3 Employee Benefits Trends Driving Change In 2020
February 6, 2020
Jill Garrison
Timer  Read Time: 6 minutes

2019 was a busy year in human resources and employee benefits. Several states issued new laws that expanded regulation on everything from parental leave to classifying contracted employees. And amid rapidly changing legal requirements, many movements brought pressing social issues like mental health front and center, which has prompted a timely response from human resources.

What do these changes mean for the future of HR in 2020 and beyond? Here’s a quick breakdown of the top benefits trends for 2020.

Mental Health Movement

What was traditionally stigmatized as a topic kept far away from the workplace has evolved into a holistic movement that blurs the lines between work and personal life. Though it can still be a little uncomfortable, mental health has progressed leaps and bounds to become a common topic of conversation, which has helped countless people feel more comfortable addressing common issues faced on a daily basis.

Mental Health by the Numbers

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 264 million people suffer from depression, with many of these people also suffering from symptoms of anxiety. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

Mental Health Benefits

If you’re wondering where to get started, here are a few mental health benefits to consider adding to your roster.

Mental Health Coverage

When evaluating mental health solutions, start with the basics and ensure that your health insurance policies support a holistic array of mental health coverage and services.

Note, per the mental health parity act, your health care plan must support equal coverage for mental health conditions. 

Employee Assistance Programs

Separate from traditional health coverage, employee assistance programs (EAPs) can be a critical first step to getting help. Most EAPs are 100% employer covered and free for employees to use.

Many organizations already have EAPs—which is great! However, utilization rates have historically been on the lower end, with reports stating engagement rates as low as 5% (SHRM).

Employee Assistance Programs can be an incredibly helpful tool to help employees get the help they need, but they only work if employees know about it!

Tip: Check out the EAP explainer video, and peruse our full FREE benefits video library

Mobile Apps

For an innovative approach, consider investing in mobile app subscriptions that focus on promoting mental health. Popular services include Happify, Calm and Headspace.

Telehealth Counseling

Remote counseling services are also gaining traction as a convenient and affordable alternative to traditional counseling. Check for carrier-provided solutions or third-party options like Talk Space.

Free Resource: Download our free Workplace Wellness Guide for more benefits inspiration! 

Push For Parental Perks

The only federal regulation for maternity leave falls under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which falls short of meeting the demands of the modern working family.

  • Does not require paid time off
  • Only protects job for 12 weeks
  • Company must have more than 50 full time employees to apply
  • Employee must meet minimum employment requirement

FMLA currently applies to less than 60% female workers, and many female employees who do qualify simply can’t afford to take time off without pay

What about paternity leave? While not quite as common as paid maternity leave, more than 50 countries across the globe have adopted paid paternity leave programs, and many countries even offer 100% paid leave for fathers. Currently, there is no federal mandate for any time off for fathers—paid or unpaid.

Currently, only seven states—California, Oregon, Washington, Massussachuets, New Jersey,

New York and Rhode Island—have passed state-level legislation mandating paid parental leave.

However, several other states have introduced bills to mandate paid leave policies in 2019 alone, sending a clear message that change is on the horizon.

From an employer perspective, being able to effectively manage and administer paid leave will be an important investment to ensure compliance.

And, for organizations in states that don’t currently mandate paid maternity or paternity leave, layering in even modest paid perks for parents will vastly set your organization apart from others and support recruiting and retention efforts—and the data supports this.

77% of employees say that the amount of paid leave influences their employer choice. And 55% of employees indicate that they’d rather have more parental leave than a pay raise. (Paid Leave Project)

The bottom line? Paid maternity leave is likely coming to your state in some form or fashion soon. Do your homework, stay on top of legislation and changes, and ensure you have the resources necessary to implement a paid leave plan.

Is paid maternity/paternity leave not on your radar? Consider a few of these other parental perks

Fight For Flexible Benefits

Have you ever unexpectedly seen and purchased something on Amazon because it was just so timely and easy?

Retail has come a long way from the antiquated experience that existed 10+ years ago, and the

data shows that consumers love a convenient and personalized shopping experience.

In fact, consumers spent $144 Billion online during Cyber Weekend in 2019. (Adobe)

What if your employee benefits mimicked this easy, convenient and personalized experience that we’ve all come to know and love?

Many organizations are beginning to embrace this flexible, personalized approach to employee benefits and now offer a myriad of voluntary perks and products for employees to design their own benefits package. And we’re not talking about the short- and long-term disability or life insurance, which are almost considered “standard” voluntary benefits nowadays.

The best part? Many of these innovative voluntary benefits products are traditionally 100% employee paid, though paying for the perk on your end certainly won’t hurt recruiting and retention efforts.

Flexible Benefits on the Rise

Curious about benefits you can offer that provide a more personalized experience? Here are a few hot benefits on the rise for 2020.

Identity Theft Protection

Did you know? 33% of U.S. adults have experienced identity theft in some form or fashion.

ID theft protection is designed to cover some of the costs related to identity theft and help victims navigate the process of identity restoration.

Pet-Friendly Benefits

Pet-friendly perks are all the rage this year, and it’s not hard to figure out why. Many consider pets part of the family, and pet-specific benefit companies (like pet insurance) are expanding rapidly to meet the demand.

If you are pro-pet, consider offering pet-friendly perks like paw-ternity leave, pet insurance or even a pet-friendly workplace.

Learn more about pet-friendly employee benefits.

Legal Assistance

Legal assistance as an employee benefit provides peace of mind when it matters most. Most programs provide access to thousands of lawyers across the nation to handle simple legal matters, including real estate issues, marital disputes or separations/divorces, wills and estate documents, etc.

Student Loan Repayment Assistance

A particularly popular perk to recruit and retain millennials, student loan repayment assistance helps employees chip away at their student debt. Learn more about student loan repayment as an employee benefit and whether or not it could be a good fit for your organization.

Flexible Stipends

Flexible stipends provide employees with a set amount of money that can be allocated towards approved activities or services. For example, a flexible ‘wellness’ stipend could apply to anything wellness-related, like a gym membership, yoga classes, a new bike, workout gear, etc.

What changes are you making in 2020 to offer a better benefits experience? 

Want more employee benefits insight?

Explore the Full 2020 Trends Report

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