The year 2020 has brought about a seemingly endless string of challenges for businesses. With COVID-19 as the catalyst, businesses have completely overhauled the way they operate in all departments.
It can be argued that HR has experienced the most challenges during this time. From onboarding, to employee training, to compliance, adjusting to a remote world has seemed to take the “human” from Human Resources.
As time marches on and things return to (a new) normal, a new set of challenges is expected to arise: benefits selection and open enrollment. Here are some of the major challenges organizations are likely to face, and what HR professionals can do to navigate this uncharted territory successfully.
The Challenge: Employers need to find new and effective means of communication surrounding open enrollment, as many organizations have made a long-term or permanent shift to remote work. Traditional tactics like in-person meetings and physical paperwork/educational material will not work in the given situation.
The Solution: Utilize a multi-channel communication approach centered around technology. The right benefits administration platform will provide everything your employees need: access to educational resources, decision-support tools, and mobile notifications. Pair this tool with frequent check-ins via email, phone, and videoconferencing for best results.
The Challenge: Depending on your organization’s individual experience with COVID-19, there may be some major changes made to your plans. In the wake of COVID, there are likely to be more employment status changes and dependent care changes, whether stemming from your employees or new legislation passed by the government.
The Solution: Take time to carefully review all changes to your employees’ statuses as well as requirements from the CARES act or other applicable legislation. Update your SPDs and forms within an automated system to ensure that all changes are carried over to all employees, and that copies of necessary information are distributed to all employees automatically.
- Layoffs, Furloughs, and Reduced Hours
The Challenge: The COVID-19 pandemic caused a spike of layoffs, furloughs, and reduced hours that leaves a lot of questions around eligibility. Some plans define eligibility differently than others, and there are a lot of differences for cases of lay-offs, termination, furloughing, and reduction of hours. There are also numerous nuances surrounding different leave of absence circumstances that may have arisen if an employee was sick or caring for a sick family member.
The Solution: Review your plans’ eligibility definitions for all the different circumstances described above. Make sure you reach out to current and former employees to disclose their eligibility for current benefits, COBRA, and any other applicable programs. Keep in mind for the future that if another situation like COVID were to arise, it’s best to consult your plan before reducing your workforce to ensure you’re leaving employees in the best possible situation in terms of continued coverage.
- HIPAA and Privacy Issues
The Challenge: During benefit selection, employers will likely want to keep employees updated on how the COVID-19 situation is directly impacting their workplace. After all, increased health risks could change the benefits selected. However, regulations like HIPAA prevent employers from disclosing such information.
The Solution: To make sure you are not unintentionally violating any privacy laws, consult your HIPAA advisor. During the benefits selection process, urge your employees to create a list of health concerns and priorities, and help them select benefits that align with those items.
- Changing Employee Needs
The Challenge: It’s likely that most of your employees’ benefits needs are drastically different now than they were last enrollment period. Many events in 2020 have completely reshaped employees’ needs, making them almost impossible to predict for the following year. Creating benefits plan options in this situation is extremely challenging.
The Solution: As cliché as it sounds, we’re all in this together. It’s perfectly acceptable for employers to admit that they are navigating uncharted territory -- everyone is. The best way to achieve positive outcomes in this situation is to keep an open mind, have honest conversations with employees, and genuinely respond to their needs.
If your organization needs assistance creating an action plan to overcome these challenges, the experts at Clarity Benefit Solutions are here to help. Contact us today to get started with implementing the tools and processes you need for success.
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