Overview: Employee benefit programs typically account for one-third of employee compensation costs. HR professionals are charged with managing this investment wisely. This includes ensuring compliance, controlling costs, having an effective communication strategy and making sure the benefits program attracts, retains and engages employees.
This is especially challenging in light of rising health care costs and an increasingly complex regulatory environment. With only so many dollars to spend on employee benefits, a key part of the strategy is to determine how much to invest so that both the needs of the employee and the employer are met. The regulatory environment has a significant impact on how employee benefit plans are designed and administered as employers ensure plans are operated in compliance with ERISA, COBRA and HIPAA.
Having a benefits strategy that is linked to business strategy can serve as a significant competitive advantage for employers. Clearly aligning the vision of employee benefit programs with the employer's business goals demonstrates how HR functions as a business partner and contributes to the bottom line. Effective benefit communications can support this vision and will ensure that both employers and employees get the most from the substantial investment in benefits.
Trends: The newer requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Health Care Reform or Obamacare, in addition to the repeal of section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the legalization of same-sex marriage in numerous states, will challenge HR professionals in both the short- and the long-term as they monitor developments and adjust benefit strategies accordingly.
Author: Tracy Morley, SPHR, Legal Editor
Update to reflect amendments to the Washington paid family and medical leave law.
Updated to reflect preemption law in Illinois regarding union security agreements, effective April 12, 2019.
Updated to include information on the forthcoming 50-State chart: Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking Leave and Accommodation Laws by State and Municipality.
Updated to clarify the forthcoming effective date for the notice-posting and retaliation provisions of the state paid family and medical leave law.
Updated to reflect a district court's ruling on the DOL's association health plans final rule.
Updated to reflect provisions designed to preserve ACA benefits, effective March 19, 2019.
The DOL intends to clarify that the cost of providing wellness programs, onsite specialist treatment, exercise opportunities, employee discounts on retail goods and services, and certain tuition benefits may be excluded from an employee's regular rate of pay.
Congress has introduced legislation to increase the ability of employers to provide student loan repayment benefits to their employees.
HR and legal considerations for employers regarding employee benefit programs. Support on following regulations and requirements on this topic.