The Impact of COVID-19 on Voluntary Benefits

Voluntary benefits are benefits added to core compensation and employer sponsored benefit packages. When employees are offered these benefits, they can pick and choose what they want based on their individual and family needs. Last year, we wrote a blog post called “The Time is Right for Voluntary Benefits.” This was based on trends at that time and a competitive labor market. Of course, our crystal ball could not have predicted something so unprecedented as the COVID-19 pandemic, but what we know in the present is that the time is definitely right for voluntary benefits due to this ongoing public health crisis and its predicted lingering effects. 

What is the impact of COVID-19 on voluntary benefits?

Overall, both employers and employees should now value voluntary benefits differently in the wake of COVID-19. As employers, offering voluntary benefits allows employees the opportunity to purchase these plans at lower group rates. They are also paid for by the employee through salary-deferred contributions, which makes offering them very cost efficient for employers while also giving employees more choices about personalizing their benefits.  

As an employer, it’s a good idea to talk to your broker to help determine which benefits to offer. A broker will work with you to determine what benefits best suit your employees’ overall needs along with the needs of your business.

Telemedicine is a good example. During COVID-19, having this option available gave employees quick access to a doctor, testing and treatment options. Telemedicine could be a good voluntary benefits option if you don’t include it as part of your core benefits offerings. Beyond telemedicine, there are other traditional and non-traditional voluntary benefits to consider.

  • Traditional voluntary benefits usually supplement a regular medical insurance plan or can help employees contribute to financial security in the instance of severe illness or disability. Traditional voluntary benefits include dental insurance, vision insurance, short-term disability insurance, long-term disability insurance, hospital indemnity, critical illness insurance, cancer insurance, life insurance and accident insurance.
  • Non-traditional voluntary benefits are typically newer products or more specialized programs. Such benefits are more enticing now, to help meet the needs of employees during these difficult times. They can be traditional insurance plans or types of discount or reimbursement programs that contribute to an employee’s quality of life or the ability to get the most out of their budget. Non-traditional benefits include group prepaid legal plans, pet insurance, financial planning assistance, employee purchase programs, employee discount programs, home and auto insurance, educational assistance services, identity theft insurance and adoption assistance.

In addition, employers will need to provide more complete employee education during the decision-making process to stress the importance of voluntary benefit offerings. There is a lot of interest in virtual open enrollment meetings, and employers are considering videoconference sessions on a one-to-one basis by appointment to help employees take a closer look at the resources that have been made available to them.

If you are interested in learning more about voluntary or supplemental benefits or the impact of COVID-19 on voluntary benefits, please contact the Rose & Kiernan, Inc. Employee Benefits Management Group (EBMG) here or by calling (800) 242-4433.

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