5 Top Employee Benefits Trends for 2020

The new decade will bring with it some critical changes in Human Resource and Employee Benefits management. Most of these changes are a result of rising healthcare costs as well as the highly competitive job market. We surveyed some recent industry publications to get a clear picture of what experts say lies ahead, and the challenges HR professionals may face.


1. Increased focus on HSAs

In 2020, large employers are estimating a 6% increase in healthcare costs if they don’t make some changes to their plans. So, most companies are looking for ways to help maintain and share expenses without burdening their workers. The answer for many is HSAs. According to a recent article from Advisory.com, HSAs have gotten 400% more popular in the last decade. And employee participation has grown from 50% in 2017 to 81% in 2018.


Who’s driving this growth? Millennials. According to CEO David Vivero of Amino Digital Health, the HSA is the most millennial-friendly benefit. “It’s an excellent way to save money while you’re in your young, healthy years. Your millennial employees will also appreciate the flexibility of an HSA, which can be used to pay for anything from acupuncture to contact lenses to medical supplies.” 


“There will be an increased focus on HSA education to help employees better understand their HSAs. It’s the logical next step for companies that have made a move to high-deductible health plans,” predicted Andy Edeburn, director of customer insights at Jellyvision, a benefits communication tech firm.


2. Expansion of family-friendly benefits

The key trend driving the expansion of “Family-friendly Benefits” are the demands of caregiving; caregiving to an aging parent, a newborn or a child or relative with special needs. Today, more workers are taking on multiple roles in caring for family members.


According to a recent article in SHRM, U.S. companies are more aware of the need to offer parental leave to both mothers and fathers. Statistics show that employers are quickly embracing this trend. In 2019, 29% of companies provided parental leave, up from 21% in 2018. Also, some companies now offer paid caregiver leave, designed to help relieve the stress of the often-unexpected support needed by aging parents or siblings. Introducing or enhancing these benefits can help boost employee retention and improve productivity.


Flexible work schedules are also a big part of this equation. Employees who can work schedules that best suit their other commitments appreciate employers that trust their work ethic and professionalism.


3. Focus on emotional health

In our country, we have been late to the game recognizing the vital role emotional and behavioral health play in our work and family lives. The stigma seems to be waning, and benefits professionals believe that access to mental health services will continue to improve.

Companies are offering support for addiction, anxiety, depression, and stress. Often, they use telemedicine platforms as well as traditional treatment methods to deliver these benefits. According to Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the nonprofit National Business Group on Health (NBGH) in a recent SHRM article “employers will address the access challenge through onsite and virtual counseling, network expansion where feasible and the integration of employee assistance programs and mental health benefits.”


4. Personalized perks

Toto, you are not in Kansas anymore. For some employees, the ability to bring their pet to work can be a game changer. Along with pet-friendly businesses, you will see an expansion of onsite related employee perks, including free or discounted lunch, exercise classes, along with technology reimbursement. 


Some of the more exciting employee benefits trends include financial planning, transportation benefits, access to wellness technology, and student loan repayment programs. According to a recent survey, 55% of millennials see student debt repayment as a critical benefit. Notable companies like Carhartt and Estee Lauder have included loan assistance in their benefits packages.


Financial planning assistance may be a new benefit offering, but one in four employees are looking for help. This benefit can be in the form of an online money management tool or personalized access to a financial consultant. These professionals help employees make the decisions on their benefits and savings based on their specific needs.


5. Technology

Technology when it works is priceless, yet many find some HR benefits systems lack the tools needed to help in the decision process. Employees are looking for ease-of-use as well as a platform that will help them navigate the process of selecting the best choice for their circumstance.


According to recent interview Jon Shanahan, CEO of Businessolver, a benefits software firm, “In 2019, technology will expand to benefits selection and management to help the increasingly diverse employee workforce learn, understand, and navigate the benefits process based on their specific needs.” 


Employees require a variety of benefits, and being mindful of employee benefits trends can attract and retain them. Their needs can change based on age, health, income, and personal commitments. The big challenge for HR professionals is how to best serve the people within an organization with a portfolio of benefits that meet the needs of the majority.


When businesses want help navigating the often complicated and confusing world of employee benefits, it’s a good idea to turn to a Registered Employee Benefits Consultant (REBC) for help. The Kirwan Companies is expert at assessing and recommending improvements and savings over your current offerings. As HR consultants for 40+ years, we answer questions about compliance and counsel our clients through new processes, forms, and guidelines. Please let us know how we can help you.


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