Employee Benefits Being Impacted By New Laws: SHRM

Employers are making gradual changes in the benefits they offer employees in response to new laws and the economy, according to research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The 2013 Employee Benefits Survey found that legislation—including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)—smaller organizational and HR budgets, an uneven economy, and other factors are influencing employers’ decisions on what benefits to offer their employees.

There was a large increase in the percentage of employers offering contraceptive coverage—82 percent of surveyed employers in 2013, up from 66 percent in 2009, SHRM noted. The ACA requires that preventive services, including birth control, be included in new health insurance plans. In 2010, a provision of the ACA required employers with more than 50 employees to provide private space or lactation rooms for nursing mothers. SHRM found that one-third of employers (34 percent) now have a separate lactation or mother’s room that goes above and beyond the law, an increase from 25 percent in 2009.

Employers also are responding to state laws legalizing same-sex marriage. SHRM’s report found that 24 percent of employers offered domestic partner benefits for same-sex partners, excluding health care coverage, an increase from 15 percent last year and 14 percent in 2009.

The survey also found the following:

• The most commonly offered benefits were: prescription drug program coverage (98 percent of organizations offered them), paid holidays (97 percent), dental insurance (96 percent), and defined contribution retirement savings plans (92 percent).

• Paid-time-off plans and wellness benefits continued to increase in popularity, while housing and relocation benefits were less common.

• Among health care and welfare benefits, the majority of employers provide mental health coverage (89 percent), and the most common type of health insurance was a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan (86 percent).

The survey of 518 randomly selected HR professionals examines 299 benefits. For more information, visit http://www.shrm.org.

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