Benefits & Comp 5 min

Five Overlooked Employee Benefits

February 9, 2016

Employees love time off and bonuses. And paying a good portion of their health care premium gets genuine appreciation, too. But sometimes the pieces of employee benefits packages you wouldn’t consider as impactful end up making just as big of a difference. Here’s a list of employee benefits that make a huge impact, even if you (and employees) don’t always realize it:  


Ninety percent of HR professionals say their organizations offer paid bereavement leave. It’s important for employees to feel supported during difficult times and be given time to make a full emotional recovery. Requiring employees to come back prematurely will only harm them and the company. Russell Friedman, author of “The Grief Recovery Handbook” and executive director of the Grief Recovery Institute, said, “You can’t park your grief at the office door and then pick it up at five…When your heart is broken your head doesn’t work right.” So let employees get in the right mindset before requiring them to come back.

Provide a generous bereavement policy so employees don’t have to worry about missing work while mourning the loss of a loved one. Outline the policy—which losses are eligible as well as how much time is offered—somewhere employees can access from home. The most common allotment of time for leave is three days, but each employee will be different. Getting back into the routine after fewer than three days might be what some need, while others may want to to a full week—or more—off. Do what you can to accommodate employees who need to take a little extra vacation or unpaid time beyond what you offer for bereavement.

Employee Assistance Programs

Think of employees like icebergs—you get to see a tiny little bit of them at work, but there’s a lot more going on in their lives below the surface. Relationships, finances, health. The complexities of our lives are immense, and they can become overwhelming. In fact, 20 percent of employees are dealing with a significant personal issue at any given time. You may think they should keep those personal issues to themselves, but 49 percent of employees say stress impacts their performance at work. So, whether you do it because you’re a kind human being, because it’ll impact performance, or a combination of both, you should consider offering employees an employee assistance program with your health insurance.

Employee assistance programs help employees resolve personal problems. Unfortunately, not many employees who have EAPs take advantage of them—only 4-6 percent. This is likely due to a lack of knowledge about the programs and stigma associated with them. Be sure to educate employees about your program and the fact that it’s completely confidential. You’ll reap benefits like decreased absenteeism and increased productivity and retention.

Disability Insurance

Your young employees might think they’re invincible, but the Social Security Administration estimates one in four 20-year-olds will become disabled and unable to work before they turn 67.

So even though most of your employees won’t end up using it, the ones who do will be immensely grateful you provided the benefit. When employees are out of work—even for just a few months—you want them to spend their time trying to get better (not panicked about paying the bills). Even new mothers can benefit from short-term disability insurance while they’re missing their paycheck during their FMLA leave.

Even if all you can provide is a buy-up option, try to. It’s typically much less expensive than employees having to buy it individually. Employees will be able to rest assured that if they—like 25 percent of their peers—are unable to work at some point in their career, they’ll be okay.

Financial Education

Your organization is impacted by employee finances more than you may know. They get a paycheck from you, but the impact doesn’t end there. One in five employees report that their financial situation impacts their work. Further, 37 percent say they spend three or more hours at work each week on personal finances. To help ease employees’ minds (and help them focus on work while at work), you should consider offering financial education benefits.

Your EAP may have some options for financial education, but there are other benefits you can provide. Our company reimburses employees who take a series of finance classes aimed at helping people get out of debt and set a secure foundation for wealth. Have a consultant or group who manages employee 401ks? See if they’ll speak at a “lunch and learn” or seminar. Or, even better, see if they can provide individual financial consulting for employees. By helping employees understand how to manage finances, you’ll help them reduce stress so they can focus more on being excellent at their jobs.

Health Savings Accounts

Speaking of finances, a health savings account can be a great financial option for employees and your organization. Kids break bones, people get pneumonia, and no matter how much you floss, you’ll probably still end up with a cavity. Health care costs are inevitable. A great way to offset those costs is to provide a plan with an HSA.

Many employees will like the option of a lower premium, higher-deductible plan with an HSA option. You can use the money the organization saves on those lower premium plans to match employee contributions to their HSA. Plus, employees and the organization will appreciate that their HSA contributions are tax-exempt. And even if employees end up being incredibly healthy clear up until age 65, they can withdraw their HSA with no tax penalty. HSAs are pretty much a win-win for everyone, so see if it makes sense for your organization to offer them to employees.

Sometimes the employee benefits that mean the most are the ones you hope you won’t need. No one wants expensive medical bills or financial woes. Needing therapy isn’t exciting, nor is having a disability or mourning the loss of a loved one. But these benefits provide help to employees when they need it most. So even though you may overlook them, don’t underestimate their importance. Communicate them to employees so they’ll know where to turn for help when they need it. Provide these benefits so employees will be able to get back up when life knocks them down. They’ll realize how incredibly important these benefits are WHEN (not if) they end up using some of them.

HR insights delivered to your inbox.

Get caught up every month on all things HR. Don't worry, we promise we won't spam you.

Guest Blogger