Benefits news you may have missed: March 29-April 2

From vaccine strategies to new IRS guidance allowing employees to use HSAs, FSAs and HRAs on COVID PPE, here are some of the week’s top stories.
By: | April 2, 2021 • 3 min read

Inside one HR leader’s aggressive COVID-19 vaccination plan: Roanica Paisley of Rising Ground in New York is leaning on robust education, PTO and credible messengers to get 1,600 workers vaccinated. Read more here.

COVID-19 PPE is now HSA, FSA eligible: Employers have welcome benefits guidance to share with employees: Workers can now use their health savings account, flexible spending account or health reimbursement arrangement for face masks and other personal protective equipment used to prevent COVID-19. PPE used for “the primary purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19”—including face masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and sanitizing wipes—can be treated as medical expenses, the IRS quietly announced last week. Read more here.

Why soaring depression rates mean ‘a new mandate’ for employers: Nearly a third of employees now describe themselves as depressed, new research reveals, the latest signal of a troubling mental health crisis. A new survey of 5,000 employees from research firm Gartner finds that 29% describe themselves as depressed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.

What HR can do to keep Black women from leaving the workforce: While women have borne the brunt of the pandemic-driven job losses over the last year, women of color in particular have been disproportionately impacted. For instance, in December, Black, Hispanic and Asian women comprised all of the job losses for women. While women of color are more likely to work in industries hard hit by the pandemic, and also less able to work from home—making a lack of childcare a definitive reason for decisions to leave the workforce—logistics alone aren’t driving the job losses. Read more here.

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Scores of employees at risk for mental health conditions: Seven in 10 employees are at risk for mental health conditions, according to research from Emvitals, a mental health technology company, in partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine, BHS and Quest Diagnostics. The data is the latest to point to a troubling mental health epidemic. Scores of other research have pointed to soaring rates of depression, anxiety, stress and burnout, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This survey in particular points to untreated mental health issues and underscores how much of an issue mental health conditions were even before the start of the pandemic. Read more here.

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.

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