Making the Most of Workplace Benefits
Quite often, it is not until we have experienced a difficult situation like an accident, illness or COVID-19-related events that we start to appreciate employer-provided benefits like disability insurance and leave policies that protect income and jobs. According to a recent disability survey fielded in April 2020, a significant number of employees say disability insurance (50%) or family caregiver leave (47%) would best support them if out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, approximately one-third of employees say they don’t feel like they have enough of either to feel protected through the crisis.
Below are three points to consider about disability insurance in addition to your holistic well-being that can help you be better prepared and protected for unexpected situations.
1. Know What You Have Now
While reading your benefits package is probably not super exciting, investing the time now can make a big difference later. Start by understanding what is currently offered by your employer, or your spouse’s or partner’s employer. This will help you make informed decisions and could even illuminate programs such as mental health support or income protection that may not have seemed relevant months ago.
Many employees do not realize that disability insurance, for example, can help cover expenses if they are out of work due to illness or injury. This is important because 61% of employees in the disability survey said monthly expenses, such as rent/mortgage payments, utility bills or car payments, are top stressors if they are suddenly unable to work full-time.
Also be aware of any benefits changes related to COVID-19, as many employers have expanded their leave programs and some increased certain benefits to further assist employees. In addition, federal, state and local leave policies have been implemented to support workers during these challenging times.
2. Prevention and Rehabilitation Matter
Along with the financial stress imposed by COVID-19, employees are facing physical, mental and social health consequences, too. From having fewer opportunities for physical activity and social interaction to feeling anguish over the suffering or isolation of loved ones, every element of holistic well-being is being tested.
Participating in home exercise programs, virtual social gatherings and seeking mental health support are all ways to stay healthy during these challenging times. You can also take advantage of creative programs employers are offering such as nutritional recipes, fitness challenges, telehealth opportunities and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) which offer counseling.
Moreover, when returning from a leave of absence, employees should understand the return-to-work programs offered by their employer, which are designed to keep you healthy after they are back on the job. These programs may offer flexible work hours, technology equipment accommodations, training opportunities, and mental and financial wellness support to address related stressors.
3. Prepare for Future Decision-Making
Employers are continuously reviewing the benefits they offer their employees, and you’ll have the opportunity in 2020 to make new choices for the coming year. In advance, take the time to think about how you could build out your coverage for the future. Over the years, employers have introduced a number of benefit offerings that allow you to customize your coverage for your individual situation, such as if you have children or caregiving responsibilities. In addition, consider how your life has or could change in the coming year and the importance of programs that can supplement your income.
Such questions are important to raise. The MetLife disability survey fielded in April 2020, in fact, found nearly half (48%) of employees say the pandemic has increased their likelihood to enroll in disability benefits and programs in the coming year. It’s also important to examine your benefits package for wellness programs that can help support physical, mental and social health, in addition to your financial health.
Acting Today for Tomorrow
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call on the vital importance of leave and disability insurance, which offer protection against the unknown.
These events can impact how employees make benefits decisions. By looking through the lens of holistic well-being, options that sustain not just their financial health, but their mental, physical and social health too will be a priority to feel protected in good times and bad.