Depending on the company, employee benefits can comprise as much as 30 percent (if not more) of your total compensation. With healthcare costs on the rise, along with the amount of money needed for a comfortable retirement, you simply can’t afford to overlook this crucial component when switching jobs or negotiating a raise.
With all that in mind, here are the top trends that will shape your 2019 employee benefits package—and some ways to come out ahead.
Employees’ Share of Health Costs Rises Again
The aggregate cost of medical procedures has risen 6 percent nationally, and as much as 12 percent in high-cost states such as California. As a result, many employers are trying to shift additional healthcare and insurance costs onto employees, explained Christine Petrocelli, founder and CEO of Progressive Benefit Group.
However, you might be able to reduce the healthcare-related hits to your paycheck. If you work for a company that offers a robust wellness program, for example, you can knock a percentage off your premiums by submitting to an annual physical exam, or even wearing a health tracker of some sort (such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit).
Some progressive companies are allocating up to two percent of their annual benefit-spend toward wellness programs that offer premium discounts or incentive payments to health savings accounts (HSAs). In exchange, employees might have to do anything from submit to biometric screenings to joining a walking program or health coaching.
Some employers are also extending alternative coverage designed to offset the rising cost of health insurance; nearly 81 percent of employers now offer high-deductible health insurance plans, which have lower premiums but sky-high deductibles. In addition, some 96 percent of large employers will offer telemedicine next year, which lets busy employees consult with health providers 24/7 via text, video and phone calls for free (or at least a lower copay than in-person doctor visits).
“Be sure to dig into the formulary details, deductibles and co-pays when weighing an offer, especially if you have obtained an exception, because failing to do so could potentially cost you thousands of dollars,” Petrocelli said.
(If you are covered by a spouse’s plan, you can ask for a higher salary in lieu of health insurance, suggested Erik Hansen, president of Vita Companies. With the annual cost of family health coverage rising to nearly $20,000 per year, most employers are more than willing to share some of their savings with a current employee.)
Benefits Programs Go Beyond Health
Seeking to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace, some tech firms are offering everything from genetic testing to fertility treatments. By covering IVF and similar procedures, companies position themselves as “family friendly.” Given how tech pros value work-life balance more than ever, that can prove a crucial means of employee retention.
That’s in addition to programs such as financial counseling. “More employers are also investing in total well-being programs that address areas such as financial and emotional well-being, stress reduction and mental health,” Petrocelli added.
Employers are increasingly moving toward consumer-directed benefits (CDBs). CDBs fit today’s multi-generational workforce by giving employees the ability to tailor a benefit plan to meet their specific needs, lifestyle and budget.
For example, an increasing number of employers are adding student-loan repayment assistance and financial counseling as a way to help recent grads tackle climbing student debt.
Companies are also beefing up their voluntary benefit options in the coming year. If your employer follows suit, you may be able to purchase discounted pet insurance, legal services, financial counseling, or identify theft and accident coverage. Finally, many tech companies are offering backup or emergency childcare (or elder care) to meet the needs of a diverse workforce.
“The idea behind CDBs is to give employees a choice, more control over their benefit dollars, and more decision making tools,” Petrocelli said.
Unlimited PTO is Being Phased Out
Having unlimited vacation may sound like a fabulous perk, but reality hasn’t matched the hype. Early adopters have found that tech pros are actually taking less time off due to heavy workloads and peer pressure (a practice known as vacation shaming). And without accruals, employers don’t have to pay out unused vacation time to departing employees, depriving them of a nice payout.
The latest trend is that companies are replacing unlimited PTO with increased time off for specific reasons such bereavement, maternity and paternity leave, adoption or illness. “Be sure to ask about the approval process and what you can expect from your team to see if a prospective employer’s unlimited vacation policy sounds better than it actually is,” Hansen warned.