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SHRM Survey Reveals How the Pandemic Affected Employee Benefits

June 22, 2022

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

The pandemic has had a profound effect on all areas of employment, including benefits. Mental health coverage has emerged as one of the most popular covered benefits in 2022 with 91% of employers now offering coverage according to a recent SHRM Employee Benefits Survey.

According to the survey, employers ranked healthcare as the most important type of benefit that an organization can offer its workers followed by retirement and leave benefits, which ranked jointly at number two. Retirement benefits were at 55% in 2020/21, back up to 82% in 2022.

The pandemic’s impact on the world of work appears to have resulted in lasting changes of the views around specific benefits offerings.

  • Flexible work benefits were at 49% in 2019, 83% during the pandemic when many workers were required to work remotely, and have now settled at 70% in 2022.
  • 65% of employers thought that professional career development benefits were important now compared to 37% in 2020/2021 and 51% prior to the pandemic.
  • Family care benefits were viewed by 70% of employers as being important to offer, down from 76% during the pandemic when they became increasingly important, but up from 52% prior to the pandemic.

“Employer-offered benefits provide organizations with a key opportunity to improve the employee experience and directly make a difference in their employees’ lives,” said SHRM Chief Knowledge Officer Alex Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP. “The COVID-19 pandemic and its lasting impacts on economic and public health have expedited the evolving nature of organizations, many of which now have access to wider talent pools through the possibility of remote work. Workers now have more options for where and when they will work, and these two factors together create a challenging talent landscape for organizations everywhere. These benefits can play an instrumental role in this competition for talent and, in some cases, may determine success or failure.”

Additional highlights from SHRM’s 2022 Employee Benefits Report include:

Healthcare benefits:

  • 93% of organizations indicated that they offer telemedicine or telehealth as a benefit to their workers, up 20 percentage points since 2019.
  • 1 in 5 employers offer mental health days above and beyond regular sick leave.
  • Nearly all organizations (98%) offer some type of health coverage, with three-quarters (72%) of organizations saying they offer a fully insured health plan and 26% saying they offer a self-insured plan.
  • Medical flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) continued to be the most popular type of health-related spending accounts, with 63% and 57% of employers offering them, respectively.
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of organizations that offer an HSA said they make employer contributions to these plans, which is the lowest prevalence since 2018, when 64% said they offered this benefit.

Retirement and savings:

  • 82% selected retirement and savings as an important benefit. Up 27% from 2020/21,employers ranked retirement and savings benefits as among the most important types of benefits they can offer employees. Employers still strongly believe in the importance of retirement and savings benefits.
  • In 2022, most employers offered some type of retirement savings plan to their employees, with 94% offering a traditional 401(k) and 68% offering a Roth 401(k).
  • Many of those employers also provided some type of employer match to those retirement plans, with 83% contributing to traditional 401(k) plans and 76 percent contributing to Roth 401(k) plans.
  • On average, employers provided a maximum percentage salary match of 6.8% for traditional 401(k) plans and 6.7% for Roth 401(k) plans.
  • Just over half (51%) of organizations said they automatically enroll new or existing employees in their company’s retirement plan—a figure that has held steady since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leave:

  • 82% selected leave benefits as very important.
  • Leave benefits remained among the top-ranked benefits that employers felt an organization should offer, even after the initial adjustment to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Despite ranking highly, leave for new parents (beyond what is required by law) returned to pre-pandemic levels of prevalence after all the different types of leave reached their highest prevalence in 2020. Organizations offering paid maternity leave dropped to 35% (from 53% in 2020) and the number offering paid paternity leave dropped to 27% (from 44%).
  • The number of organizations offering paid adoption leave dropped to 28% (from 36%) and the number offering paid foster child leave dropped to 22% (from 28%). Employers seem to be dialing back on expanded parental leave opportunities since returning back to more normal operations.

Other types of leave:

  • Nearly all employers offered paid vacation leave (99%) or paid sick leave (96%), with two-thirds (67%) indicating they offered a bank of paid time off (PTO) covering both vacation and sick time.
  • Paid open or unlimited leave continued to be rarely offered, with only (6%) indicating they offered this benefit.
  • In addition, (20%) of organizations said they offered paid mental health days separate from regular sick leave.

Family care:

  • Over half of organizations (59%) said they offer a dependent care flexible spending account, which allows employees to save funds directly for expenses related to caregiving.
  • Additionally, 31% of organizations said they would allow employees to bring children to work in an emergency as a benefit.

Flexibility:

  • 63% of employers said they offer most of their workers the opportunity to adopt a hybrid work model, which involves a combination of working both remotely and in person.
  • Across all organizations, 62% said they offer employees a subsidy or reimbursement for at-home office or work equipment. On average, these employers provided about $891 to employees to cover costs related to working from home.
  • Over two-thirds (68%) of employers offering a subsidy or reimbursement said they cover costs related to general office supplies like pens or notepads, and 24% said they cover the cost of chairs for employees working from home.

Professional development:

  • 78% of employers cover opportunities to develop new skills, up from 75% in 2021.
  • The number of employers who felt professional development benefits were important to offer grew to 65% in 2022. 48% of employers indicated they offer undergraduate or graduate tuition assistance as a benefit.

View the complete survey results here.

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