Four Employee Benefit Trends for 2019

Benefits can set your company apart from competitors. Over fifty percent of employees consider benefits to be one of the top factors in accepting a new job. It is important to re-evaluate your company’s benefit offerings annually to keep pace with the continually changing needs of the workforce. Here are the most popular benefit trends for this year:

Student Loan Contribution

Student loan debt presents a significant financial liability for over 44 million Americans. The total U.S. student loan debt is more than $1.5 trillion and the average monthly payment is $350. About 4% of employers are beginning to offer reimbursement plans to help pay off these costly loans. The Student Loan Act is currently being discussed in the Senate.  This would allow employers to make matching contributions under 401(k), 403(b) and SIMPLE plans with respect to student loan repayments made by employees. Experts predict the number of employers will rise when the benefit becomes a tax-advantaged incentive for businesses. Companies offering reimbursement benefits have found it has improved recruitment and retention as well as reduced payment delinquency by twenty percent.

Voluntary Personal Benefits

The demand for voluntary personal benefits is predicted to rise in 2019. Voluntary benefits allow the employee to personalize benefits to meet their individual needs. The employer enrolls with various benefit companies and receives group rates which are then passed down to the employee and paid by payroll deductions. The most popular benefits are Aflac plans, disability and life insurance, prepaid legal, pet insurance and ID theft insurance. Experts recommend before starting a new benefit, consider the age, interests, and needs of your workforce.

Family Leave Policies

Many employers are stepping up to support parents with generous extended paid leave policies, flexible scheduling, and subsidized childcare. More employers are moving towards offering both parents the financial security to focus on adjusting to life with a new child. Flexible scheduling and remote work also provide parents with balance between work and home.  Companies like Starbucks and Best Buy are subsidizing emergency childcare costs. Other companies are beginning to offer caregiver leave for family related absences.

Unlimited Vacation

Approximately 1% of employers are now offering unlimited vacation time to their employees.  It is a completely different mindset from traditional policies which sets limits to now allowing employees to manage their own schedules with no limitations.  A recent survey found that employees were more interested in unlimited vacation than any other trending benefit. It is important to consult with your corporate attorney to review the state/federal wage and hour laws before implementing this benefit. Some states have requirements for paying out vacation hours at termination, FMLA documentation is based on hours worked and requires paid vacation to be used before the benefit starts.

An unlimited vacation policy is not suited for all companies.  It takes a combination of the right company, culture and management to implement this benefit. Employee trust, time management and control over productivity pose significant issues for employers.  On the other hand, employees fear if they take time-off they might look bad or be passed up for promotions. Understanding the company’s expectations surrounding availability on vacation days versus the employees need to for downtime are key factors to consider when implementing this policy.

Low unemployment and competition for talent are pushing many companies to think outside of the typical “benefits box”.  An innovative benefits package can help attract new talent and retain your current workforce. What benefit changes have you recently made or plan to make this year?


Contributed by: Amy Noel