Benefits news you may have missed: Sept. 28-Oct. 2

Pandemic to drive up employer health costs next year: Although the pandemic drove a significant decrease in the use of healthcare services–and associated employer costs–in 2020, employer healthcare benefit costs in 2021 are likely to increase “above and beyond non-pandemic projections” as care deferred in 2020 is pushed into the future, according to new data. Read more here.

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4 tips to encourage employees to get a flu shot: It’s important every year for people to get the influenza vaccine, but this year is especially important as COVID-19 continues to rage across the United States. Hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized from the flu every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, since COVID is not slowing down, healthcare workers are trying to avoid a crash collision with the two illnesses this fall and winter. Here are four actionable ways HR can encourage employees to receive the flu vaccine. Read more here.

Why this CHRO is bringing ‘safety first’ to life: With 500 internal staff and 20,000 associates at client organizations to support, Susan Baxter, senior vice president of HR and safety of Integrity Staffing Solutions, has spent the last six months working to prioritize and protect the health and wellbeing of employees–from instituting new protocols to promoting safety education and benefits like telemedicine. With the course of the pandemic–and its impact on HR–uncertain, Baxter says she tries to approach questions about when the crisis will end with a dose of realism. Read more here.

COVID spotlights need for paid leave mandates: COVID-19 has put a spotlight on issues that have been impacting employees for years and will need to be addressed beyond patchworks like the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, including paid leave. “COVID didn’t cause this financial gap, it simply exposed it,” Jamie Kalamarides, president at Prudential Group Insurance, said recently. “This gap is a real threat to our democracy. Without a path, we’re a nation of haves and have nots.” Read more here.

Employees don’t open benefits materials: The vast majority of employees don’t educate themselves on their benefit options, according to research from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. The number underscores a familiar problem for HR leaders: Employees do not spend much time on their benefits enrollment or education. Further adding to the problem? Just one-third of employees (34%) have a high level of understanding of health benefits. These figures are always problematic, but more so this year as the pandemic puts the importance of benefits in a new light. Read more here.

Which COVID response stage is your organization in? While some organizations have made significant and lasting changes as a result of COVID-19, others have yet to make transformative change in their organizations. To truly transform and make a real impact, experts say organizations and HR leaders need to move from the first stages of the crisis–stage 1 being “hope for the best” by furloughing and laying off people and focusing on financial survival, and stage 2 being “care for the people” by aggressively protecting workers and the workplace from infection–to stages that move the organization ahead. Read more here.

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Why employers are thinking more about 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. 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.