employee benefits book on a wooden desk with glasses succulent coffee and notebooks

Trending Employee Benefits That Companies Should Be Aware Of

The U.S. unemployment rate is now at its lowest levels since 1969. This strengthening of the American job market has given many workers the confidence to reassess their employment situations in a way that they may not have felt comfortable doing ten years ago.

Employers are realizing that it is becoming harder to attract top talent and keep them. Previous benefits packages such as PTO and 401(k) offerings don’t seem to be enough anymore. So many businesses are now tasked with developing new ways to find and retain good staff.

While a comfortable salary is nice, a growing number of workers are placing a higher value on voluntary benefits. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States ranks 7th in the world for Countries With the Worst Work-Life Balance. So the more companies do to make their employees’ lives easier outside of the workplace, the more appealing and valuable those jobs become.

These are some of the most sought-after benefits right now:

Identity Theft Protection

According to Javelin’s 2019 Identity Fraud Study, over 14.4 million people fell victim to identity fraud in 2018 and over 23 percent of victims were not reimbursed for personal expenses. As technology continues to evolve, protecting your identity has never been more important. With new reports of data hacks every month, it’s at the forefront of many minds. Offering identity-theft protection could give employees an invaluable benefit: peace of mind.

Student Loan Refinancing

At the start of 2019, over 44 million U.S. citizens owed more than $1.56 trillion in student loan debt – signaling the highest amount ever recorded. According to Forbes, “Student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt – and higher than both credit cards and auto loans.” For the majority, this level of debt will continue to weigh them down for decades making this a crisis that impacts more than just recent college graduates.

This has led many businesses to begin offering student loan benefits to their employees in the form of refinancing options – or even help to pay down some of their debt (usually a set amount over a period of years). Some businesses who have implemented this approach have seen increased employee retention rates.

Wellness

Providing your employees with the tools they need to maintain their overall physical health can benefit not only them but your business as well. As a result, many employers are choosing to invest in everything from gym memberships to telemedicine options for their employees.

While exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve overall cognitive abilities such as learning and concentration, sometimes that isn’t enough to fight off common depression and anxiety symptoms.

Roughly 1 million workers are absent from their jobs every day because of stress. According to The American Institute of Stress, “Unanticipated absenteeism is estimated to cost American companies $602.00/worker/year and the price tag for large employers could approach $3.5 million annually.”

Improving the access and affordability of mental health services is something that could greatly benefit businesses and employees alike. Many telemedicine services, such as Teladoc, have ventured into the realm of mental health counseling. This gives employees an additional benefit while allowing them to access crucial mental and physical health services wherever and whenever they need.

young male and female professionals working in a warehouse doing construction planning smiling

Safety & Wellness

This section covers a variety of key aspects related to employee safety and wellness. The first major area of information covers the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.  Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

The OSH Act covers employers and their employees either directly through federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved state program. State programs must meet or exceed federal OSHA standards for workplace safety and health.

This section covers OSHA guidelines for the following:

 

person wearing blue long sleeves checks their heart rate, steps, and time on their smart watch

Health and Wellness Introduction

The Health and Wellness section features valuable information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Healthier Worksite Initiative. The initiative addresses Workforce Health Promotion, a topic that is receiving a lot of attention in workplaces today. Well-constructed and well-run programs can reduce costs to the employer and improve employee health, productivity and morale.

The information provided in this section is designed as a resource for Workforce Health Promotion program planners in all types of organizations.  Here you will find information, resources, and step-by-step toolkits to help you improve the health of your employees.

Workforce Health Promotion Topics

The CDC has included some very helpful information, guidelines and resources for planning a healthier workplace including:

  • Program Design – Planning and designing a Workplace Health Promotion (WHP) program is essential to ensuring its success. These resources, featuring tools and information about program planning and needs assessments, can help get you started.
  • Policies – This section contains basic information about policies that impact health promotion at federal workplaces and explains why they are important to WHP planners.
  • Toolkits – Designed specifically for work sites, these toolkits help program planners save time planning, implementing, and evaluating specific WHP programs.
businessman sick and sleeping on home wicker bench with newspaper over head

TX: Austin Passes Earned Sick Time Ordinance

Employees Earn One Hour of Earned Sick Time for Every 30 Hours Worked

The City of Austin has passed an earned sick time ordinance. Highlights of the ordinance are presented below.

Covered Employers and Employees

All private employers are generally covered by the ordinance. To be eligible for earned sick time, employees must work in Austin for an employer (including work performed through the services of a temporary or employment agency) for pay for at least 80 hours in a calendar year.

Accrual and Use

An employer must grant an employee one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours worked in Austin. Employers are not required to allow employees to accrue more than the yearly cap of earned sick time. The yearly cap depends on employer size, as follows:

  • For small employers (no more than 15 employees at any time in the preceding 12 months, excluding family members), the yearly cap is 48 hours of earned sick time per year.
  • For medium or large employers (more than 15 employees at any time in the preceding 12 months, excluding family members), the yearly cap is 64 hours of earned sick time per year.

An employee may request earned sick time for an absence from scheduled work time caused by certain events (§ D). However, the ordinance does not require any employer to allow an employee to utilize earned sick time on more than 8 calendar days in a given calendar year.

Employer Notice and Effective Dates

Employers must display a sign describing the requirements of the ordinance in at least English and Spanish in a conspicuous place (or places) where employee notices are customarily posted.

An employer that provides an employee handbook to its employees must include in the handbook notice of employee rights and remedies under the ordinance. Also, at least monthly, an employer must provide each employee with a statement (electronically or in writing) showing the amount of the employee’s available earned sick time.

The ordinance is expected to take effect on October 1, 2018, pending the mayor’s signature. However, for an employer with no more than 5 employees at any time in the preceding 12 months (excluding family members), the ordinance is not effective until October 1, 2020Click here for additional details.

Note: Certain provisions of the ordinance may be subject to change upon final approval by the mayor. Stay tuned for additional updates regarding the ordinance.

To review other laws specific to Texas, visit the State Laws section, click on Texas, and choose your topic of interest from the left-hand navigation menu.

person holding cup cup with tea and lemon in it above desk in office for vitamin c benefits

Brochures and Posters Promoting Health in the Workplace

Health and safety reminders posted in the workplace can help to inform your employees about important wellness topics and keep them on track with safety and nutrition. Be sure to rotate or switch out the posters you display on a regular basis to keep things fresh and encourage your employees to stay motivated and make healthy choices.

Employee Safety

Employee Nutrition and Health

Nutrition

Source: North Carolina HealthSmart Worksite Wellness Toolkit

Exercise and Physical Activity

Source: North Carolina HealthSmart Worksite Wellness Toolkit

Climb These Steps to a Healthier You!

The World Around You: Use What You Have to Stay Healthy and Fit

Tips to Help You Get Active

Walking . . . A Step in the Right Direction!

Managing Stress

Managing Stress Handouts

Source: North Carolina HealthSmart Worksite Wellness Toolkit

woman leaving the office walking down stairs for extra steps and exercise

StairWELL to Better Health

Taking the stairs is one way to be more physically active. At work, employees are often presented with a choice between taking the stairs and taking an elevator or escalator. Choosing the stairs instead of the elevator is a quick way for people to add physical activity to their day.

Using the stairs requires little additional time, no wardrobe change, and few additional costs because building codes require stairs. If your building has a staircase, why not start using it now?

This section will provide the information you need to transform your stairs into StairWELLs for better health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The following topics are addressed in this section:

  • Motivational Signs
  • Installing Music
  • Other Ideas to Consider
  • Tracking Stair Usage
  • Project Checklist
man switching from work shoes, to workout shoes to stay healthy

Discount Fitness Club Network

This toolkit provides guidance on identifying and establishing a relationship with a nationwide Discount Fitness Club Network (DFCN) for employees of multi-site organizations. It is based on Healthier Worksite Initiative’s experience with implementing such a service, as a strategy to increase employee access to fitness centers at all CDC locations.

Health Challenge

The Guide to Community Preventive Services recommends increasing access to places to be physically active (combined with informational outreach) as a way to increase the public’s level of physical activity. Increasing access to places to be physically active at work can be accomplished in numerous ways, including making stairways inviting to encourage stair use, opening safe walking and biking trails, and improving community and worksite walkability.

Many worksites provide fitness centers for employees, but not all are able to offer sufficient facilities. In addition, not all employees choose to exercise at work; some prefer a fitness club closer to home.

Toolkit Components

The principles of program development in this toolkit hold true for private sector as well as public employers. The toolkit describes the following project phases:

  • Assessing Need and Interest
  • Promoting Your Project
  • Implementing Your Discount Fitness Club Network
  • Maintaining Interest
  • Evaluating Success
person resting from flu under blankets

Flu and Your Workplace

Flu can be a big disruption for business. Employees who are sick may need to take time off to recover and may not be as productive when it comes to getting work done. In addition, symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and fever can spread germs to healthy employees.

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering a cough and frequent hand washing can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.

Tips for Fighting Flu

Everyday preventive actions that can help prevent flu and the spread of germs in the workplace include:

  1. Cover Your Mouth and Nose

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through the coughing, sneezing, or talking of someone with the flu.

  1. Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Nose, or Mouth

Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. Routinely clean frequently touched objects and surfaces, including doorknobs, keyboards, and phones, to help remove germs.

  1. Clean Your Hands

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Make sure your workplace has an adequate supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes.

  1. Stay Home When Sick

Employees should be encouraged to stay home from work when they are sick to help prevent others from getting ill. If there is only one employee who performs a particular task, consider training others so that coverage is available should that employee need to leave work early or stay home due to illness.

  1. Practice Good Health Habits

Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

Resources and Printable Materials for Promoting Good Health Habits

To help businesses, employers, and their employees learn about strategies for preventing flu, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the following toolkit, flyers, posters, and other materials:

This podcast provides information about recommended strategies to help businesses and employers promote the 2012–2013 seasonal flu vaccine.

Learn what two strategies are recommended to businesses and employers this flu season.

Host a flu vaccine clinic in the workplace and use this flyer–complete with fillable text boxes so you can add the location, date, and time of your flu vaccine clinic.

Encourage employees to get vaccinated at locations in the community. Navigate to the Flu Vaccine Finder website to find locations offering flu vaccine and then update the flyer and post.

Share this flyer with employees to encourage flu vaccination. Consider posting this in the workplace, or copy and place in mailboxes or include in pay statements or newsletters.

Use this flyer with other workplace managers to kick off discussions about flu vaccination planning.

Promote flu vaccination using web technology:

Post on business windows and restroom mirrors.