Health Care, Wellness, Student Loan Repayment Benefits on the Rise

Health and wellness-related benefits up 20% since last year
Happy coworkers

As companies seek to offer new and improved benefits to appeal to existing and potential employees, more organizations are looking for ways to help employees with health concerns, as well as student loans, new research shows. Hide summary The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), an association for HR professionals, conducted an annual survey of 2,763 HR professionals to examine what benefits their organizations offered employees.

Health-related benefits, as well as wellness benefits, saw the largest year-over-year jump, as 20% of employers said they increased their offerings in those two areas. While companies of all sizes were just as likely to increase health-related benefits, larger companies — those with 500-plus employees — were more likely to increase wellness-related benefits than smaller companies with less than 99 employees.

Examples of wellness programs include quiet rooms, offered by 21% of employers, fitness activities, offered by 30% of employees and standing desks, offered by 60% of employers. Among the most popular health-related benefits in the nation’s companies are health care flexible spending accounts, offered by 68% of employers, and health savings accounts, offered by 56% of surveyed employers. Health savings accounts let consumers save tax-free money to pay for medical expenses if they have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP).

Another health-related benefit more companies are offering is telemedicine, as benefits in this area increased from 23% in 2016 to 72% this year.

Student loan repayment plans, more family leave time on the rise

Companies are also kicking in more flexible working benefits and more generous leave policies. The number of employers who give employees more family leave time than what is required by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act rose 6% and paid leave for new fathers rose 14% in the past five years. Telecommuting is also a popular benefit, offered at least on a part-time basis by 42% of employers surveyed.

While retirement plans are commonly offered by the nation’s companies, more employers are providing financial assistance in the form of student loan repayment benefits. The percentage of employers offering student loan repayment benefits has doubled from 4% in 2018 to 8% in 2019.

Not all benefits are increasing in popularity. Among those on the decline are employer-provided charitable donations and a number of business travel-related benefits. For example, fewer employers offer reimbursement for personal phone calls made while traveling for work and fewer employers allow employees to keep hotel points and frequent flyer miles than in the past.

When you’re considering a job opportunity, benefits can have just as much of an impact on your life as the salary. For example, if you’re saddled with student loan debt, a company that offers a student loan repayment program can help you get out of debt faster so you can focus on other financial priorities, such as buying a house or starting your own business. Likewise, a generous health care benefits package can reduce costs if you need health insurance coverage for your family. When you’re negotiating a salary, consider negotiating benefits as well. If a company can’t pay the salary you want, it may be able to compensate for that by giving you a more rewarding benefits package.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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