Benefits news you may have missed: Sept. 21-25

Why employers should act now on mental health: Workers’ risks of developing depression, anxiety and other mental issues have declined since last month, according to Total Brain’s latest Mental Health Index. But those risks still are significantly higher than they were at the start of COVID-19, proving the pandemic is causing serious–and chronic–mental health issues. Read more here.

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Media giant launches mental health day as company holiday: Thomson Reuters is instituting a mental health day as an annual company holiday, the media firm said. All associates who are eligible for company holidays will be given a mental health day off on Oct. 9. The day will become a permanent company holiday, extending beyond 2020 and taking place on or around World Mental Health Day–which is Oct. 10–each year, the firm’s CEO Steve Hasker wrote in an email to Thomson Reuters employees that was shared with HRE. Read more here.

Employers feel more responsibility to help employees with financial wellness: Employers increasingly feel responsible for their employees’ financial wellness–good news for a growing number of employees seeking help during difficult economic times. More than six in 10 (62%) employers say they feel “extremely” responsible for their employees’ financial wellness, compared to just 13% who did so in 2013, according to new Bank of America research out Thursday. Read more here.

Inside Citizens Bank’s unique COVID-era benefits: Though safety, health and moving the majority of its 18,000 employees remote were top of mind at the beginning of the outbreak–goals shared by many organizations–the Providence-based financial services firm quickly turned to focus, through a variety of new benefits and programs, on the stressors affecting its employees. Among its strategies are a tutoring benefit and job support for laid-off spouses. Read more here.

COVID-19 is prompting a ‘benefits wakeup call’: Nearly half of employees say the pandemic is a wakeup call to invest more time researching and selecting the best coverage options for their situation, according to a survey from Aflac. Read more here.

Verizon giving workers paid time off to vote: Verizon is giving employees paid time off to vote this November, joining a growing number of companies that are looking at ways to get their employees involved on Election Day. The telecommunications company will offer up to four hours of paid time off for its U.S.-based workforce on Election Day–important especially because COVID-19 precautions and restrictions will present new challenges to voting this year, says Christy Pambianchi, Verizon’s chief human resources officer. Read more here.

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Employers worry childcare programs fall short: U.S. employers are boosting efforts to meet the childcare needs of working parents of young and school-age children, according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson. But while most employers (74%) believe supporting these employees is a top priority today, 61% feel their programs are only somewhat effective or not effective at all, signifying a real opportunity to improve their programs. Read more here.

Creativity is at the heart of this company’s remote work culture: While West Monroe has forged forward through these unprecedented challenges, says Susan Stelter, the company’s chief people officer, employees have felt the burden of the loosening of the separation between work and life, Zoom fatigue and isolation. That’s prompted the organization to focus on maintaining its highly connected culture, from virtual 5ks to volunteer opportunities and the continuation of its popular “chief officers” program–in which employees demonstrate their creative skills in team-building activities. Read more here.

Here’s how many working parents have quit due to the pandemic: Working parents are among those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, struggling to juggle childcare and work responsibilities. Now, new data finds just what kind of toll the situation is taking on employees and their employers. Nearly half of working parents have had to quit or reduce hours because of the pandemic, according to FlexJobs’ survey of than 2,500 parents with children 18 and younger living at home. Forty percent have had to change their employment situation by either voluntarily reducing their hours (25%) or quitting entirely (15%). An additional 5% said their partner has either had to reduce their hours or quit their jobs. Read more here.

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former 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.