3 min read

Alongside salary, employee benefits are the other piece of the puzzle in compensation. The benefits being offered by creative employers to attract and retain talent are continually evolving.

Not all of these offerings need to be hugely expensive.  And the right offerings for your employees can deliver great ROI.

Here are the major trends benefits experts are seeing this year.



1. Health Reimbursement Arrangements

The Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA), also called a Small Business HRA, was created by federal legislation in December 2016.

A Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA, also called a Health Reimbursement Account) is an IRS-approved, employer-funded, tax-advantaged health benefit that reimburses employees for their individual health insurance premium payments (that is, non-group plan premiums) and approved out-of-pocket medical expenses (including, importantly, prescriptions).

The Small Business HRA offers employees more choices about how to handle their healthcare costs and offers employers a simpler way to manage health care benefits by making standard monthly payments.

An HRA is not health insurance.  But it is an increasingly popular benefit offering from small businesses looking to help their employees with medical expenses.

2. Digital Health Benefits Tools

Employees increasingly manage their own health care benefit options and costs and need to make coverage decisions.

This can become very time consuming and stressful.  This is when the health benefits your company offers stop feeling like well-earned compensation and start feeling like a pain point.

More and more employers are offering software tools that allow employees to manage these options more quickly and easily and with more confidence that they are aware of all their options and making the best decisions for themselves.




3. Emotional Wellness

Healthcare costs continue to rise faster than the rest of the economy–as they have for many years.

Offering free or discounted health programs has long been a smart way for employers to help improve employee health (and happiness) while lowering health insurance payments.

These wellness offerings are increasing–and expanding in nature.  Besides weight loss programs and smoking cessation programs, more and more employers are offering programs aimed at mental health–like counseling, meditation (mindfulness) and yoga.

The benefits can be enormous.

Not only reductions in stress and unhappiness among employees, but reductions in chronic disease and physical ailments and increases in productivity, creativity and feelings of happiness and contentment.

4. Student Loan Help

Student loan debt continues to rise and be a major source of stress and unhappiness for young employees, delaying major life milestones like house purchases and starting families.

student loan debt wages

A small but growing number of employers are now offering assistance with student loans, either through direct payment assistance or offering refinancing options through partners.

5. Identity Theft Coverage

Identity theft protection and coverage is becoming a more mainstream offering in employee benefits.

Data hacking and breaches are becoming more common and affecting significant portions of consumers (some estimates suggest a strong majority of all Americans have been affected to some degree).

Having your personal credit card or social security number taken can present real headaches.  Protection and coverage offerings through third parties can help prevent attacks and reimburse employees for losses.

6. Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are becoming more and more popular.

Your employees will encounter traumatic and difficult life moments.  Rather than having them feeling as thought they’re just on their own or left searching for the right support and resources, internal assistance programs can take the lead in guidance and providing help.

EAPs can address issues including grief, trauma, substance abuse and other crises confidentially through short-term counseling, referrals to outside specialists and other appropriate resources.


what is a 401k

7. Financial Planning Education

Alongside meditation and other offerings to treat stress and mental health generally, one of the best ways to alleviated stress and unhappiness among employees is to help them manage their finances better.

Financial stress is one of the most common forms of stress.  And many young employees enter the workforce and adulthood having never received any guidance in this area.

Employers are increasingly offering education courses (either themselves or through third parties) to help employees understand things like budgeting, the costs of child-rearing and education and the practicalities of retirement planning.

8. Pet Insurance

pet insurance

This may not have been on your radar as a business owner, but it’s becoming increasingly common.

The basic numbers regarding pet ownership reveal why.

44% of US households have a dog and 35% have a cat90% of these pet owners think of their pet as a family member.

Medical expenses for pets can be significant and pet owners are likely to respond in a highly favorable way to companies that recognize the importance of their pets in their lives.  This benefit may sound eccentric to some, but it delivers real value.