with meaning. Millennials want to have meaning in their work. Past generations may have worked simply because they needed to pay the bills. Millennials want to get paid too, but they also want to know that their employer is doing more than making and selling products or services. They aspire to social causes and want to know why the organization exists and how they can personally participate and contribute in that culture.

Continued personal growth and career advancement. Millennials want to be coached and have work-life balance. They want management feedback, even if it’s negative. Regular pay increases and promotions are important to them too. It shows that you’re invested in their career path and value their contributions.

Flexible hours and the ability to work remotely. They want flexible hours and the option to work from a location of their choice. This flexibility also contributes to their desire for no added workplace stress. Technology has made it possible to connect 24/7 from anywhere on any device. If you have yet to adapt your culture to accept this new norm, you’ll likely be missing out on this generation of candidates.

Technology. Millennials are smart-device people. Who better to move your organization forward than the individuals who grew up knowing how to download and use an app, or create a widget that solves a problem? They think technology-first and is required for any organization looking to remain competitive.

Financial wellness. A robust financial wellness program that includes self-directed education, competitions, games and rewards will pique millennial interest. Products and services like financial coaching, cashflow tracking, early wage access and credit resources that address their financial challenges will keep them engaged. Above all, a financial wellness program must be tailored to each individual employee to achieve maximum participation and behavioral change.

Employers must be vigilant in order to keep the best and brightest talent. They should also be proactive in managing their employees on a personal level, especially millennials. Otherwise, they are likely to be disengaged and move on — and that will cost money.

As managers and leaders of the organization, it is your responsibility to ensure that millennials understand their future in the company and to communicate that they don’t have to go somewhere else to advance. Employers and leaders have a responsibility to provide millennials with a desirable place to land, and a culture that encourages them to thrive. Don’t give millennials reasons to leave your organization. We need to support them, engage them, reward them and give them reasons to stay.

SOURCE: Kilby, D. (6 November 2019) "A benefits wishlist for millennial employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/what-employee-benefits-do-millennials-want


What would a workplace emergency-savings benefit look like?

Data from a recent survey indicates that a significant portion of American workers could face a financial emergency if they were hit with sudden bills, lost wages or other unforeseen expenses. Read this blog post to learn more about emergency-savings benefits.


An alarming number of workers don't have enough money saved away to carry them through even a short-lived financial emergency, and experts are urging employers to take steps to address that shortfall with changes to their benefits programs.

Survey data indicate that while savings rates vary based on a number of factors, substantial portions of American workers across income levels could face a financial emergency if they were hit with sudden medical bills, lost wages or other unforeseen expenses, such as a major home or car repair.

"Regardless of income we still see a significant percentage of people that do not have a rainy day fund that could cover three months of expenses," Craig Copeland, senior research associate at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, said on a recent online presentation the group hosted.

The AARP has been studying the issue, and recently reported that 53% of all American households have no emergency savings. Moreover, the retirement group reported a direct link between emergency funds and overall financial confidence. According to its recent report, Americans with rainy day funds are 2.5 times more likely to feel confident about their long-term financial prospects than those who do not.

"If people are living on such thin margins that an unexpected bill requires their complete attention and all existing resources to address it, it is extremely difficult to keep the longer-term in mind or to make progress toward longer-term goals," said Genevieve Melford, who helps lead a financial security program at the Aspen Institute.

As employers increasingly come to view emergency savings as a crucial element of their employees' financial well-being, more have been exploring a separate benefit to help encourage workers to put away money for some unforeseen contingency.

Catherine Harvey, senior policy advisor at the AARP's Public Policy Institute, has been taking a hard look at how workplace emergency savings benefits could be structured, what features would make them most attractive, and how, as a practical matter, employees could be moved to actually participate.

"There's a lot of evidence from behavioral science about what makes employer-based interventions effective, and not surprisingly one aspect of an effective program to maximize participation in an employee benefit is to make participation really easy," she said.

"That's true in 401(k)s, that's true in health programming, it's true in marketing -- any time that you get something in the mail or are automatically signed up for Spotify beyond your 50-day free trial you're subject to a default [that works] to make enrollment really easy," Harvey said.

Some employers have offered a feature that allows workers to split their paychecks through direct deposit into separate accounts, one being set aside for emergency savings. But the early analysis of those programs, which tend to rely on the employee proactively opting to set up and contribute to the emergency account via direct deposit -- rather than through auto-enrollment -- has found the results underwhelming.

"That's where we think automatic enrollment, that frictionless enrollment, really distinguishes this from everything else that's on the market right now," Harvey said.

"If split direct deposit were as powerful as it could be, more employers would be doing that and people would be saving for emergencies," she said. "We know that that's just not the case."

But emergency savings programs, executed properly, could become a key component of employers' expanding financial wellness benefits packages, a hot topic in the benefits world, but one where employers are still grappling with the best way to drive engagement.

"We know that information for employees on a website is not going to cut it," Harvey said. "Education alone just doesn't work, and so employers over the years have gotten really savvy and have taken up the behavioral finance tools and concepts to make participation the default."

The AARP also surveyed workers of a variety of income and age ranges about the types of features that would entice them to contribute to an emergency savings plan.

"Not surprisingly," Harvey said, survey respondents cited "the power of the employer match, which speaks to the incentive behind savings as being a very important feature -- one that basically blows all of the other features out of the water."

That held true across the board, as even workers who reported strong savings rates independent of an employer plan said they would welcome matching funds.

"If there's a match on the table, people don't want to leave dollars on the table," Harvey said.

In addition to a matching feature, workers AARP surveyed indicated strong preferences for programs that would protect their privacy, extend them complete control over access to their funds, and generally limit complicating red tape that would make the programs less functional.

"The idea here behind an employer-based emergency savings program is let the employee define the emergency," Harvey said. "Putting up rules and barriers, eligibility criteria, is just going to frustrate people and they won't use the money when it's needed at that moment."

SOURCE: Corbin, K. (11 October 2019) "What would a workplace emergency-savings benefit look like?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/what-would-a-workplace-emergency-savings-benefit-look-like


6 voluntary benefits your employees want

Multigenerational workforces are no longer finding the run-of-the-mill benefits plans adequate. This is making voluntary benefits more important than ever in this age of the multigenerational workforce and a tight labor market. Read this blog post from for six voluntary benefits employees want.


In this age of the multigenerational workforce and a tight labor market, a one-size-fits-all group benefits model with medical, prescription, dental, vision and a retirement plan just doesn’t cut it. A workforce with Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, Millennials and Generation Z means that employees are going to find the run-of-the-mill benefits plan inadequate. Ditto for job seekers.

What follows is that voluntary benefits are more important than ever. Offering a range of voluntary benefits can help meet the needs of employees at all life stages.

Voluntary benefits add value to benefit plans and are typically easy to administer. They’re low-to-no-cost because employees pay for them, and maintenance is often handled through a payroll deduction. Many voluntary benefits also offer guaranteed acceptance at a lower rate than medical benefits, so even if a small group within your company chooses a particular benefit, they’ll be covered.

This landscape is changing quickly. Here are six trending voluntary benefits your employees want.

Student loan debt repayment assistance

Debt among college graduates has grown to nearly $1.6 trillion. It’s preventing the largest employee segment at most companies from buying houses or cars, saving for retirement, having kids and getting married. To help employees repay their student loan debt, some employers are helping employees pay down student loan debt through a direct payroll deduction.

Others are offering a new, IRS-allowable retirement plan match swap where an employer can opt to increase its defined contribution match, enabling employees to reduce their retirement match and contribute funds to repaying student loans instead.

Interest in this benefit continues to grow. Employers looking to offer student loan debt repayment should be aware that not all platforms are created equal. Look out for high per-employee, per-month fees.

Individual long-term care

A growing number of people are beginning to understand the value of long-term care insurance because they have taken care of or currently care for a friend or relative who needs round-the-clock care. Long-term care insurance covers home or institutional care if a person is no longer able to perform at least two activities of daily living--eating, bathing, dressing, moving from a bed to a chair or using a toilet.

Employees are interested in buying long-term care insurance through their employer because they can offer better rates for simplified issue plans. If you plan to offer long-term care as an employer-sponsored benefit, I recommended rolling it out with a strategic project plan and a benefit counselor or a technology platform capable of providing decision-making tools for a smooth application process.

Executive reimbursement plans

Employee retention — especially executive retention — is on the minds of many employers in the midst of this thriving economy. Filling gaps in medical and prescription coverage is one way to provide executive teams with premium benefits they may be looking for.

Executive reimbursement plans provide reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses, access to facilities and level of service not normally covered under most group health plans. Rather than simply increasing compensation to help cover out-of-pocket expenses, premiums for these plans are tax-deductible for the employer, and benefits are non-taxable for employees.

Executive individual disability insurance

Traditional employer-sponsored long-term disability (LTD) is likely not enough coverage for highly-compensated employees or some sales staff who depends heavily on commission and bonuses. Normally, LTD pays employees 50-70% of their salary up to a certain amount.

Employers can carve out additional coverage for employees based on their management level, performance or tenure. Individual disability insurance plans can protect employees until they turn 65; they can also protect job titles or levels until employees are well enough to return to work. Executive individual disability insurance, like executive reimbursement, can be offered as a form of compensation, or a form of financial asset protection for higher incomes.

Telemedicine

The rise of consumer-driven health plans has led to the need for telemedicine. Telemedicine provides a way for employees to see a physician or provider by video and get a diagnosis and/or prescription quickly. The success of telemedicine is leading some carriers to integrate it within their plan. However, standalones still exist and can provide employees with an easy way to get care faster and cheaper than before.

Pet Insurance

Pet parents spend nearly $70 billion on veterinarian costs for their pets, but just 10% of dogs and 5% of cats are covered by medical insurance. As pets begin to play a larger role in our lives, more employers are offering pet insurance to their employees to help defray the cost of unexpected medical expenses.

There are a number of plan options, and setting up a plan for employees’ pets is simple. However, it’s vital that employers do their research to ensure the veterinarian network includes the best vets.

As part of a voluntary benefit offering, be sure to develop a rollout strategy and communications plan so employees are thoroughly educated and you meet group minimums.

SOURCE: Park, N. (25 September 2019) "6 voluntary benefits your employees want" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/6-voluntary-benefits-your-employees-want


Key elements to consider when researching financial wellness programs

With financial wellness programs becoming a staple employee benefit, organizations find themselves implementing programs that only offer a few tools or resources. Read the following blog post from Employee Benefit Advisor for key elements to consider when researching financial wellness programs.


Financial wellness programs are becoming a staple in the employee benefit universe. But what should a successful financial wellness program encompass? As a rapidly growing industry, we often lack a consistent definition for financial wellness. This leads to organizations believing they have implemented a financial wellness program, when they may only be offering a few tools like education or counseling.

I define financial wellness as the process by which an individual can efficiently and accurately assess their financial posture, identify personal goals, and be motivated to gain the necessary knowledge and resources to create behavioral change. Behavioral change will result in improved emotional and mental well-being, along with short- and long-term financial stability.

As the administrator of your company’s benefits, you are responsible for bringing the best possible solution to your employees. That’s a tough ask, given the growing number of service providers. So, what is the most efficient and effective way to assess financial wellness services to determine which solution best fits your organizational needs? Ask yourself these questions:

Does the platform offer a personal assessment of each employee’s current financial situation and help them identify their financial goals? If the answer is yes: Does the assessment return quantifiable and qualifiable data unique to each individual employee?

Does the platform address 100% of your employee base, including the least sophisticated employees at various levels of employment? Much of your ROI from a financial wellness program does not come from your top performers. It comes from creating behavioral changes within your employees who need the most financial guidance.

Does the platform integrate the various components to provide a personalized roadmap for each employee? It should connect program elements like personal assessments, educational resources, tools, feedback and solutions to ensure the employee is presented with a cohesive, comprehensive plan to attack and improve their financial situation.

Does the platform offer solutions for short-term financial challenges like cash flow issues, as well as long-term financial challenges associated with saving and planning? A major return on your investment comes from reduced employee stress, which is substantially driven by short-term needs versus long-term objectives. The program must help employees deal with current financial challenges before they can focus on their longer-term vision.

About 78% of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet, according to data from CareerBuilder.com. The need for financial wellness is clear, but there are consistent pillars that must be addressed in any successful financial wellness program to affect change: spend, save, borrow and plan. When evaluating financial wellness programs, it’s important that these dots all connect if you are truly going to motivate behavioral change and recognize the ROI of a comprehensive financial wellness program.

SOURCE: Kilby, D. (13 September 2019) "Key elements to consider when researching financial wellness programs" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/key-considerations-for-employee-financial-wellness-programs


Employer-sponsored savings programs could be the future of financial wellness

An estimated 43 percent of hourly workers have less than $400 set aside in their savings for emergencies. For those workers, an accident or unexpected expense can be financially devastating. Read this blog post from Employee Benefits Advisor to learn more about employer-sponsored savings programs.


For 43% of hourly workers who report having less than $400 in savings set aside for emergencies, an accident or unexpected expense can be financially devastating.

But employer-sponsored savings programs could be a viable solution. Low- and middle-income employees who are more financially secure have been shown to be less stressed and more productive when they have an employer-sponsored savings program, which may lead to lower healthcare costs, better customer service and stronger attendance, a new survey from nonprofit organization Commonwealth finds.

The national survey of 1,309 employees earning less than $60,000 a year found that employers offering workers savings interventions at the time of raise, can positively impact their employees’ personal finances. Three-quarters of hourly employees surveyed believe that if their employer offered savings options at the time of a raise, they would be less stressed and more confident about their finances.

“There's a lot of talk about financial stress, but when you're really living paycheck-to-paycheck, that stress is about being able to pay your bills on time,” says Commonwealth’s executive director Timothy Flacke. “It's about cash flow, and that's a particularly acute form of anxiety.”

The report analyzes the potential effects of savings programs including split direct-deposit paychecks, low-interest loans and savings accounts — and compares how those programs alleviate employees’ financial stress. Workers surveyed believe if their employer-provided savings tools they would be happier and more productive. Moreover, the survey found individuals with more in savings were less likely to have financial worries than those with little savings.

One of the companies partnered with Commonwealth to link raises with savings is Minnesota-based education company New Horizon Academy. In the beginning of the year, the company piloted a new savings program that gives its employees the option to have the raise diverted through the payroll system to a savings account each pay period, instead of having it go into their normal checking account.

“Through this, our employees are beginning to build up some financial reserves in case of an emergency, or life circumstances that requires them to dip into a savings account,” says Chad Dunkley, CEO of New Horizon Academy. Although it’s too early to state results from the pilot program, the company hopes it will have a positive long-term impact on the financial health of its employees, Dunkley says.

“This is just one of those additional ways [to] stabilize our employees, so they can come into the classroom without the financial stress that certain situations cause when you're not prepared for an emergency, whether it's new tires on your car or health issues,” he says.

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (19 August 2019) "Employer-sponsored savings programs could be the future of financial wellness" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/reduce-stress-increase-productivity-with-financial-wellness