Mercer: Workers will continue to inform benefits offers through 2023
COVID-19 and access to reproductive health were ubiquitous topics on social media, in Slack channels and in meeting rooms over the past year.
These hot health topics have shaped employers’ benefits strategies throughout 2022, experts said during a Dec. 8 Mercer webinar. Looking ahead to 2023, worker-informed benefits will continue to prevail, they said.
In a third quarter survey of the benefits landscape, employers told Mercer that COVID-19 has affected business operations: 34% said their organization has experienced COVID-related absences, due to acute illness, isolation or quarantine. Mercer polled respondents representing 701 organizations – with about half of respondents working in medium-sized companies (500 to 4,999 employees) and a fifth working in large companies (5,000 to 19,999 employees).
Long COVID was also a theme throughout the study. Mercer researchers noted a Scottish study suggesting that 6% of people not recovering from COVID after 6 to 18 months, and 42% have only partially recovered. In the Mercer survey, 12% of respondents reported long COVID-related productivity losses and 14% reported long COVID-related time off.
Looking at the data, it’s hard to tell exactly how companies have handled these COVID-19 trends. Employers grant time off and offer accommodations. At the time of the survey, however, 51% of respondents said their company did not require employees to be vaccinated to work on-site. Another 15% said they had previously required employees to be vaccinated, but abandoned their mandate.
Employers can prepare for the projected “winter surge” of COVID-19 by offering additional coronavirus-specific PTO, the study authors said. The report demonstrated a precedent for this, with more than half of employers offering some form of COVID-19 leave.
Reproductive Health Trends
The need for working parents for greater support has been around for a long time, with mothers “in particular, sounding the alarm,” according to two senior Mercer Total Health Management associates, Brittany Bono and Corina Leu.
“However, parental support benefits were seen more as a benefit provided by peak employers prior to 2020, and the support was heavily focused on the childcare space,” Bono and Leu told HR Dive by e -mail. “When the COVID-19 pandemic made the issue of childcare impossible to ignore by ‘pushing’ nearly four million women out of the workforce, it seemed to create an avenue for employers to focus on the needs broader family settings, as well as to include areas like parenting coaching and caregiver support for parents and people caring for aging loved ones.
The Big Resignation has subsequently put more pressure on employers to attract and retain talent, and family benefits have become one of those benefits, Mercer experts added – acknowledging the importance of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision to restart the conversation about health care benefits.
Throughout the summer of 2022, HR leaders have seen an influx of Fortune 500 companies proudly announcing their support for employees traveling out of state for abortions. As this news caught fire, questions about how companies could fund out-of-state medical travel — for abortions but also for other procedures, such as gender-affirming surgeries — arose. .
And despite the buzz this summer, data from Mercer suggests that about half of employers won’t offer medical travel services. Meanwhile, more than half specifically said they did not offer abortion travel services. (This latest statistic also includes companies that have no employees in abortion-restricted states.)
Companies that cover abortion travel, in particular, generally do so without restrictions. About a third only cover therapeutic or medically necessary abortions.
These benefits appear to have arisen largely in response to the Dobbs Decision: 36% said they introduced or expanded travel benefits in response to employee expectations and requests, and 46% said they did so to “remain an employer of choice.” Companies and HR teams looking to attract and retain talent can continue to keep in mind the benefits that keep them as an employer of choice.