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Open Enrollment Guide & Resources

How to communicate with and help employees to choose workplace benefits

Two people sitting at a table looking at a laptop.

Companies are preparing to kick off open enrollment for their employees to choose their workplace benefits. Health, vision, dental, life insurance ... even pet insurance may be up for grabs. 

How can HR professionals best communicate with employees about their choices, when many workers are unfamiliar with the language and concepts of benefits offerings? What's the best way to help employees through open enrollment season?

Take a look at our primer below for ways to start the conversation, and at our glossary of common (and commonly misunderstood) terms. Our news articles offer lots of tips on educating employees and helping them make great choices.

What is open enrollment for benefits?

In the U.S., open enrollment season is a period of time when employees may elect or change the benefit options available through their employer, such as health, dental and life insurance, and ancillary or voluntary benefits ranging from legal services to pet insurance. Some benefits are fully paid by the employer, some are employee-paid through salary deferral or a section 125 cafeteria plan, and for some the cost is shared. 

When do most companies have open enrollment?

Most companies schedule open enrollment to end a few weeks before enrollment forms must be submitted to benefit providers. For calendar-year benefit plans starting Jan. 1, open enrollment often takes place in November.

How long does open enrollment have to be?

Open enrollment is not required to be a certain length of time. Most employers have an open enrollment period of at least two to four weeks.

Open Enrollment Resources

  • Need help defining health benefit terms to employees? Check out and share the health benefit terms glossary here on You can also download a PDF version to print and share with employees.
  • These 10 questions for employees choosing next year's health plans are a great way to encourage employees to consider health and relationship changes before making their open enrollment selections.
  • How to explain high-deductible plans to employees. More companies are making high-deductible health plans an option (or, increasingly, the sole choice) for employer-sponsored health coverage. Here is a quick guide on how to help employees understand the costs and benefits.
  • How much life insurance is enough? This guide will help get employees on the right track when determining how much life insurance is right for them.
And check out the SHRM Vendors' Guide, Benefits Enrollment and Administration, to compare and research benefits enrollment and administration companies.

Mandatory Health Plan Notices

For the many employers in the midst of open enrollment planning, SHRM has compiled model health plan notices from federal government agencies.

2023 Inflation- Adjusted Limits & Thresholds

2023 Benefit Plan Limits & Thresholds Chart
A handy chart showing 2023 benefit plan limits and thresholds: 401(k) plans, health savings accounts, health and dependent care flexible spending accounts, transit benefits and more.

For 2023, 401(k) Contribution Limit Rises to $22,500 with $7,500 'Catch-Up'
Employee 401(k) contributions for plan year 2023 will rise by $2,000 to $22,500 with an additional $7,500 catch-up contribution allowed for those turning age 50 or older. The contribution cap is a goal that may encourage savers to defer extra dollars, if they're able to do so.

2023 Health FSA Contribution Cap Rises to $3,050
Employees in 2023 can contribute up to $3,050 to their health care flexible spending accounts (health FSAs), pretax, through payroll deduction—a $200 increase from 2022—the IRS has announced. The maximum carryover amount rises to $610, up from $570.
Tax-exclusion limits for employer-sponsored commuting benefits and adoption assistance programs are also rising for 2023.

2023 Wage Cap Jumps to $160,200 for Social Security Payroll Taxes
Starting January 2023, the maximum earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax will increase by nearly 9 percent to $160,200—up from the $147,000 maximum for 2022, the SSA announced. By the start of the new year, adjust payroll systems and notify affected employees that more of their pay will be subject to payroll withholding.

2023 Tax Bracket Changes Could Increase Workers' Take-Home Pay
The IRS raised the top amounts of all seven federal income tax brackets for 2023, which could increase the paychecks of many employees by taxing more of their earnings at lower rates and influence employee decisions on paycheck withholding amounts.

IRS Sets 2023 Health Plan Premium Affordability Threshold at 9.12% of Pay
The IRS announced that for 2023 an employer's lowest self-only health plan premium can't exceed 9.12 percent of an employee's pay, down from the 2022 limit of 9.61 percent. Under the Federal Poverty Line safe harbor, the maximum monthly premium will be $103.28.

IRS Announces Spike in 2023 Limits for HSAs and High-Deductible Health Plans
Health savings account (HSA) contribution limits for 2023 are going up $200 for self-only coverage and $450 for family coverage, the IRS announced April 29, reflecting the recent inflation surge. Planning ahead, employers can encourage employees to increase their HSA contributions next year and can initiate or increase an employer contribution as well.

Open Enrollment Tips for 2023 Benefits

Open Enrollment Planning for Post-Pandemic Workplaces Gets Under Way
The 2023 benefits open enrollment season presents fresh demands as employers continue to adjust to a mix of onsite and remote workers. An open enrollment planning schedule can help keep preparations on track.

Fine-Tune Benefits Before Open Enrollment
In preparation for the annual benefits open enrollment season, gauge whether the benefits package is meeting employees' needs. If current offerings aren't competitive, this is the time to think about revising the benefits menu.

Health Insurance 'Knowledge Gap' Is Wide as Open Enrollment Approaches
Many workers misunderstand basic facts about health insurance and are unsure how to select the most appropriate plan during open enrollment. To address these needs, more employers are providing virtual education and online tools.

Open Enrollment for 2023 Reflects a Changing Benefits Landscape
Economic uncertainty, hybrid work arrangements and a renewed focus on employees' emotional well-being have altered the benefits packages that employers are offering for 2023.

Open Enrollment Success Relies on Effective Communications
Open enrollment this year again will operate in a predominantly virtual manner at many organizations. Even with a virtual approach, employers can ensure all employees are reached and an array of communication preferences are met.

Expanding the Open Enrollment Season
As employers have added new benefits that can complicate decision-making during open enrollment, some organizations are starting enrollment earlier and others are adding more follow-up after the traditional enrollment season ends.

Inflation Narrows Employees' Choices at Open Enrollment
Nearly half of U.S. workers report inflation is making it difficult for them to pay for their benefits. During open enrollment, employers can help employees select the benefits that best fit their needs and budgets.

2022 Inflation- Adjusted Limits & Thresholds

2022 Benefit Plan Limits & Thresholds Chart
A printable chart showing 2022 benefit plan limits and thresholds for 401(k) plans, health savings accounts, health flexible spending accounts and transit benefits, as well as earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax.

IRS Announces 2022 Limits for HSAs and High-Deductible Health Plans
Health savings account (HSA) contribution limits for 2022 are going up $50 for self-only coverage and $100 for family coverage, the IRS announced, giving employers time to educate participants about the advantages of fully funding their accounts.

Employees in 2022 can again put up to $2,850 into their health care flexible spending accounts (health FSAs), pretax, through payroll deduction, up from $2,750 this year, the IRS said. But the late announcement left many employers reusing the 2021 cap.

For 2022, 401(k) Contribution Limit Rises to $20,500
Employee 401(k) contributions for 2022 will rise by $1,000 to $20,500 with an additional $6,500 "catch-up" contribution allowed for those age 50 or older. During open enrollment, highlight the contribution cap and encourage employees to consider a higher savings rate, retirement advisors recommend.

2022 Wage Cap Rises to $147,000 for Social Security Payroll Taxes
Starting Jan. 1, 2022, the maximum earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax will increase by $4,200, the Social Security Administration announced. By the start of the new year, U.S. employers should adjust their payroll systems to account for the higher taxable wage base and notify affected employees that slightly more of their pay will be subject to payroll withholding.

IRS Raises Standard Mileage Rates for 2022
The standard mileage rate that businesses use to pay tax-free reimbursements to employees who drive their own cars for business will be 58.5 cents per mile in 2022, up 2.5 cents from 2021, the IRS announced.

IRS Raises Health Plans' PCORI Fees Payable in 2022
The IRS announced the annual adjustment to the fees that insurers or sponsors of self-insured health plans pay per plan enrollee to fund the federal Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) trust fund.

IRS Lowers 2022 Employer Health Plan Affordability Threshold to 9.61% of Pay
For 2022, the lowest-cost, self-only health coverage an employer offers can't exceed 9.61 percent of an employee's income, the IRA announced. Under a safe harbor, a plan that costs employees no more than $103.14 per month for self-only coverage will meet the standard.

Open Enrollment Tips for 2022 Benefits

Last-Minute Tips for Open Enrollment Communications
As open enrollment periods near or are underway for 2022 plan year benefits, and with many employees continuing to work remotely, here are reminders for effectively communicating about selecting and enrolling in available offerings.

Soliciting Employee Feedback for 2022 Benefits Changes
Surveying employees to understand the benefits they value—or would like to receive—can help HR reshape benefits packages to meet changing workforce needs. One company's experience shows how this can be done.

Virtual Communications: Expert Tips for Open Enrollment
During this year's open enrollment period for employee benefits, consider going with a multi-media approach that combines virtual tools and resources with traditional communications, benefits experts advise.

Managing Open Enrollment for a Hybrid Workforce
Employers unable to bring their workers back onsite, or that have shifted permanently to a hybrid workforce, face another open enrollment season relying heavily on virtual tools and resources. Here are some ways to make the process more effective.

Open Enrollment Planning Gets Under Way
The 2022 benefits open enrollment period will present fresh demands as employers adjust to a mix of onsite and remote workers whose priorities may have changed during the pandemic. It's also a chance to showcase the organization's values, and to help stem turnover rates.

Inflation, Other Factors, Drive Up Health Care Costs
Budgeting for employee health care poses particular challenges, given that the annual increase in health benefit costs routinely outpaces general inflation. It helps to understand how medical services are subject to unique cost factors.

Upgrading Benefits Administration with Robotic Process Automation
Robotic process automation (RPA) is replacing manual processing for HR practices such as benefit administration. The pandemic prompted a more rapid adoption of RPA tools.

Employees Still Perplexed by HSA Plans During Open Enrollment
Not understanding health savings accounts (HSAs) and the high-deductible health plans the accounts are coupled with leads some to bypass an HSA option during their employment period.

Previous Articles:

Build Empathy into Your Open Enrollment Season
Effective communication has always been vital during open enrollment, but this year it's even more important, and so is expressing empathy. Employers should show that they understand the fears and anxieties their employees are feeling.

Helping Employees Navigate Health Benefits During Open Enrollment
To help communicate about health care benefits, the marketplace offers an array of benefits selection and enrollment platforms and consultants who can engage directly with employees. Here are tips for choosing appropriate tools and resources.

A New Role for Critical-Illness Insurance in the Coronavirus Era
As the pandemic continues, some insurers are amending their critical illness policies to cover infectious diseases. Consider the details, however, and other issues when deciding whether to add critical illness coverage as a voluntary benefit.

Employers Feel More Responsible for Employees' Financial Wellness
As employers acknowledge a responsibility to help improve employees' financial well-being, they are adopting financial wellness benefits that meet employees' evolving needs—heightened by the pandemic—and employers' own budget constraints.

Spotlight Value of Benefits Package During Open Enrollment
The COVID-19 pandemic makes this year's open enrollment period a critical time for employers to think about the benefits they're providing and to communicate the value of these offerings to employees.

Viewpoint: Conducting Open Enrollment During the Pandemic
With a pandemic raging, employers are facing even bigger challenges around conducting open enrollment and communicating benefits information. That's why there's an argument for passive-selection enrollment this year.

Planning Benefits Changes for the COVID-19 Era
Planning employee benefits presents HR with unique challenges, given that the outlook for the COVID-19 pandemic is still unknown. If employers are going to change benefits programs to help employees enhance their physical, mental and fiscal health, they should determine if new offerings will meet actual workforce needs.

Prepare for Open Enrollment Challenges During a Difficult Year
With open enrollment for employee benefits coming up in the fall at most U.S. organizations, employers have an opportunity to reintroduce their benefit programs in ways that demonstrate how they can support workers during an unprecedented time.

Open Enrollment Tech

Virtual Benefit Fairs Draw Interest for Fall Open Enrollment
During open enrollment, more employers are expected to "go virtual" by taking benefit fairs online, with cyber equivalents for vendor booths and Q&A opportunities.

Helping Employees Navigate Health Benefits During Open Enrollment
To help communicate about health care benefits, the marketplace offers an array of benefits selection and enrollment platforms and consultants who can engage directly with employees. Here are tips for choosing appropriate tools and resources.

Shore up Benefits Cybersecurity During Open Enrollment
Employee data collected during open enrollment is a gold mine for cybercriminals. This year, the challenge of keeping this information safe may be greater, as the COVID-19 pandemic has increased data vulnerabilities that criminals can exploit.

Toolkit: Leveraging the Value of Employee Self-Service Portals
This toolkit covers the value and effective use of self-service portals, including their use for functions such as benefits enrollment, employee onboarding and employee training.

Does AI Have a Place in Open Enrollment?
Decision-support technology, including those using artificial intelligence (AI) and often integrated into enrollment apps and online platforms, is starting to transform the open-enrollment experience.

Online Platforms Transform Open Enrollment
Technology is continuing to transform the annual open-enrollment season, during which employees select workplace benefits for the coming year.

For Benefit Platforms, Employers Pick User Experience Over Cost
Price is not the primary driver for large employers that are choosing among benefits administration technology platforms. Ease of use for benefits administrators and employees and the ability to integrate benefits technology with HR information systems can be higher priorities.

Data-Driven Benefit-Selection Tools Are Just Getting Started
Decision-support tools can help employees make health care decisions around not only the choice of doctors and hospitals but also the best type of plan to enroll in.

How to Boost Employee Adoption of New HR Tech
In addition to explaining the nuts and bolts, your plan of attack must include clear communications about why the technology is being introduced, as well as an explanation of how it will benefit both the company and the employee.

Revisiting the Basics... 

How to Explain Benefits to Employees Who Don't Care
Employee benefits are vital to workers' health and financial security, so why do so many employees wait until the last hours of open enrollment to crack open their benefit brochures and then march into HR and declare, "Just tell me what I should do"? (Watch the video clip.)

Open Enrollment: Choosing Active vs. Passive Benefits Election
Requiring employees to proactively elect to enroll in benefit plans for the coming year can prod them to reconsider the appropriateness of their selections, but it requires HR to engage directly with employees to ensure that no one inadvertently misses their opportunity to receive coverage

Open Enrollment: Developing Your Game Plan
Set goals for this year's open enrollment season and devise a strategy for meeting your objectives. Tailor your communications campaign to support these aims.

Open Enrollment: Targeted Communications Address Differing Needs
In drafting open enrollment communications, consider whether you're reaching people with information that's relative to them, taking into consideration where they are in their lives and what their particular needs are.

Open Enrollment: Using Social Media and Decision-Support Tools
HR benefit managers are turning to social media to get the open enrollment message out, holding twitter charts and sending text messages linked to videos. But many employers remain hesitant about using new media for benefits communications.

Open Enrollment: Voluntary Benefits Emphasize Choice
Voluntary benefits can help to address possible financial gaps for employees, especially for those enrolled in high-deductible health plans. While these choices enhance the benefits package, they also raise issues that employers and employees should keep in mind.

Ready for Prime Time? Using Video in Benefits Communication
A compelling video can go a long way toward getting employees to respond to benefits-related communication. While video has long been a part of employee benefits communication, recent developments are taking it to a new level.

How to Humanize Benefits Communications with Technology
Whether they use apps, videos, portals, microsites or automated e-mails, benefits administrators can reach employees with key messages across multiple channels. But many employees seek more of a human touch in how they learn and make decisions about benefit options.

6 Simple Ways to Improve Open Enrollment
Smart HR leaders are continually looking for new and different ways to engage workers during open enrollment. To that end, here are some tried-and-true tips to make the most of this crucial time.

Know What You Need to Select a Benefits Provider
As vendor choices grow and benefits technology evolves, it's more important than ever that benefits leaders know what they need to know when selecting benefits administration partners.

Use Voluntary Benefits to Attract and Keep Part-Time Workers
Part-time employees typically are not eligible for their company's core benefits offerings and oftentimes can feel left out. Offering part-timers access to employee-paid voluntary benefits can help to keep them onboard.

...and More Practice Tips

Simple Open-Enrollment Tips That Can Make a Big Difference
Many employees face open enrollment with emotions ranging from annoyance to dread,  lack confidence in the benefits choices they make and give their employers a mark of "C" for their efforts. These tips can help you raise your grade this open-enrollment season.

Open Enrollment Reminders for Employees—and HR
At many organizations, the open enrollment season for 2020 benefits is underway or about to begin. As HR representatives address open enrollment meetings, speak with employees one-on-one and send out enrollment reminders, they can use these pointers to help employees make smart decisions.

When It's Time to Change Your Benefits Menu
As an organization's workforce changes, employers should be prepared to add, modify or end benefit programs, recognizing that benefits valued in the past may not be effective in the future. 

Employees Seek Personalized Perks During Open Enrollment
Employees' desire for benefits tailored to their own needs is changing the mix of offerings this open-enrollment season and leading HR managers to customize their benefits communications.

For Open Enrollment, Communications Get Social
Almost every employee now carries a smartphone, which allows HR benefits managers to make social media posts and text messaging part of their open enrollment toolkit. Here are tips for the upcoming open enrollment season.

An Open Enrollment 'Look Back' Captures What You've Learned
As the year ended, HR wrapped up another open enrollment season. Before moving on, however, standing back and reviewing what went smoothly and what tripped you up can ensure an easier, more effective process when next fall rolls around.

At Open Enrollment, HR Departments of One Step Up
Enrollment season puts extra pressures on departments of one, but these HR pros are up to the challenge. Their success carries lessons for HR teams of all sizes.

Open Enrollment Tips for the Coming Season
The fall open enrollment season is a time that some HR professionals dread as an administrative nightmare while others see an opportunity to personally engage with employees, and to help them make choices that will safeguard their health and financial well-being. Here are some suggestions for avoiding the former and achieving the latter.

How to Explain High-Deductible Plans
More companies are making high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) an option—or, increasingly, the sole choice—for employer-sponsored health coverage. So it's important to provide clear communication that helps employees understand how HDHPs operate and whether the plans are right for them.

Address HSA Misconceptions During Open Enrollment
Open enrollment is an opportunity to help employees understand the value of a health savings account (HSA), but many employers make common mistakes that undermine their communication efforts. For instance, don’t apologize for offering a high-deductible plan with an HSA, but focus on the long-term health-savings advantages.

Dental Benefits Are Often Misunderstood, Underused
Lack of knowledge about their dental coverage can cause employees to skip regular checkups and routine cleanings, leading to more expensive and invasive treatments later on.


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