Employers consider eliminating certain worker benefits before open enrollment begins
It's almost open enrollment season and this will be the first opportunity for many workers to reassess their health and other benefits since the coronavirus pandemic began. However, they may find fewer offers than before.
According to a new survey of business decision makers across the country, companies are watching their costs go up, and eliminating certain benefits could be one way to bring them down. Six percent state that the costs per employee have already risen "significantly" this year, and over 60 percent expect an increase in the coming years.
Given the tight budgets, "employers are really looking at what benefits will really help them achieve their goals," said Craig Copeland of the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
His group conducted the survey of 250 business executives who head human resources, compensation or finance departments in their company, at companies with 500 or more employees who "have at least moderate influence on their company's retirement programs and financial wellness choices". "
EMPLOYEE BENEFITS Man working on tablet TECHNOLOGY COMMUNICATION
The "main advantages"
The reassessment will occur if the workers themselves are "more responsive to their performance options" when the selection opens next month. This is the result of a recently published MetLife study.
When it comes to health insurance and retirement planning, employees should find that "at least some major benefit will still be there," said Copeland.
Copeland, who appeared as part of Yahoo Finance's ongoing partnership with Financing Our Future, a group of organizations advocating greater retirement security for Americans, said, "These plans remain pretty much intact. "
The results echo another study by Fidelity which found that a “vast majority of employers” continued to offer 401 (k) match programs, at least for now.
What are the employees really focusing on?
A reporter summarized the open registration statistics for the Massachusetts Health Connector website (REUTERS / Brian Snyder)
Benefits that help set up emergency funds, offer short-term loans, and gain access to payroll remain popular with employers.
"These are the things people really focus on because that is what is absolutely critical right now," said Copeland, noting that more people can now enjoy these benefits, which is driving up costs.
However, this means that other benefits are under scrutiny. Some “financial wellness” benefits, such as employee discount programs, tuition reimbursements, or bank-work partnerships, are less likely to be offered.
Tuition reimbursement is the benefit that Copeland said will most likely "go away" as employees are more focused on their current finances and companies are likely to move to other priorities.
Student loan support is another benefit that employers have been discussing since the survey began, but by and large they haven't pulled the trigger and probably don't seem to be doing so now.
According to the survey, don't expect any new offers either.
Companies are unlikely to add new benefits as the pandemic and recession drag on. While 58% of respondents said their company communicated to employees about existing resources, less than 0.5% said they improved or "added" the financial well-being benefits this year.
Ben Werschkul is a Washington, DC-based producer for Yahoo Finance.
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