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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

Evolving Benefits

July 28, 2015

Recent research reveals that a number of work-related benefits are changing for the better for employees.

Expanding Health-care Benefits

According to the Society for Human Resource Management's 2015 Employee Benefits research report, few organizations are eliminating health-care benefits in the aftermath of federal reforms. (In fact, a recent Accenture survey found that if an employer discontinued health-insurance benefits, one third of its employees—31 percent—would plan to leave their jobs within one year.) That said, the SHRM survey finds that many employers are altering the composition of their plans. Those changes include additional shifting of the cost of health care to employees and increased focus on preventive care.

For instance, during the past five years (from 2011 to 2015) increases were seen in the percentage of employers providing wellness programs, prevention programs targeted to employees suffering from chronic health conditions, discounts in health-care premiums for employees who participate in various wellness-related programming, and healthy lifestyle coaching.

Because job seekers continue to place a high level of importance on health-care coverage and other benefits when weighing their employment prospects, many organizations believe a competitive benefits package does make a difference in attracting good employees, notes the report. The survey highlights a number of benefits that show significant upticks from 2011 to 2015 in the percentage of employers offering them. These include:

  • Mental health coverage (from 82 percent to 91 percent).
  • Vision coverage (from 76 percent to 87 percent).
  • Contraceptive coverage (from 69 percent to 83 percent).
  • Short-term disability insurance (from 66 percent to 74 percent).
  • Critical illness insurance (from 22 percent to 34 percent).
  • Health savings accounts (from 35 percent to 43 percent), and employer contributions to HSAs (from 20 percent to 30 percent).

CUPA-HR's 2015 Employee Healthcare Benefits in Higher Education Survey reveals another area where employers are increasing benefits. The 2015 survey shows a significant increase in the number of colleges and universities offering health-care benefits for same-sex domestic partners during the past decade-from 40 percent of responding institutions in 2006 to 70 percent in 2015.

Adapting How Work Gets Done

Move over part-time, telework, and flextime work arrangements. While these employer-provided options aren't going away, they must now make room for another work arrangement gaining steam: reduced-load work.

Research by Ellen E. Kossek, a professor of management in the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, and colleagues, published in Human Resource Management and highlighted in this video describes the wide appeal of this approach and its potential for success in retaining top talent.

A recent article in Human Resource Executive Online interviewed Kossek, who explained the nuance of the reduced-load work approach. For instance, a main focus of this approach is addressing the pressures of rising workloads and work hours by reducing the number of hours worked and reducing actual workloads to allow more time for family, educational pursuits, or other activities of interest. While this also typically entails a pay cut, it allows professionals to remain active on their career paths without succumbing to burnout. While more rare at the executive level, reduced-load work is seen as a good approach for solid performers even in high-level management positions that have some predictability and are less ruled by tight deadlines. It also provides a good option for employees nearing or transitioning into retirement, which is certain to make up an increasing portion of the workforce in years to come.

Redefining Employee Assistance

Another recent article in Human Resource Executive Online, "EAP 2.0," details the expanded scope of next-generation employee assistance programs that are finding new favor with employees and employers alike. With the rise of mobile technologies, EAP counseling options are more accessible and convenient for more employees. And, as EAPs have assumed a broader array of counseling services beyond substance abuse and mental health services—to include stress management and wellness and work-life balance coaching—more employees are finding them relevant. As this article suggests, employers now must take a more active role in communicating the robust services EAPs offer employees.