Covid-19 is changing employee benefits and retention strategies

Employee benefits and perks have always had a dual mandate of sorts- a benefit for the employee, and as a part of a larger strategy of employee retention for the company. Many benefits come with tax breaks or incentives as well, an added win for the company should they offer the perk. Enter the Covid-19 pandemic, business shutdowns, lockdowns, school closures, Zoom, etc., and the past year and a half was a whirlwind not just for employers, but for employees. How did all this pandemic mess impact employee benefits and perks?

Besides the growing calls from employees at all levels for greater flexibility in how and when to return to indoor office environments, the shift has been towards employee wellness. Many companies are now asking themselves- How can we support our employees’ well-being during this crisis? A recent study by SHRM showed that 42% of employers had improved support for employee health and well-being over the past six months, with mental health options topping the list. A new report published by LexisNexis® Risk Solutions Health Care, the 2021 COVID-19 Mental Health Impact Report, verifies that mental health telehealth visits increased during the pandemic. What is surprising is the dramatic spike of 6,500% in one year. Companies have been adding telehealth services to their group health plans both as a cost-savings measure and to improve employee wellness.

With so many employers offering remote or hybrid work-from-home opportunities, many are splurging on home office upgrade reimbursements for their employees. Everything from new stand-up desks, laptops, and comfortable chairs to faster internet service. Anything that will help employees maintain their productivity from home and benefit the company as a result.

Companies forced to have their employees work remotely coupled with the closure of schools in response to the pandemic forced the government’s hands in passing legislation to accommodate this new environment. Federal leave policies were expanded to smaller companies and covered employees who had to care for a child or close family member battling the Coronavirus. Many firms are now carrying over this additional paid time off policies from the pandemic to the new normal- whatever that may be. They are finding that offering greater flexibility to their employees to deal with these personal matters is endearing the employee to the company and improving their retention rates.

In an unpredictable world, companies are leveraging their employee benefit dollars to contribute to employee wellness and mental health, make them productive wherever they may have to work, and give them the flexibility and time off required to deal with the myriad of challenges brought on by this pandemic.

MiapayrollcenterCovid-19 is changing employee benefits and retention strategies
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How To Create A COVID-19 Vaccination Policy For Your Employees

All employers have a legal and moral responsibility for the health and safety of their employees; therefore, your businesses should develop a written COVID-19 return-to-work strategy.
7 Questions To Consider When Developing An Employee COVID-19 Vaccination Policy:
  1. Can (or should) we require our employees to get vaccinated?
  2. How will we communicate to our employees about the reason for a COVID-19 vaccine?
  3. How will we encourage our employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
  4. Should we incorporate a vaccine policy in our employee handbook?
  5. Should we provide an incentive for our employees to get vaccinated?
  6. What will be our workplace vaccination policy?
  7. Did we provide a copy of our DRAFT COVID-19 vaccination policy to an HR attorney for review (before a final policy is implemented)?
Two Websites To Visit BEFORE Developing Your Employee Vaccination Policy:
We listed two websites below to help you (or someone from your staff) gather additional information BEFORE your organization creates a COVID-19 vaccination policy:
IMPORTANT: Employee Vaccination Exceptions:
For the most part, it is permitted to mandate all employees get a flu vaccine. Nonetheless, there are several exceptions.
  • Exception #1: Employees may have a religious objection to vaccines.
  • Exception #2: Americans Disabilities Act, a qualifying disability (like those listed by the CDC) which puts someone at an increased risk of a possible side effect(s).
What If An Employee Refuses To Get Vaccinated?
As per the EEOC, a COVID-19 vaccination would not be treated as a medical examination; therefore, it can be required as a condition of entering the workplace.
  • If an employee seeks an exception due to disability, under ADA employers are required to seek reasonable accommodation (such as remote work). If an employer cannot accommodate an employee, an employer may exclude the employee from the workplace if it can be proven that this employee is a “direct threat.”
  • If an employee seeks an exception due to religious belief/practice, Title VII legislation requires that employers look to offer reasonable accommodation, although in this case only if doing so won’t cause ‘undue hardship’. If this isn’t possible, an employee may be excluded from the workplace. NOTE: Excluded from the workplace doesn’t necessarily mean their employment can be terminated.
Important Note: Creating Your COVID-19 Vaccination Policy.
The decision about whether to implement a COVID-19 vaccination policy will generate controversy and consequences. However, your organization needs to decide if having unvaccinated employees constitutes a health risk for customers/clients and/or other employees.
To help you increase the number of vaccinated employees at your business, you might want to consider the following tips:
  1. Host an on-site vaccination drive.
  2. Provide an incentive to get vaccinated.
  3. Advise all unvaccinated employees that they must wear a mask while working (or be discharged).
Executive Summary: When creating a vaccination policy, employers should take into account its local/state laws, and bear in mind that their right to mandate vaccines may be altered when dealing with unionized employees.
MiapayrollcenterHow To Create A COVID-19 Vaccination Policy For Your Employees
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