Fall open enrollment season is approaching, which means HR teams will be communicating to employees the value of their benefits package. Be sure to explain how your benefits can help employees with disabilities as well as employees who are caregivers, whether for children, someone with a disability, or aging parents, said Jessica Tuman, vice president of the Voya Cares and ESG Practice Centers of Excellence at Voya Financial.
Voya Cares helps people with disabilities achieve the quality of life they seek today and through retirement. Tuman recently explained to SHRM Online how HR leaders can help caregivers and employees with disabilities select the right benefits.
SHRM Online: Why is it important to be transparent about benefits for people with disabilities and caregivers?
Jessica Tuman: It's up to HR leaders to help caregivers and employees with disabilities understand their options and zero in on key benefits that can be a valuable part of a special-needs plan. Because information about special-needs planning can be hard to find, effectively communicating these benefits helps to both attract and retain top talent.
For the 53 million American caregivers—61 percent of whom are in the workforce—it's important to have a conversation about the details of a company's benefits package. It is also crucial for caregivers to carefully select their benefits to ensure they are making the most of their employer-sponsored plans.
SHRM Online: What are some specific resources HR can provide?
Tuman: In addition to traditional benefits, a benefits package that includes a personalized planning experience is a specific example of how employers can support those who are part of the disability community. For instance, organizations can offer free one-on-one consultations on specific special-needs planning situations with advisors who have a broad range of expertise and years of experience in the field.
SHRM Online: How else can HR offer personalized support?
Tuman: HR professionals can focus on providing services that make it easier for caregivers and individuals with special needs to save time and money and lower stress. For example, HR teams can highlight a caregiver concierge service, which matches employees with a dedicated care coordinator. These care coordinators can guide employees through a care plan; advocate for their loved ones; and navigate the logistical and administrative tasks related to medical, financial, legal and emotional needs.
SHRM Online: Are there benefits that can help these employees save for the future?
Tuman: Caregivers and employees with disabilities are often stretched between covering current costs and saving for the future, while, at the same time, they may be restricted by government benefits eligibility guidelines that limit the amount they can save. That's where giving employees access to Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts come in. These tax-advantaged savings and investment accounts are designed to improve quality of life for a person with a disability without interrupting government benefits. The benefit of these accounts is that caregivers, loved ones and even employers can contribute to them for an eligible individual.
ABLE accounts can be a no-cost or low-cost workplace benefit for inclusive employers to offer their employees in the disability community. HR professionals should be prepared to provide employees access to information and guidance on ABLE accounts and allow direct deposits to the program-of-choice for employees.
SHRM Online: What about providing help with the legal part of disability planning?
Tuman: Employers may provide legal insurance, which offers low-cost or no-cost legal counsel for everyday life matters, including setting up a power of attorney, writing a will or accessing guardianship counsel. Some legal assistance programs offer preparation of special-needs trusts and other special-needs planning documents.
SHRM Online: Any other advice on helping employees understand all the options available to them?
Tuman: To best help employees navigate their benefits selection, HR professionals should familiarize themselves with all benefits that can be effective for caregivers and people with disabilities. A few additional tips:
- Provide opportunities to help caregivers compare employer-sponsored medical plans to determine which ones offer the most robust health benefits, including virtual mental health visit options and applied behavioral analysis, or ABA therapy, which is widely used by people with autism.
- Ensure that caregivers understand the company's Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy. FMLA entitles eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage, a benefit that may be needed in an emergency and that may help preserve a caregiver's employment status.
- Remind caregivers to review beneficiary designations for all benefits, such as life insurance and pension plans. Designating an individual with special needs as a beneficiary can be a decision that holds significant long-term implications. Receiving as little as $2,000 could unintentionally disqualify a person with a disability and special needs from receiving income-based governmental benefits. An alternative may be a special-needs trust or an ABLE account.
Employee benefits can provide a bounty of options and ample assistance to caregivers, employees with disabilities and their families. Taking time to help employees understand available benefits options can pay off for caregivers and employees with disabilities—both in the short term and long term.