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A Look Into Employee Benefits in 2021

By: Michelle Peralta

How has the pandemic shaped the employee benefits structure?

As a practice and a business, your employees are your greatest asset and integral to delivering comprehensive care to your patients. Offering a competitive benefits package can help attract and retain top talent in your field. Employee benefits can be a driving factor for many individuals when it comes to job acceptance and satisfaction. While you want to maintain a high level of employee contentment, it’s also essential to strike the right balance between the fiscal health of your practice and keeping your employees happy.

Such a balancing act, however, has become even more of a challenge in the face of the on-going COVID-19 environment. What can your practice do to mitigate these changes, prevent employee attrition, and still offer an attractive employee benefits package, all while maintaining a healthy bottom line? Understanding how employee benefits are forecasted to evolve in 2021 can help the decision-makers in your practice determine the ideal path to take.

How has the pandemic shaped the employee benefits structure?

COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted the long-term financial health and well-being of individuals and businesses alike. It has also affected the ability of countless healthcare practices to continue providing the same level of benefits their employees have enjoyed in the past. As the future of the pandemic remains uncertain, COVID-era financial concerns are causing many practices to take a closer look at employee benefits and reevaluate what makes sense for their business while still meeting the diverse needs of their employees. A number of practices have adjusted their benefits packages in an effort to meet these multidimensional needs. Read on to explore some of the general trends top employee benefits are projected to take as we embark on the new year.

-Paid time off (PTO)

PTO may include vacation, sick, or personal days and may be accrued every pay period, allotted in a lump sum, or offered based on years of service. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, on average, employees are given ten PTO days after one year of service. While this allotment tends to increase with tenure, PTO limits are generally capped off at a certain point.

Depending on travel restrictions, or an unwillingness to take vacations throughout the year due to the coronavirus, employees may accrue PTO hours that could bottle up at year’s end. Some practices opt to allow a portion of the time to roll over to the following year while others may have a different policy on how they manage unused vacation time. As this article from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reveals, having a solid plan in place that’s both well communicated to your employees and adheres to the legalities within your state can help ensure you maintain workplace productivity while effectively managing PTO requests.

-Paid holidays

Since the reopening of medical and dental practices following the coronavirus outbreak, many healthcare professionals have been working fervently to care for patients and look forward to having holidays off to unwind and recharge. Paid holidays are commonly part of the employee benefits package for many health-based practices. While these offices may remain open on some federal holidays, such as Presidents’ Day and Veterans Day, full-time employees are often paid for the following as part of their compensation package:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

-Health insurance

Employer health benefits expenses were projected to rise by 4.4% in 2021, according to a recent Mercer Survey. Coupled with revenue loss from mandatory shutdowns earlier in the year and the potential risk of repeat closings, budgetary restraints have curbed the financial assets historically allocated for employee benefits expenses.

While employees are likely to see cost-sharing increases, having the option of an employer-sponsored healthcare plan is still a major benefit. Expanding telehealth coverage, including telemedicine visits, can also allow for greater convenience and access to care.

-Work from home

As COVID-induced closings forced many businesses and employees to adopt a more flexible work environment, as evidenced by this report from Mercer, a work-from-home option has become a reality for countless people across the globe. Even jobs that traditionally required in-person employment are now adapting to a new normal in a virtual environment. While many positions still require employees to be physically present, such as dental hygienists or lab technicians, the medical and dental industries have been able to modify many administrative and billing duties to be completed remotely.

The value of employee benefits

Happy employees project a sense of harmony and positivity to your patients, which enhances the trust they have in you as a practitioner. But however positive your day-to-day office environment might be, benefits are often a major factor in employee retention and job acceptance. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Willis Towers Watson reveals that a significant percentage of employees would give up higher pay in lieu of greater benefits. A well-rounded employee benefits package can bring a myriad of advantages to your staff and practice as a whole and can serve to:

  • Elevate productivity
  • Enhance employee loyalty
  • Increase longevity of employment (lower turnover)
  • Attract talented individuals
  • Boost employee satisfaction

Every healthcare practice is different and must determine the employee benefits structure that best supports their business model while helping to prevent employee attrition. Though evaluating industry trends as a whole can be helpful, it’s still important to follow a plan ideal for your specific office. Practice management consultants who are knowledgeable in your specialty understand the unique challenges your practice faces as a business. Partnering with an experienced consultant can help you remain agile in the ever-changing COVID-19 environment, make choices that are beneficial to your business, and add long-term value to your employer-employee relationships.