Striking the Right Balance Between Compliance and State-of-the-Art Benefits

An HR benefits management portal on a computer screen

To find the right balance between traditional and voluntary benefits offerings, you'll need to understand the requirements of your workplace profile, benefits profile and administrative practices.

Employers must continue to focus on providing both traditional employee benefits and state-of-the-art, voluntary offerings to support employee retention. These may include health and wellness programs, financial wellness programs, remote work options and commuter benefits.

Here's how to strike the right balance between both types of employee benefits while and continuing to meet your compliance obligations.

Shift Benefits Back from Burden to Asset

Voluntary benefits have become increasingly popular in bids to attract and retain talent. Some employees believe that employees are more likely to stay with their current employer because of the voluntary benefits packages they offer. As a result, we're seeing a shift in thinking around benefits, which should be viewed as organizational assets, not burdens. When employers' offerings meet their employees' needs, both parties stand to benefit, and the organization can enjoy a significant competitive advantage.

Organizations are now trying to map the benefits they offer not only to their current culture, but also to the new culture they are trying to create. Modern benefits offerings can involve, for instance, personalized benefits for a multi-generational workforce, a centralized buying experience, and both discretionary and nondiscretionary benefits.

Employers are also zeroing in on voluntary benefits. Traditional voluntary benefits generally came in the form of insurance coverage offered to employees on a voluntary basis, with employees paying the whole premium. The most familiar examples are supplemental benefits, such as short-term disability or life insurance programs.

Today, voluntary plans consist of non-insurance products as well. Using big data and analytics, businesses can easily target and personalize preferences and benefits based on criteria that go beyond demographics such as age, gender and income level. Modern considerations now include lifestyle, housing patterns and more.

Accordingly, financial wellness products and services that center on education, counseling and loans are among the voluntary benefits trends gaining prominence. Health and wellness programs also continue to rank highly, as they not only help maintain an employee's heath but also foster employee engagement.

Furthermore, employers are making it easier to enroll by providing access to voluntary programs through mobile apps in addition to standard digital benefit portals and enrollment platforms.

Best Practices for Offering Voluntary Benefits

The process of offering voluntary benefits can often fall through the cracks, particularly during open enrollment. Employers have many choices, so it's important to take a thoughtful and strategic approach and offer a balanced program. It's best to select voluntary products that provide actual value to your employees and ones that are well-tailored to their needs. Taking the time to do so can lead to higher program participation and ultimately support greater employee satisfaction.

Provide your employees with easy access to your voluntary benefits offerings by integrating them with your traditional core offerings. You should allow for personal preferences and customization options, provide decision support tools and, most importantly, communicate with your employees and educate them about your organization's voluntary benefits processes and systems.

Maintaining Compliance

Maintaining compliance and staying aware of compliance obligations are integral steps in providing the right balance of benefit offerings.

Regularly review plan document terms to ensure they reflect current practices, especially those concerning eligibility provisions. For example, review your eligibility rules against various other plan rules, including Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements and your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plan term.

Another example of compliance considerations includes understanding the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that affect wellness plans including whether a wellness plan is consider to be "voluntary" and have no adverse employment action for nonparticipation.

Finding a Balance

To find the right balance between traditional and voluntary benefits offerings, you'll need to understand the requirements of your workplace profile, benefits profile and administrative practices.

A workforce profile should include your employees' demographics and locations as well as their attitudes and preferences. It may also include your workforce management strategy, corporate strategy and other industry considerations. A benefits profile should include your benefits strategy, goals and objectives. It should at least detail your philosophy around work, family and flex time, as well as your leave of absence policies. This can help determine whether you're offering all that's required by law and if you're offering more than what's mandated.

You'll also have to consider your administrative practices. Ascertain how your policies and prohibitions relate to hours, timekeeping, pay and how leave management is recorded and administered. Be sure to consider benefits enrollment functionality for open enrollment, new hires, qualifying life events and newly eligible employees. This will help ensure you're providing a culture of transparency that is appropriate for your business, for instance, by finding the right medium to deliver self-service tools that keep your employees empowered and engaged.

Employees are expecting more from their benefits than ever before. To remain competitive, companies can strategically leverage employee benefits as a recruitment and retention tool.

Learn more

For insights and best practices on benefits trends and compliance, listen to our on-demand webcast: Your Benefits Administration During Trying Times.