Top 10 Employee Benefits for 2019—from Telehealth to Paid Paternity Leave

healthcare professional pointing a laptop towards her patient

In today’s economic and social climate, many employers are beginning to modify and adopt new benefit offerings in order to attract top-level talent. Benefits packages are one of the most important employment factors for employees. A recent study by Glassdoor found that 57 percent of people said benefits and perks are among the top considerations before accepting a job.

When employers offer creative benefits, it shows current employees and candidates that the company invests in their overall health and future. Benefits are a perfect solution for competitive differentiation. Potential employees are looking for the right company that can invest in their future, and benefits are at the top of every employee and candidate’s mind. In fact, a 2017 study by MetLife showed that 72 percent of employees agree that the ability to customize benefits improves employer loyalty. This study shows that more and more companies are looking to their HR specialists and benefits packages to attract top talent.

What are the top benefits in 2019? What new benefits trends are shaping the employer landscape? Here are 10 of the best employee benefits to consider in 2019:

Top 10 Employee Benefits for 2019

  1. Work Schedule Flexibility
  2. Increasing Telehealth Options
  3. Focus on Preventative Healthcare
  4. Personalized Healthcare
  5. Account-Based Health Plans
  6. Paid Paternity Leave
  7. Behavioral Health Services
  8. Fertility Treatments and Genetic Testing
  9. Student Loan Assistance
  10. Improved 401(k)

Work Schedule Flexibility

Employees of all ages and cultural backgrounds have varying needs as it relates to workplace schedule flexibility. Say goodbye to the 9 to 5 days of yore—flexibility is becoming more prominent than ever before. For example, younger millennials may want to leave work earlier to catch a spin class, attend a group activity, or take career-building courses. A generation X or older millennial may need to come into the office later in order to drop off children at daycare. Varying work schedules are becoming more common practice. Flexibility is a huge benefit that some say is even more productive than having a strict time schedule. Some companies are even taking this a step further and are implementing the four-day work week.

Increasing Telehealth Options

Telehealth is the use of digital communication and information such as computers and mobile devices to access healthcare services to remotely manage healthcare. In a recent study, over half of the respondents stated that providing more virtual-care solutions is their top goal for 2019. In addition, 43 percent of employers feel that artificial intelligence will help mitigate rising healthcare costs.

Focus on Preventative Healthcare

One of the latest benefit trends for 2019 is incorporating more personalized care for employees. According to SHRM, a recent study of large employers showed that 75 percent believe managing high-cost healthcare claimants is very important to their 2019 benefits initiatives. For example, employers are seeking new ways to avoid the higher cost to cover “at risk” employee health insurance claims by offering incentives and encouraging preventative healthcare maintenance. By detecting health issues early through preventative maintenance, both employees and employers are able to save on the cost of higher insurance.

Personalized Healthcare

We live in an age of immediate information, from Google to wearable technology and mobile devices, we have access to information on any device from anywhere in the world. For example, fitness trackers or mobile apps have made it possible to track its user’s health and personalize a healthcare plan that is either made solely by the technology user or in collaboration with their doctor. This helps with preventative maintenance and encourages the use of technologies in the workplace, which can help lower the cost of “at risk” employee health claims over time. Employers offering or encouraging the use of such technologies like FitBit, the Apple Watch, or a Garmin, will be a common workplace health practice in 2019.

Account-Based Health Plans

One major buzz surrounding healthcare is Account-Based Health Plans. Large employers are soon expected to offer Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA). An HRA would allow employees to purchase health coverage individually instead of receiving employer-sponsored group coverage. Currently, legislators are reviewing expanded opportunities for employees to contribute to Health Savings Accounts (HSA).

Paid Paternity Leave

The pressures of social expectations, state and local laws, and the battle for talent is leading to the implementation or enhancement of paid-paternity-leave programs, and is considering paid caregiver leave for family-related absences. With employment rates dropping to all-time lows, employees can expect more and more employers offering equal paid time off for both maternity and paternity leave in 2019. A 2018 study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) showed that 28 percent of employers offered paid paternity leave in 2018. That figure has increased by 20 percent since 2016.

Behavioral Health Services

Increasing access to Behavioral Health Services like cognitive therapy is expected to join the forefront of benefits in 2019. Telehealth will play a big role in Behavioral Health Services. Health coverage carriers will now be able to use advanced technology to interact with healthcare physicians related to behavioral health.

Fertility Treatments and Genetic Testing

Many companies, and specifically in the technology industry, are beginning to incorporate fertility treatments and genetic testing into their medical benefit offerings. Many employees today are looking for the very best in medical benefit coverage; especially with increasing demand on productivity and working hours for salaried employees in the technology sector. With the advances in reproductive sciences, many employees value this added medical coverage benefit and see this as the employer’s expansion in benefits to attract top-level talent and care for their employee well-being.

Student Loan Assistance

Many employers value the investment in their employees, and what better way to show this than offering benefits to help cover student loan payments through tuition reimbursements? Advancing knowledge through coursework, certifications, and training can be an effective tool to boost workplace productivity. A more knowledgeable staff is a more effective and productive staff. However, there are constraints with the new tax laws in place. The IRS says that any tuition reimbursement beyond $5,250 in any given year must be paid in tax by the employee.

Improved 401(k)

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) stated that in 2019, the 401(k) maximum employee elective deferral contribution limit will increase to $19,000 per year. This is a $500 increase from 2018. This adjustment was announced late in 2018, and as a result, HR and payroll managers should plan to adjust their systems for the new year and inform employees about the new limits in year-end open enrollment materials. Because of this, many plan sponsors may need to provide addendums to benefits materials that have already been printed.

Best Employee Benefits FAQ

Which Employee Benefits are Required by Law

Among all employer-related benefits, the most important ones that are bound by law are Social Security, Medicare, Federal Insurance Contributions Acts (FICA), Unemployment Insurance, Workers Compensation Insurance, Health Insurance, and Family and Medical Leave. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is a great resource for additional information on this subject and beyond.

Which Benefits are most Important to Employees?

The 2013 National Compensation Study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the top five most common benefits included Unpaid Family Leave, Vacation Pay, Holiday Pay, Health and Medical Care, and Prescription Drugs. In 2004, the United States Office of Personnel Management found that the top 10 benefits employees value the most include Employee Health Benefits, Retirement Annuities, Thrift Savings Plan, Retiree Health Benefits, Life Insurance, Long Term Care Insurance, Flexible Spending Accounts, Tele-Work/Telecommuting, Childcare Subsidy, and Health and Wellness Programs. Benefits and employee coverage has changed over the years and will continue to change.

What are Legally Required Fringe Benefits?

Fringe benefits are comprised of additional compensation provided to employees that is above and beyond an agreed-upon wage or salary. Fringe benefits are largely influenced by the government primarily through the tax code. They commonly include health insurance, group-term life insurance coverage, educational assistance, child care and assistance reimbursement, cafeteria plans, employee discounts, employee stock options, and personal use of a company-owned vehicle among others. Fringe benefits required by law include health insurance, life insurance, pension, vacation, holidays, and sick leave.

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