Employee Benefits for Permanently Remote Workers: A New Landscape

vaccination

As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic ease and vaccination rates increase, business activities continue to gain momentum. Many employees will opt to continue working remotely. Employers are appreciating that there are benefits of allowing remote work, including the ability to widen the pool of potential employees and minimize the fixed costs that are related to maintaining a fixed office space.

According to research conducted by LaSalle Network, they asked 350 corporate executives how they think their workforces will be modeled a year from now, 77 percent expected a hybrid approach where a portion of the employees will work from home while the others work in an office.

With more people working online, employers can be location-agnostic when it comes to employee benefits administration technology. Having a huge number of employees working remotely introduces new challenges when it comes to employee benefits administration and design.

Broadening Benefits

Some employers are redesigning their benefits to ensure that those being offered reflect the needs of remote workers. Having whole-person benefits helps to focus on everything the employee deals with while at home including pets, children, family and mental health. These aspects are different from what an employee that comes into an office experiences.

Local Leave Laws

Local and State laws and regulations can be unique when it comes to situations that may require unpaid or paid-off time. Some locations require sick leave to take care of individuals who are not family but are like ‘family’ or to help or care for a service or guide dog.

Each law may contain distinct requirements. It makes it challenging for employers to adopt a blanket policy that applies to all the employees without significantly increasing their paid-leave costs due to the scope of what is needed.

It is imperative to understand that state, county, and city laws apply based on where the employee resides. Employers and their HR departments ought to stay in touch with their employees no matter where they work. This involves the maintenance of communication using texts, videos as well as whiteboard meetings about benefits topics rather than primarily relying on open enrollment for benefits communications.

Doctor Availability

Access to quality medical care may also become challenging for remote workers. It affects those employees who live in or ones relocating to rural regions with fewer medical providers. In such cases, employers may want to consider leveraging telemedicine to provide primary, routine care and triage. The health care delivery environment must accommodate more geographically diverse employees to ensure quality.

Constantly soliciting feedback from employees ensures that they have the support and access to the care that they need. It ensures that all employees have access to virtual care and a stipend for accessing services like counseling, therapy, and classes for stress alleviation. Virtual care is essential to all employees considering the effects of the pandemic.

Employers who offer telemedicine perks ought to be aware that some state laws can limit their ability to provide telemedicine access across state lines or to an individual working outside the country.

Health Plan Networks

From a health benefits perspective, employers are required to review and tweak their strategies to accommodate a diverse workforce. For instance, employers have to rethink a strategy that provides incentives for their workers to choose the best health care professionals that reside near their company location. This changes the analysis, therefore, employers may instead focus on the top five locations for talent to achieve their health plan partner strategy.

At times, structuring the health plan network around the office locale may not be appropriate. Employees working in a remote location may not be necessarily located in that geographic location, this means that they may not be able to access in-network coverage and will be forced to incur higher costs for out-of-network providers. More restrictive plans may also limit coverage for out-of-network services.

Remote workers are mobile and may not always inform the employer of any changes to their living arrangements. The movement normally affects their medical insurance benefits, upending rates set at the start of the year and limiting state-mandated benefits changes.

To ensure that the employees enjoy their benefits, employers must devise a way to address any changes to employees’ circumstances as soon as possible. Remote employees who fail to communicate to their employers on time when they relocate could face challenging outcomes like being denied if they receive care from a healthcare provider located in the new location that is not in the employer’s health plan’s existing network.

Depending on where the remote worker resides, employers are required to establish specific benefits that accommodate their employees. In many cases, employers may need to establish a separate provider contract or coverage in each locality or state in which all the employees reside.

Final Thoughts

Because remote workers always have unique lifestyles and needs, employers ought to increase the flexibility of the benefits they offer. Availing employee perks and benefits to address diverse and distinct circumstances is key to supporting remote workforce. 

Also Read: Estate Planning Strategies For Singles.

By Flavia Calina

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