As companies make their employee benefit decisions for the new year, HR leaders and benefit brokers alike are focused on the new realities of the ongoing pandemic and its effect on the workplace. Purchasing Power®, a voluntary benefit company that offers a leading employee purchase program, recently conducted an informal survey1 of HR professionals to assess the impact that both COVID-19 and financial stress is having in their workforces. A second survey2 sought to identify the recommendations benefit brokers will be making to their clients to address these concerns.  

The surveys revealed that 21.7% of HR professionals plan to add new financial wellness benefits to their employee benefits package, while 67.9% of benefit brokers expect more interest from clients in providing those voluntary benefits. 

“Our surveys shed light on the challenges that HR leaders are hoping to help their employees overcome, and the opportunity that the benefits industry has to educate companies on ways they can help,” said Mike Wilbert, Chief Revenue Officer of Purchasing Power. “We learned from firsthand feedback the true value that voluntary benefits bring to the overall employee benefits package.”

The top 5 key takeaways from HR and benefit broker leaders include the following:

  •  Employees are dealing with out-of-work spouses/partners. Among the many financial challenges employees are facing, 81% of those who shared their circumstances with their HR department said money is tighter than ever because a spouse or partner has been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic.
  •  Key indicators to HR that their employees are struggling with finances more now than prior to COVID-19 are 401(k) withdrawals and requests for financial assistance from their employers. The survey revealed that 55.9% of HR professionals surveyed report seeing an increase in 401(k) withdrawals, while 36% had requests from employees for financial assistance from the company.
  •  Higher levels of employee stress (86%), reduced productivity (65%) and decreased morale (60.6%) are the three biggest ways financial stress affects a company. Other notables on the list are more absenteeism (47.7%) and increased healthcare claims (41.3%).
  • Voluntary benefits can address the specific needs employees have as they continue to struggle with and overcome pandemic challenges. Over 85% of benefit brokers surveyed said they are very likely to recommend additional voluntary benefits to their clients for their employee benefit packages in 2021.
  • Critical illness insurance (81.1%), accident insurance (75.5%), employee purchase programs (59.4%) and identity theft protection (57.1%) are at the top of the list for benefit brokers planning to recommend more voluntary benefits. 

“Financial recovery from the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 is going to take time for companies as well as for their employees, who are struggling to meet the twin demands of their work and home lives,” added Wilbert. “Employers have a significant opportunity to show they care through a well-rounded benefit package that offers peace of mind by decreasing financial stress.”

1  Purchasing Power online survey of 86 HR professionals (49 clients and 37 non-clients), September 2020.
2  Purchasing Power online survey of 93 benefit brokers (60 brokers who sell Purchasing Power and 33 who don’t sell 
   Purchasing Power), September 2020.