Benefits news you may have missed: Sept. 7-11

From how COVID is forcing employers to adjust their 2021 benefit offerings to post-pandemic work predictions from top benefit leaders, here are some of the week’s top stories.
By: | September 11, 2020 • 4 min read

What benefit leaders predict for the future: A permanent move to remote work. Less frequent business travel. The staying power of telemedicine. Better benefit communication, more caregiving support and a bigger focus on behavioral health. Those are just some of the predictions top health and benefit executives have regarding the future of work following the pandemic that has defined 2020. Read more here.

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COVID may force employers to adjust 2021 benefit offerings: COVID-19 and the subsequent economic downturn have forced U.S. employers to examine cuts and benefits they considered unthinkable at the beginning of the year, new data finds. Gallagher finds that the pandemic, coupled with concerns over rising costs of specialty drugs and medical services, may force many organizations to adjust their 2021 benefits and compensation offerings. Employee cost sharing for medical benefits—which has remained relatively flat in recent years—may include unavoidable increases for many employers in 2021, the brokerage firm reports. Likely these would be in the form of increased premiums or greater implementation of high-deductible health plans. Read more here.

How Old Navy is getting workers involved in the election: Old Navy says it will pay workers who serve as poll workers on Election Day in November. The retailer, which has more than 50,000 U.S. workers, announced last week that it will give store workers a full day of pay in return for serving as poll workers, regardless of whether they are scheduled to work on Nov. 3. The employer says the unusual move is designed to encourage workers to apply to serve in their communities and give them the means to do so. Read more here.

Why this tech giant is giving employees an extra day off: Google is giving employees an extra day off for the Labor Day holiday weekend, as employers nationwide struggle with employee burnout and soaring rates of depression. Workers get today off, as well as Monday for the traditional Labor Day holiday. The day is meant to improve employees’ collective wellbeing and is a one-time paid day off for full-time employees and interns, CNBC reports, citing internal employee documents. Read more here.

Companies turn to eldercare benefits to help workers during COVID-19: While a handful of companies are bolstering programs to help working parents during the pandemic, other employers are looking for ways to help their workforce’s other caregivers—those with aging relatives. Law firms McDermott Will & Emery and Greensfelder recently added eldercare benefits for their employees through provider Homethrive. Read more here.

This is the worst thing about remote work: A quarter of workers say they feel like they’re online 24/7 because of the shift to working from home, according to new data from software firm Zapier. While many studies have found that the large shift to remote work due to the COVID-19 has largely been successful in terms of employee productivity, the new research finds that for many employees, working from home makes it feel like work never stops. Previous research found that employees are working longer hours during the pandemic. Read more here.

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KPMG enhances benefits to support working parents during COVID-19: Professional services firm KPMG is joining a growing number of employers beefing up benefits to help support working parents in trying times. The company is turning to new and enhanced programs to help its employees who are balancing work and family responsibilities, particularly as the new school year begins with virtual and hybrid learning models. Among those benefits are increased backup care, an expanded network of childcare centers, and access to discounted tutoring, academic support and homework assistance. Read more here.

Employees are refusing to take time off. What’s the worry? More than one in 10 employees (13%) say they won’t take time off work until the pandemic is over, presenting a significant challenge for employers as they witness soaring rates of employee burnout and depression. The new data from software firm Zapier finds that hesitation to take time off may be fueled by a few concerns. 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.