Re-working Today’s Must-Have Employee Benefits

It’s time to get everyone back to work.  But for employees who are among the nearly 34,000,000 who had COVID, returning might look like this:

Complete recovery and happy to head back to the office,


worry and performance anxiety because after several weeks of debilitating illness, they are among the 10-30% who will suffer persistent symptoms such as fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, headaches, and psychological effects.  

With so many of us focused on not getting sick throughout the pandemic, healthcare is naturally on everyone’s mind, especially for those with long COVID symptoms.  So, what is the one thing employers can do to meet the needs of candidates in a competitive hiring market while also supporting a healthier workforce?

Offer a menu of health-related benefits for full-time employees!

Employers, here’s the latest: job seekers are asking for the moon when it comes to salaries, but they want something else even more.  According to an survey, 70% of recruits considered health insurance an essential offering.  If you are a small business, you may be concerned about the cost, but as you consider, factor in expensive sick leave, low morale, and dissatisfaction often resulting in employee churn.  So, can you afford to ignore health insurance as an essential piece of your hiring and retention strategy?  

Show your employees that you care for them both physically and mentally.  Here are some popular options to consider as you amp up your healthcare benefit offerings:  

Make health insurance a key benefit.  

Sure, you are not required to offer health insurance if you have fewer than 50 full-time employees. Still, if you can afford it, the advantage in today’s market is clear:  the ability to attract top talent as you also support a healthier and happier workforce.  As you shop, make sure that any plan is comprehensive and includes mental health coverage.  ACA plans do, and if you have over 50 employees, health plans are required to provide behavioral health services.  

If you believe that health benefits are out of reach, know the government has your back.  There are tax benefits for the part of the premium that you pay*.   And if you offer an HSA (see below) and make partial or matching contributions, it is also a tax write-off*.   In addition, the government’s Small Business Health Options Program Marketplace (SHOP) will help you explore a wide range of affordable plan options for you and your staff.  Finally, if the SHOP exchange isn’t for you, many insurance companies and trade associations now offer plenty of affordable small business employee coverage programs.  

Offer more than one insurance plan.  

If you already offer a single insurance option, give yourself the best chance of landing top talent by sweetening the deal with a menu of health benefits options.  Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2019 Employer Health Benefits Survey of small businesses with from 3 to 399 workers showed that 76% offered only one plan type.  Allowing your employees to choose among several plans is not only a competitive advantage, but it helps in three ways:  

  1.  If you have pandemic survivors or workers who may need more extensive treatment options, a choice of plans, including one with comprehensive mental health services, gives people the broadest range of services to fit their needs.  
  2. Some employees may value cost over services, so a low-cost premium plan alongside a more comprehensive, full-service plan is a good strategy.
  3. And finally, a company should take into consideration where its remote workers live.  A healthcare plan offering only regional health services isn’t sufficient when you have employees working several states away.  

And finally, there is one more benefit you can add that will help workers save to pay for deductibles and future expenses:

Health Savings Accounts.  

If you don’t offer an employee Health Savings Account (HAS) or Flexible Savings Account (FSA), you might be missing out on another excellent benefit for you and the workers.  These accounts are essentially a savings account for most qualified healthcare expenses, but contributions come out of paychecks pretax.  Any interest earned while in the account is tax-free.  If you can afford it, sweeten the deal by offering either a standalone deposit or a matching contribution into individual accounts. Again, for both you and your employees, contributions are tax-free.  There are special rules for HSAs and FSAs, so check with a benefits or tax expert before implementing.

Before the fall hiring season heats up, prove to your potential new hires and employees how much you care about them and their families.  Sell new hires on your stellar healthcare options and why, especially during a pandemic, top-quality, affordable health insurance may be the most crucial benefit in your package offering.  

*Always consult a tax professional to verify your individual or business eligibility for tax write-offs.