With the pressures of the coronavirus crisis creating new health and financial concerns, employees have become less convinced that their benefits packages can meet their needs.
Less than half of employees (44%) surveyed in June by The Hartford — an insurance and group benefits company — rated their organization’s benefits package as above average when compared to what similar employers are offering. That is down 12 percentage points from 56% in early March before the pandemic had taken a solid hold across the U.S.
The Future of Benefits Study found that employees and employers are shifting their outlook about what types of benefits are most valuable.
A shift in stress factors
The March-to-June period saw job losses, school closings and social injustice protests. Many employees saw certain stress factors change as a result:
- Social and political climate: 25% in June, compared with 11% in March
- Caring for family members: 12% in June, compared with 8% in March
- Debt: 26% in June, compared with 18% in March
As employees’ personal lives became more stressful, the percentage of workers who named their workload as one of their top three three stress factors dropped from 45% in March to 31% in June.
During that same period, the percentage of employees who said they value the insurance benefits offered by their company dropped from 80% in March to 73% in June. Also, 55% of employees in June said they trust their company to make the best decisions about the benefits available, down from 61% three months before.
Employers eyeing new benefits
For their part, many employers are also changing their approach when it comes to benefits. For one thing, more employers are recognizing the importance of making sure employees understand their benefits packages and what services are available. In March, 63% of employers said they were either “mostly” or “fully” responsible for ensuring that employees understood their benefits. By June, that percentage had risen to 69%.
That’s good news for employees, as an earlier survey from ValuePenguin found that more than half of consumers had no idea if their health insurance would cover COVID-19 treatment.
Employers also expressed more interest in providing certain benefits in June than they did in March. Between March and June, interest in:
- Offering paid time off for volunteering increased from 20% to 42%
- Offering employee assistance programs (EAPs) rose from 38% to 56%
- Providing critical illness insurance went from 36% to 50%
- Giving employees access to student loan repayment plans increased from 27% to 38%
- Offering behavioral and mental health services increased from 42% to 51%
- Providing wellness benefits rose from 42% to 51%
Methodology: Hartford, Conn.-based The Hartford surveyed employers and employees in two waves. The first survey took place between February 27 and March 13, 2020, with 761 human resources professionals and 1,503 employees participating. The second survey, conducted from June 15-30, 2020, featured responses from 567 HR professionals and 1,038 employees.