Important healthcare benefits for workers in a post-COVID world
The COVID-19 pandemic caused many employers to rethink their workers’ healthcare benefits and expand them to more adequately address the ongoing crisis. Here are some of the most practical and desirable benefits for today’s workers.
COVID-19 Tests and Access to Confirm Cases Quickly
Concentrated efforts from numerous parties aim to make it as easy as possible for anyone to get COVID-19 tests. Communities with elevated cases may feature temporary testing centers to curb the spread of the virus. There are also walk-in centers for people to get tested without symptoms.
However, if people need to pay for tests or lack transportation to get to a testing center, some individuals — especially those without severe symptoms — may decide against it. If they make that choice and also come to work, they could quickly spread the virus.
That’s why some companies provide tests or transport to testing centers for their employees. Private equity firm Advent International sent home-testing kits to its U.K. employees every two weeks.
Other companies offer routine on-site testing for workers. When people can get screened for COVID-19 without traveling away from the workplace, they may be more willing to do it. That also makes it easier for workplaces to manage outbreaks.
The Pandemic Highlighted the Need for More Mental Health Benefits
A recent survey found that 90% of workers experienced more stress during COVID-19. Moreover, 30% said the pandemic elevated their need for mental health help.
One-third of those polled said they did not have access to such benefits through their employers. Plus, some people with mental health coverage through workplaces did not know how to access it, were unaware their plans included it or were unsure of the provided services.
As employers look for practical ways to manage the costs of insuring their workforces, some of them decide against the traditional practice of relying on a carrier. The alternative of self-insurance often saves companies money because employers pay claims directly.
Regardless of whether an employer opts for self-insurance or premiums from external carriers, they’ll be most likely to get their money’s worth by keeping workers informed about precisely what the coverage includes and how they can avail of its features as desired. That’s crucial at any time, but arguably especially so during a global pandemic.
On-Site Vaccination Centers Could Raise Employee Interest
Vaccine rollouts are happening worldwide, but the programs associated with them could cause work-related complications for some employees. For example, the system used in some countries requires signing up via a nationwide portal and waiting to receive appointment times. It’s sometimes possible to choose the vaccination location, but not the time or date.
However, brands including Toyota and Amazon are removing those barriers by opening on-site vaccination clinics for their workforces. People who use those will likely find it’s easier to engage with their supervisors about any concerns.
Perhaps a person worries about short-term side effects from the shots. If so, they may ask to have their appointments scheduled on Fridays, giving them the weekend to recuperate.
In India, a recent government decision permitted public and private organizations to open similar facilities. The only requirement is that there are at least 100 workers older than 45 who want to receive the vaccines at the place of employment. Officials believe this availability will provide more convenience, plus reduce the spread of COVID-19 related to travel.
Telemedicine Becomes an Appealing Option
Many people understandably view telemedicine as an attractive alternative to in-person care as the pandemic continues. After all, it’s safer to stay indoors and limit contact with others outside of one’s household.
According to one source, telemedicine appointments associated with gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Pennsylvania climbed from approximately 5% to 94% of overall visits within one week. Telemedicine is not the best choice in every case, but COVID-19 proved it can work, even when patients try remote appointments for the first time.
Plus, a survey of large employers revealed that 52% intend to offer more virtual care options for workers in 2021. Now that more companies let workers clock in from home, it makes sense to provide the possibility of visiting the doctor that way, too.
When people perceive medical visits as accessible and convenient, they’ll be more likely to schedule them. That reality could mean workers show improved productivity and become even greater assets to their employers. The earlier people are treated for ailments, the less likely they’ll be to take time off for recovery.
Paid Time Off for COVID-19 and Related Reasons Provides Financial Stability
Although employers understandably prefer to have as many employees healthy and able to work as possible, the COVID-19 pandemic means they may need to take more time off than usual. Workers could become sick or may serve as primary caregivers for someone in their household who contracts the virus.
In both cases, the best thing is to have the employees stay home to stop others from getting sick. However, if they lack paid time off, they may brush off any symptoms of illness or possible exposure and come to work anyway. The complications of a smaller paycheck mean they genuinely can’t afford to stay home.
As of March 2020, only 20% of organizations polled offered their employees more time off if they got sick with COVID-19 or cared for people who did. It’s not a widespread benefit, but employees understandably welcome it.
Anthem offers up to 80 hours of paid emergency leave for such reasons. Staples Canada also recently announced paid time off for employees who choose to get vaccinated.
Employers Tasked With Meeting New Needs
The COVID-19 caused an unprecedented situation that required a fresh look at benefits. These examples can give employers inspiration about how they can better accommodate workers during this challenging period.