5 Ways 2020 Changed Employee Benefits

As we wait to close the rocky chapter that is 2020, a new report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, Employee Benefits Survey: 2020 Results, examines the big employee benefits trends that changed this year, perhaps paving the way for more permanent employee offerings in 2021.

5 Ways 2020 Changed Employee Benefits


Interest in telemedicine spiked in 2020. Only 53% of workplaces offered telemedicine in 2018 compared to 80% in 2020. I spoke with Julie Stich, CEBS, the International Foundation’s VP of Content more about this trend. Julie said that to prevent possible COVID-19 exposure, employees looked for ways to avoid going to the doctor for routine care. In other cases, they may not have been able to get an appointment with their primary care provider. Telemedicine became a no-brainer for employers to start offering if they weren’t already.

Flexible Work Arrangements

March 2020 saw many organizations shifting to remote work. Implementing more flexible arrangements to help with work/life balance was imperative as employees faced new, unexpected challenges, be it mastering the video meeting, canceling all work travel or taking on homeschooling. In 2018, 53% of workplaces offered telecommuting/working from home; in 2020, 74% offered the benefit.

Mental Health Benefits

In the midst of the crisis that greeted us in 2020, mental well-being and self-care became paramount. Employees grappled with health worries, social isolation, more constant caregiving, financial uncertainty and concerns about job loss. Employers offered support through mental health benefits, with 77% providing the offering. Meditation/mindfulness benefits are provided by 27% of organizations. Employee assistance programs (EAPs), offered by 88% of employers, remain a popular benefit.

Juneteenth as a Paid Holiday

For the first time in the history of this report, employers were asked about offering Juneteenth as a paid holiday. Eight percent currently offer June 19 as a paid holiday, and 17% are considering adding it. According to Julie, as acts of racial injustice in our community this year brought diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) issues to light, many employers stepped in to start a dialogue or become part of the solution. Offering Juneteenth as a paid holiday is one example of that. Moving into 2021, it’s likely employers will continue to focus on DE&I initiatives with their employees and in their community.

[Related Reading: A Look at Paid Vacation Time as We Head Into the Holidays]

Increase in Coverage for Domestic Partners

Benefits coverage for same-sex domestic partners is on the rise. In 2018, 36% of employers offered this coverage and, in 2020, 43% reported offering this coverage. We had seen a downturn in domestic-partner coverage after same-sex marriage was legalized in 2013, but it has bounced back, further supporting equity and inclusion in the workplace.

What’s Next?

While 2020 saw drastic upheaval for many organizations, the longitudinal shifts in employee benefits offerings showed some constants as well as shifts that have the potential to become more permanent changes. Will at-work perks like coffee service (69% offered), nap rooms (11%) and casual dress codes (30%) change as we step into 2021? What will the workplace of the future look like? Only time will tell.

Download the full report: Employee Benefits Survey: 2020 Results

Anne Patterson
Communications Associate at the International Foundation

The latest from Word on Benefits:

Anne Patterson

Social Marketing and Communications Strategist at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation Product: The innovative member survey efforts and results from the research team.

Benefits-Telated Topics That Interest Her Most: Health care, nontraditional wellness initiatives, employee benefit communication.

Personal Insight: It’s all about balance with Anne. She loves to run and enjoys a good culinary adventure. She’ll jump at the chance to travel or to spend fun times with family and friends, but she’ll also take time to catch her breath with an occasional Netflix binge or diving into a classic novel.

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