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Employers roll out new benefits to attract candidates in a tight labor market

Posted by Kanika Sinha

September 15, 2021    |     4-minute read (952 words)

As the talent wars heat up, employers are debuting novel ways to attract workers. They are offering previously unheard-of perks, like fertility benefits, financial wellness resources and pet insurance, in a bid to stand out. 

Over 40% of employers have expanded benefits to meet their recruitment and retention objectives in 2021, finds Gallagher's Physical and Emotional Wellbeing Report.

Meanwhile, employees are increasingly discerning about benefits, particularly health care. A March Gallup poll found 1 in 6 U.S. workers was continuing with a job they would otherwise quit except for the health coverage. Given the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers that provide robust benefits for employees’ physical and emotional well-being are better-positioned to compete for talent.

Read on for a roundup of modern benefits employers are offering to entice and retain talent. 

Telemedicine

Telemedicine lets employees consult with doctors by phone or video chat. This makes it much easier for employees to conveniently access basic medical care without missing work. 

According to Gallagher, employees underutilized health benefits last year during the pandemic, but the use of telemedicine surged 12 points since 2019. In particular, telemedicine visits spiked in March 2020 amid the pandemic as consumers sought safe ways to access care.

Employers are finding that telemedicine is also cost-effective. Employees are often able to avoid costly emergency room services or specialist visits, which helps keep costs in check. A large number of employers seem to be banking on this offering, with more expected to begin offering it. 

Fertility benefits

Driven to be recognized as a family-friendly employer, many companies have introduced fertility benefits. Nearly 800 global companies have either introduced or enhanced their family-building benefits, per the 2021 Fertility IQ Workplace Index. Fertility benefits may cover treatments like in vitro fertilization, fertility medication, egg freezing, surrogacy and adoption.

A recent survey by Carrot fertility of women of childbearing age found 88% would consider changing jobs for fertility benefits, while 77% would stay at their company longer if it offered fertility benefits. Further, a Care.com survey found that 83% of millennials, the current primary generation of birthing and new-parent age, would switch jobs for better family benefits. 

With more women delaying having children and more single people and same-sex couples wanting to have children, fertility treatments are rapidly becoming mainstream. 

Better mental health care

With mental health struggles rising in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and traditional health care benefits often sorely lacking when it comes to mental health, employers are exploring ways to address the gap.

Some are offering extra time off and greater flexibility to deal with mental health issues, and many are providing free in-person or virtual therapy. Others have rolled out unconventional benefits also meant to support employees’ mental health, such as encouraging them to learn a new instrument or organizing lunch roulettes.

Gallup cites that millennials and Gen Z now make up 46% of the full-time U.S. workforce. An April 2021 survey report by McKinsey found that 60% of Gen Z employees consider mental health resources important in selecting an employer, and 57% deem them decisive in staying with an employer. This makes mental health benefits critical for employers seeking Gen Z talent. 

Accidental death and dismemberment 

Accidental death and dismemberment insurance gives employees added financial security by covering the unintentional death or dismemberment of the insured. Dismemberment includes the loss of or the loss of use of body parts or bodily functions such as limbs, speech, eyesight and hearing. This coverage is offered by 87% of employers, per Gallagher.

If purchased individually, such coverage is quite costly, ranging between 1% to 3% of an individual’s annual income. This makes AD&D incredibly valuable as an employee benefit.

Financial wellness resources

In PwC’s 2021 financial wellness survey almost two-thirds of employees said their financial stress had increased since the start of the pandemic, Respondents admitted their finances had been a distraction at work and hampered their productivity. More employers are acknowledging the tumult by offering financial wellness services for employees.

For instance, Chipotle, Chobani, Even, Verizon and Prudential Financial are among companies that recently joined JUST Capital and PayPal in a push to prioritize workers’ financial health. As a first step, the companies will assess the financial vulnerabilities of their workforce and identify ways to help improve their financial well-being in the long term. Some employers are offering live financial counselors, in addition to digital platforms, to assist with complex financial questions.

Some 83% of employers in a September 2020 Bank of America survey said financial wellness offerings foster a more productive, loyal and engaged workforce. The future is certain to witness more creative financial wellness programs from companies.

Pet insurance

Close to 1 in 5 employers offer pet insurance, Gallagher’s report found. These policies cover at least some veterinary costs, with benefits for accidents and pet illnesses. They are very helpful in relieving the financial burdens on employees that often arise from pet ownership.

Given that almost 70% of U.S. households own a pet, according to the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, this benefit package is indeed a great idea for employers to demonstrate to employees that they care about the pet members of employees’ families.

Employee discount programs

According to Gallagher’s report, 70% of employers offer some type of employee discount program. Such a perk can be a great morale booster for employees. Employee discount programs avail employees of an exclusive discount while they shop for certain products or services, such as grocery items, medicines and movie tickets. 

And each time an employee uses these company-specific discounts, they feel a sense of value that contributes to the likelihood they will stay longer with the company.

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