COVID-19 has disrupted our world in ways we never would have imagined six months ago. Open enrollment is just one of those ways. Typically, only about half of employees actively enroll in their benefits from one year to the next, according to Alight. That is most likely to change this year with the heightened awareness around health and well-being.
Employees are now paying closer attention to their workplace benefits during these uncertain times. Recent Voya research finds that nearly 7-in-10 employees (71%) plan to spend more time reviewing their voluntary benefits as a result of COVID-19 than they did during the last enrollment period. And more than half (53%) plan to make changes to their benefits coverages offered through their employer.
Benefit brokers need to be there for HR – now more than ever. There’s no question that HR has their plate full. On top of the usual responsibilities that already fill up their day, HR is now dealing with pandemic ramifications such as layoffs, furloughs, working from home challenges, supporting families as employees’ children go back to school, and more. For those companies who have employees back in the office, they are dealing with how to keep the workplace as safe as possible with everything from workspace distancing, facemasks and PPE, to temperature checks upon arrival, hand sanitizing and wiping down workstations.
In the past decade, brokers’ roles have evolved from straight sales to focusing on helping employers achieve their HR objectives. Brokers have become consultants as well, providing guidance on benefits trends including a more holistic approach to the employee benefits package and ensuring clients stay compliant with ever-changing regulations.
This open enrollment season, HR needs the guidance and expertise of benefit brokers, as well as their time. A recent Eastbridge survey on top COVID-19 concerns for voluntary benefits showed that 33% of brokers already are seeing their time diverted to answering coverage questions on existing business. A LIMRA survey in May revealed that one-fourth of employers said the coronavirus outbreak has made them more interested in making changes to their insurance benefit programs in the next 18 months.
When employers are reviewing voluntary benefit options during this ‘pandemic’ open enrollment season with their benefit brokers, there undoubtedly will be a focus on ones that address employees’ financial well-being. Purchasing Power’s employee purchase program is a voluntary benefit that can help employees with financial challenges.