HRE soundbite: ‘Touch benefits as a last resort’

For employers thinking about how to best reopen for business or bring their employees back into the workplace in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Kevin Robertson, chief revenue officer of HSA Bank, has a recommendation: Leave benefit plans alone.

“To the extent that you can—I know that we’re faced with strong economic pressures—leave benefit structures intact for your employees as long as you can. That’s really going to be impactful and helpful to your employees,” Robertson said during a webinar last week with HSA Bank and Human Resource Executive. “Everyone is feeling stressed in the United States, and coming back to the work environment is going to be hard enough. But also having to worry about the benefit structure changing will add extra stress to not only the employee but the significant others at home as well. I would touch benefits as a last resort if you can.”

Negative changes to benefits—dropping or reducing them—will affect employee wellbeing and will be felt long after the recovery, he said. Alternatively, Robertson said, enhancing or adding benefits could be helpful to employees dealing with unprecedented amounts of concern and stress.

Related: Here’s how employers are changing benefits due to COVID-19

“Try to help employees where you can,” he said. Bonuses especially are a way to enhance employees’ financial wellbeing right now; companies such as Ally Financial, Facebook, McDonald’s and Walmart have handed out financial payments to their workers. Increasing HSA contributions and offering telemedicine benefits are good ideas to consider, as well, he said.

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