Experts predict 2020’s most in-demand benefits

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With 2020 fast approaching, benefits professionals are taking stock of breakthrough trends of this year, even as they think about what employers will most want to offer their employees in the next.

“Looking back on 2019 it was definitely a year of innovation in benefits,” says Kate Torgersen, founder of Milk Stork, a breast milk shipping company. “It’s things I’ve never even thought of that’s being offered as a benefit.”

Innovations like helping employees make a dent in their student loan debt, improve their mental wellness and help with their family care needs have all been added by employers this year. Companies are using their own tech, or are partnering with outside entities, to deliver these new in-demand benefit programs to their employees.

Employee Benefits News asked several experts to predict the hottest benefits for 2020. Scroll through to see their answers.

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“Employers in 2020 are all really going to try and launch something around the caregiving topic, whether it’s a solution like Wellthy or just a caregiver leave policy. We’re seeing employers who are involved in setting up caregiver employee resource groups. So I just think the caregiving support umbrella with all sorts of solutions is going to be a hot topic for employers next year,” Lindsay Jurist-Rosner, CEO, Wellthy.
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“It’s more of a wish than a prediction. I really do wish that coming into the 2020 election there will be a conversation around paid leave in this country — federal paid leave. It merits a conversation on both sides and it would benefit so many Americans,” Kate Torgersen, CEO, Milk Stork.
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“Student loan repayment is going to be the hottest employee benefit of 2020. Studies show that [such] assistance is one of the most desired employee benefits and is essential to attracting top talent. Earlier this year, the Society for Human Resource Management announced that the number of employers offering student loan benefits had doubled over the last year and is projected to grow to 32% of all U.S. employers by 2021. We’re witnessing the hottest job market in a generation and the lowest unemployment rate in history. One key to improving employee retention is to provide meaningful benefits, not just fun perks. Student loan repayment is highly customizable, making it one of the most cost-effective employee benefits employers can offer,” Greg Poulin, CEO, Goodly.
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“Our small to mid-sized employers continue to rank health and retirement as top priorities year after year — whether it be traditional group health plans, more flexible health reimbursement arrangements or the hot topic of an open multiple employer plan 401(k). So, in 2020, I predict health benefits and 401(k)s will remain at the top. However, with student loan debt estimated to be $1.6 trillion, I expect the trend of companies reimbursing employees for their student loans, even in a taxable way, to gain momentum in 2020 and the coming years,” Victoria Hodgkins, CEO, PeopleKeep.
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“With health care costs increasing yearly, health coverage still receives the most demand. People are strongly considering high-deductible plans in order to lower monthly premiums, while still ensuring coverage for any catastrophic life events. The downside to a high-deductible health plan is the difficulty with meeting your deductible if you are a fairly healthy person throughout the year. I've noticed a trend where people have become more savvy by opting in for an HSA benefit to receive a tax deduction, then using these funds to pay for qualified medical expenses until reaching their high-deductible plan threshold,” Dustin Ray, CEO, Incfile.
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“Employers are placing greater importance on mental and behavioral health in their benefits planning. A quick informal poll of our members’ plans for 2020 identified a number of innovative employer-provided benefits that focus on total-person health. These benefits include mindfulness training, commuting reimbursements or company shuttles, infertility benefits, extended parental leave, tuition reimbursement and tuition debt assistance, time off for volunteerism, pet insurance and pet bereavement days off,” Cheryl Larson, CEO, Midwest Business Group on Health.
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“The most in-demand benefit in 2020 will be a more employee-centric workplace. One that makes employees feel valued, engaged and cared for by their employer. Surface level perks like ping pong tables, juice bars and parties will become less significant, while employers intentionally and authentically caring for their employees are likely to see an influx of top talent and financial gains. Care-naysayers — employers who believe that the only way they need to show they care is a paycheck — will begin to realize the power of how employees feel when they come to work,” Laura Hamill, chief people officer, Limeade.
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“I think that the concept of financial wellness is just now starting to become more of a forefront issue that will start to ramp up in 2020 because it’s going to become a more pervasive issue as more employees start to feel that pain. Presently, about 40% of Americans — and 59% of millennials — are relying on the lottery as their retirement. The concept of actually planning for retirement is lost on the vast majority of the workforce, and if employers are smart, financial wellness should definitely be on the docket for 2020,” Danielle Schweiger, employee benefits consultant, Gregory & Appel Insurance.
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“Child care benefits. I think that the corporate workplace is coming to terms with the fact that their employees have parenting obligations outside of work. About 66% of families are dual working households, and yet the workplace structure has not caught up to the demands of this modern family. What we’re seeing right now is a boom in child care benefits. Some data shows that nearly half of professional women will drop out of the workforce within the first year of having a baby. When you ask those women why, 75% of them will cite child care reasons as the top factor.. When you think of it from the employer perspective, the cost of rehiring and retraining for those roles those women leave behind can nearly match that person’s annual salary,” Shadiah Sigala, CEO, Kinside.