- Mental health coverage and telemedicine or telehealth services are among the most important benefits employers feel they can offer employees in 2022, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual benefits survey released June 12. The survey was conducted in January and February and sent to U.S.-based SHRM members representing a variety of industries and sectors that range in size from two to more than 25,000 employees.
- Of the survey’s 3,129 responses, 93% said they offered telemedicine or telehealth, a 20% jump from 2019, when the category was last recorded. Similarly, respondents offering mental health coverage hit a new high of 91%, up from prior to the pandemic. “The strong prevalence of these benefits, even after businesses have returned to more normal conditions following the COVID-19 vaccine rollout,” indicates they’re likely to become “permanent fixtures,” the executive summary noted.
- Retirement savings and planning benefits were next, with 82% of employers saying they were important to offer, up from 55% in 2020/21. Most employers offered some type of retirement plan; 94% offered a traditional 401(k), 68% offered a Roth 401(k). Many employers also provided some type of employer match. Just over half (51%) said they automatically enroll new or existing employees in their company’s retirement plan, a figure that’s held steady since the pandemic’s onset.
As reflected in the survey, employer priorities continue to adapt to evolving post-pandemic needs. For example, while nearly all of employers currently offer paid vacation (99%) or sick (96%) leave, the prevalence of leave for new parents, beyond what’s required by law, returned to pre-pandemic levels. In particular, the number of organizations offering paid maternity leave dropped to 35% in 2022, down from 53% in 2020; paid paternity leave dropped to 27% in 2022, down from 44% in 2020.
The decline could be attributed to direct parental leave needs early in the pandemic, the executive summary explained. “Now that many businesses have returned to a more typical way of operating, employers seem to be dialing back on expanded parental leave opportunities,” the summary said.
Consistent with the priorities employers now place on mental health coverage, the survey revealed emerging support for mental health leave: 1 in 5 employers said they offered paid mental health days separate from regular sick leave. That’s in line with what one employment law attorney urged HR professionals June 13 at SHRM’s annual conference.
With the stresses brought on by the pandemic, an employer should ensure that employees know it appreciates what’s going on in the world and supports their mental health, the attorney said. Employers can show support by training managers on how to respond to leave requests as well as emphasizing the importance of using inclusive language.
The survey also reflects the pandemic-triggered shifting between in-person and remote work. Hybrid work opportunities continue to be well-represented among benefit offerings, the survey found. About 2/3 of employments (63%) said they offer most of their workers the opportunity to adopt some combination of remote and in-person work. Across all organizations, 62% said they reimburse or offer a subsidy to employees for at-home office work or equipment. On average, thees employers provided about $891 to employees to cover the costs of working at home.
In developing a hybrid work model, employers need to be intentional and build trust, a global diversity, equity and inclusion strategist said during her June 13 presentation at SHRM’s annual conference. While company leaders look for models to adopt, they should keep in mind that no one size fits all, the strategist said. She outlined five questions employers should ask to structure their model, including who gets to choose in-person versus remote work and when, and how and for whom they will use management tactics like surveillance.
The possibility of remote work gives organizations access to wider talent pools, the survey’s executive summary noted. Because workers also have more options for where and when they will work, employers face a challenging talent landscape. But benefits can be instrumental in how this plays out, the summary concluded.