Benefits Blog

The reasons benefit communications matter — and how to go about it

Recently I was invited to speak with the NEEBC Mentoring Group for emerging benefits professionals about communications strategies, employee engagement ideas, and best practices. A few of the participants were struggling with how to engage employees in understanding their benefits – or even where to begin. I figure it’s always helpful to start with the most basic question – why bother?

Why Benefits Communications Matter

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The Stats Don't Lie...Workplace Accommodations for Breastfeeding Employees

Breast milk is best for a working mother’s baby. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) latest Breastfeeding Report Card, in the U.S., around 83 percent of babies are breastfed. The increasing trend and high breastfeeding initiation rates are proof that most mothers want and intend to feed their babies breast milk. 

However, as each month passes from the initiation, the number of infants receiving human milk drops, despite the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation of “exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.” These declining rates as time goes on indicate that mothers may not be getting the support they need from family members, health care providers, and employers to meet their breastfeeding goals.

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Win With Wellness -- Attract And Retain Talent

What differentiators does your organization tout when trying to recruit or retain top talent: a low-cost health care benefit, a matching 401(k) plan, unlimited time off? What about your wellness program? Wellness programs can transcend your organization, delivering a message to both potential job candidates and current employees that your organization is an attractive place to work. In fact, a well-designed wellness program can be the difference between signing an employee or sending them in the direction of a competitor -- or losing an integral member of your team to another company.

The quest to attract talent is at an all-time high. With unemployment rates hovering below 4%1, the competition is tough and employers are finding they need to get creative to hire the best of the best. Similarly, smart employers realize that hiring great employees is not the only way to win the talent war. With the average employee tenure at four to five years1, retaining top talent can be as difficult, and as important, as finding it. For industries most affected2 by the current shortage -- high-tech, information technology, software, life sciences, financial advisement and banking -- this is especially true.

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Across the Generations, NEEBC's 2019 Best Practices Conference

Four of the “Best” Takeaways

Reflecting upon NEEBC’s recent Best Practices Conference, where I was honored to moderate one of the two panels of best practices winners, I realize there were a number of themes and ideas I heard and learned from this panel and overall event. Below are four of the “best” takeaways that we can all consider and apply at our workplace.

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Navigating Transgender Leave

The societal understanding of what it means for an employer to be truly inclusive of all diversity groups has expanded exponentially since the turn of the 21st century. Employers are increasingly faced with multifaceted Human Resources related topics including cannabis, cybersecurity, sexual harassment, and a push, in many states, for equal opportunity for paid leave. Equal opportunity accommodations do not just vary between male and female employees but also between groups based on race, religion, and gender identity.

Gender identity itself varies extensively, but one concentration is the difference between individuals that identify as either cisgender (the same gender as their sex at birth) or non-cisgender (not the same gender as their sex at birth). The non-cisgender identity includes a wide umbrella of individuals who do not identify or present themselves with the sex they were assigned at birth, including transgender (not the same gender as their sex at birth) and non-binary (neither exclusively female or male) individuals. This particular group of individuals has historically faced major roadblocks in society and until recently, had not experienced inclusion and accommodations in the corporate world. Even with the progress that has been made, there is still a gap in today’s employee benefits environment for anyone deviating from “the norm”.


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What we heard from "Washington Insiders" at Washington Update

Attendees of the recent 2019 Annual Washington Update – Bringing Washington to Boston received a wealth of information and insights from a great line-up of speakers.

Rachel Leiser Levy, Healthcare Tax and Policy Principal at Groom Law Group, kicked off the program with a comprehensive update on the ever-evolving landscape of health reimbursement arrangements (“HRAs”).  After a fascinating review of the history of HRAs post-health care reform, Levy provided an excellent overview of the critical provisions in the June, 2019 tri-agency final regulations, published in response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13813 (“Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States”).  The regulations address Individual Choice HRAs – or ICHRAs – and Excepted Benefit HRAs – or EBHRAs.

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More than Just a Wellness Room

Fourteen years ago, I started my breastfeeding journey when I gave birth to my first child.  As an assistant vice president in the financial services industry, I couldn’t imagine how I could work 50-60 hours a week, commute an hour and half each way to work, and provide breast milk to my baby.  Fast forward to today, we are seeing so many companies providing exceptional maternity benefits such as work-from-home flexibility, wellness rooms to support new moms who decide to pump at work, breast milk shipping for travelling moms, and new parent gift boxes. After five years as a stay-at-home mom, I am so grateful for the second chapter of my career focusing on women’s health – specifically, the prenatal and postpartum time period.  It is incredibly humbling to see young new moms “want it all,” and in some cases “have it all.” 

The transition from maternity leave back to work is possibly the third largest life event, apart from getting married and giving birth.  It’s a time where career women, full of drive and ambition, realize they have been given the gift of motherhood, and one of the many job requirements is to feed their babies in whichever way, breast milk or formula, is best for them and their family.  Today, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1, 84% of moms choose to breastfeed.  And although each mom’s goals are personal and most often kept within their most trusted circle of family and friends, it is often a goal that aligns with the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatric – 6 months of exclusive breast milk and 12 months of breastfeeding.  So here in lies the problem…maternity leave and returning to work straddles that goal.  As a result, the breastfeeding rate at six months postpartum drops to 57% according to the CDC Breastfeeding Report Card1.

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How Benefits Technology Can Transform the Annual Enrollment Experience & Improve Business Outcomes

As planning for Annual Enrollment gets into full swing for many employers, setting goals around benefits choice-making and delivery success makes sense. As part of offering benefits that meet larger organizational goals, HR pros should think critically and strategically about how they are connecting benefits to both employees and their own departments and expect a higher level of function and experience from their benefits technology solutions moving into this year’s Annual Enrollment and beyond.

To paraphrase Tennyson very loosely, at this point in the year, the thoughts of many HR pros turn to Annual Enrollment (AE). AE is effectively the year’s “main event.” The spotlight is on, and it’s time to shine.

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MA FMLA Regulation Update - May 2019

Exemption and Workforce Notification Deadlines Extended

The Department of Family and Medical Leave has announced that exemption and workforce notification deadlines have been extended.

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HRA Mutations: What do the new HRA rules say?

What are HRAs under current rules?

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Seven Steps for Developing a Corporate, Family-Caregiving Strategy

Over 43 million people in the United States currently provide unpaid care to a family member; 52 percent of these caregivers are also employed full- or part-time. The demands placed on caregivers are often overwhelming, exhausting, and unsustainable. Many experts have identified this as an impending public health crisis. 

Fortunately, caregiver advocates have been pushing for public policies to be created at a national level to address this growing stressor on Americans. With the recent enactment of RAISE— the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage Family Caregivers Act—a range of diverse stakeholders including family caregivers, healthcare and social service providers, and employers will soon come together to develop a national family caregiving strategic plan.

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5 Proven Takeaways for Employee Engagement Success from the 2019 Summit and Trade Show (Afternoon Sessions)

There’s a lot of buzz about #EmployeeEngagement, but what does it look like? There are a variety of descriptions, but I like Gallup’s: engaged employees are enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.

High levels of engagement promote retention of talent and foster customer loyalty while improving both organizational performance and stakeholder value.

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Highlights of 2019 Summit & Trade Show (Keynote & Morning Sessions)

As someone who has made a professional home in the employee benefits space, there are a number of events that I look forward to each year. One of them is the NEEBC Annual Employee Benefits Summit & Trade ShowI had the privilege of not only attending this year, but of also being asked to blog about the event. As a former prolific blogger (that’s debatable), I was happy to oblige.

NEEBC has been in existence for nearly 40 years, and each year they do a great job of getting a top-name speaker to keynote the event. This year was no different. Dr. Martin Makary was the first speaker.  He is a Johns Hopkins surgeon and New York Times bestselling author, was the lead author of the first publication on The Surgical Checklist and later served in leadership with Atul Gawande on the World Health Organization Surgery Checklist project.

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Win With Wellness: A Great Culture Helps Bring Clients To Your Door

Win With Wellness: A Great Culture Helps Bring Clients To Your Door

Entrepreneurs are passionate, driven and always looking for innovative solutions to grow their business. Forward-thinking organizations are now looking to corporate wellness as an effective strategy to improve an organization from within and drive business to the front door.

Research shows that a return on investment (ROI) can be a long-term benefit (3-5 years) of a strategic wellness program. But recently, a lot more of the focus is on wellness improving many aspects of an organization which can affect recruitment, retention and even attract customers.

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The Opioid Crisis - Best Practices for Prevention

When thinking about how to tackle the opioid epidemic, prevention is just as important as intervention.

There is often a long journey an employee goes through before a prescription gets in their hands. In addition to thinking about your pharmacy benefit plans or high quality in-network treatment centers, think about what programs and policies can be put in place that prevent the ripple effect of medical and emotional conditions that may lead to opioid use:

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Top Five Trends Rounding Out Employee Benefits for Employers

The PERKS team has been analyzing the shift toward additive cutting-edge benefits improving recruiting and retention for employees of any age.

Here are five different benefit trends of note: family & mom perks, telehealth & access, on-demand development, financial goal support and mental health & personal development. 

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Paid Family Medical Leave - Employer and Employee Tool Kits

Employer and Employee Tool Kits/Guides about the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Law have been posted to

The Department of Family and Medical Leave offers these tool kits to help businesses and individuals navigate the latest information, and to provide resources to inform interested stakeholders. The tool kits include:

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Maximize Prescription Drug Program Value Results Through Improved Employee Engagement Strategies

Last week the Kaiser Family Foundation released a health tracking poll that revealed that one in four U.S. patients has trouble affording their medication. Three in ten (29%) of adults don’t take their medications as prescribed. Affordability is particularly acute for patients who take four or more prescriptions (35% reported difficulty affording). Numerous studies show that lack of medication adherence drives up medical costs.


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2019 Health Insurance Market Outlook

          Social Determinants...

...were just some of the themes of NEEBC’s 2019 Health Insurance Market Outlook panel discussion. Twenty-year employee benefits veteran and Principal with Strategic Benefit Advisors, David Chamberlain, gave the opening "outlook" which included top health care concerns.

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Building Emotional & Mental Wellness Globally

Employers have long realized the benefits of helping workers stay physically healthy, but many have been reluctant to venture into the less understood, often stigmatized realm of mental health issues. Today, that attitude is starting to change as organizations realize the extent of the problem and the toll it takes on productivity and business continuity.

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