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SHRM Study Finds Employer-Provided Benefits Have Dramatically Changed and Expanded During COVID-19 Pandemic

Survey shows employers are focusing on benefits that support mental health and caregiving support for American workers

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Today, SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) released data from a survey of HR professionals who report that COVID-19 has prompted significant changes to employer-provided benefits in 2020. These changes include the expansion of benefits that support employee health and well-being needs in remote and hybrid workplaces, with increased attention to parental leave and family caregiving duties.

As the world went into lockdown, companies found new ways to accommodate employees who were settling into living most of their lives from their homes. Most employers (78%) said they expanded telework options and developed benefit packages specific to the more socially distanced workplaces that 2020 brought about. These efforts included diversifying telemedicine options, making mental health resources more accessible and providing expanded leave benefits to employers caring for children or adult family members at home.

The survey found the prevalence of paid family leave to be the highest in the last five years; the percentage of employers offering paid maternity leave (beyond what is required by short-term disability or state law) increased to 53%, coinciding with similar progress for paid paternity leave (44%), paid parental leave (39%) and paid family leave (31%).

"During the pandemic, employers were more compelled than ever to consider the diverse home environments of their employees," said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, SHRM's president and chief executive officer. "Virtual interactions created a new level of transparency and empathy at work, prompting business leaders to reconsider which types of benefits were most useful to their employees in this 'new normal.'"

The shift to almost fully virtual lives reduced the need for benefits that promote physical wellness in the workplace, due to the difficulty of delivering such programs in the physical workplace. As the world faced stay-at-home and social distancing mandates, employees were unable to take advantage of incentives like gym memberships, personal trainers or even physician visits, creating a need for more benefits that could be easily offered online or practiced alone.

SHRM's 2020 Employee Benefits Survey found that company-sponsored wellness benefits that required in-person participation decreased in 2020, compared to 2019 data. General wellness programs decreased by 7%, health insurance premium discounts offered for participation in wellness programs decreased by 11%, and rewards or bonuses for completing certain health and wellness programs decreased by 9%.

Additionally, benefits that could be accessed virtually were more likely to increase in 2020, compared to 2019 data. The study found stress management resources increased by 11%, personal or life coaching benefits increased by 7%, and subsidized, unsubsidized or reimbursed meditation or mindfulness program offerings increased by 7%.

The survey indicates COVID-19 as the likely cause of most changes to employee benefits in 2020. Organizations made huge strides in support of their employees whose work and home lives were disrupted during the pandemic and SHRM is continuing to monitor as employers decide which pandemic-induced benefits to maintain, expand or eliminate in the future.


Methodology for 2020 Employee Benefits Survey: To collect data sufficient to be used throughout the rapidly changing workplace landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic, we adjusted our sampling methodology somewhat as compared to previous years. We continue to collect from our membership of more than 300,000 HR professionals. However, rather than the simple random samples of SHRM members that we've used in the past, for 2020 we employed a stratified sampling methodology to ensure that we had coverage of all organization sizes, regions, and industries we planned to include in this report.

The data used in this report were collected from 2,504 HR professionals through SHRM membership across the United States. All respondents were employed by an organization at the time they completed the survey.

Initial data collection was conducted between September 28, 2020, through November 10, 2020. Supplemental data were collected from May 17, 2021, through June 28, 2021. All survey respondents were asked to provide answers on what employee benefits their organization offered during plan year 2020, unless otherwise specified. The data is unweighted.

About SHRM
SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at and on Twitter @SHRM.



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