Two trends emerge for employee benefits

Flexible leave and mental health care are “the flashing lights.”

  • By Max Marbut
  • | 5:10 a.m. June 18, 2021
  • | 5 Free Articles Remaining!
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The foundation of the traditional employee benefits concept is for an employer to, in addition to pay for services, offer programs and products that contribute to employees’ and their families’ wellness and financial security.

Changes are taking place in health insurance and retirement savings plans, the most basic elements of any employee benefits package, said Josh Jolley, area vice president and employee benefits account director at Harden.

Josh Jolley, area vice president and employee benefits account director at Harden.
Josh Jolley, area vice president and employee benefits account director at Harden.

Established in 1953 in Jacksonville by M.C. Harden Jr., and now led by board Chair and CEO M.C. “Ceree” Harden III, the firm specializes in commercial insurance, employee benefits, financial services and personal insurance. 

In 2020 Harden merged with Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., an international insurance brokerage and risk management services firm.

Jolley sees two main trends developing in employee benefits. 

“Flexible leave and mental health are the flashing lights,” he said.

Employees want flexible work options, such as being able to work part- or full-time at home. That option can be particularly important if an employee has to care for a parent or grown child.

Jolley said while disability insurance coverage and personal time have been in place for employees for years, neither is designed to help employees who are caregivers.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act protects employees’ job security if they have to take medical leave, but that does not mean employees are paid for the time away from their job.

“Caregiver leave is a new product. Either the employee pays or the employer co-pays (for the coverage),” Jolley said.

On the subject of mental health, Jolley said that over the years, laws have been passed to require insurance companies to cover mental health care much as they do medical care.

“It’s not uncommon for insurance to cover mental health and substance abuse in-patient care. We see a steady increase in services, but there is still a way to go, ” Jolley said.

Some insurance plans will cover limited in-person counseling or unlimited telephone contact with a counselor. 

Some companies are providing apps for employees who would like to experience guided meditations on a mobile device, Jolley said.

“Like exercise is good for your body, meditation is good for your mind.”

In terms of financial benefits, Jolley sees a trend toward employers automatically enrolling new employees in the company retirement plan, at least to the investment point the employee qualifies for the employer’s matching contribution.

Another trend is for employers to invite financial institutions into the workplace to offer financial education for employees on topics from balancing their checkbooks to managing their monthly household budgets.

“Saving and investing is seen as part of the wellness program. If someone is worried about their car payment, that’s on their mind when they’re at work,” Jolley said.

“The idea is that people bring their whole selves to work, so you want to address all the issues that affect employees in the workplace.”



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