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2020’s Silver Lining: Improved Benefits Offerings

The COVID-19 pandemic tested employers and employees alike, which affected the rewards and benefits organizations offered their employees in a tumultuous 2020.


Highlighting these trends, WorldatWork’s “2020 Inventory of Total Rewards Programs & Practices” survey found there were significant increases in employer-offered telemedicine, paid and unpaid caregiver leave, tuition discounts and hazard pay from 2019.

Given the need to avoid visiting hospitals or medical clinics during the pandemic, nearly all (94%) of the 812 employers surveyed provided their employees access to telemedicine, which was up from 88% last year.

“Not surprisingly, employer-offered telemedicine services saw an increase in use in 2020,” said Steve Boddy, content director, total rewards, at WorldatWork. “The impact of COVID-19, and employees’ actual and perceived safety and comfort visiting their health care professionals, likely played a big part in this increase.”  

Barely trailing telemedicine’s popularity this year was telework, as 80% of employers provided their employees with needed flexible work arrangements, which was up from 73% in 2019. To assist with the remote work, 27% of employers said they offer internet service, 49% offered office supplies, and 23% offered office furniture to remote employees.

More employers also provided services for their working parents, as 56% provided unpaid, job-protected time off to care for or bond with a new child and 53% provided unpaid caregiver leave, both increases from 2019.

Additionally, paid caregiver leave increased from 20% last year to 27% in 2020 and hazard pay increased from 15% to 23%. More employers (22%) also provided cost-of-living adjustments to their employees compared to 2019 (16%). Organizations also assisted with the unusual circumstances by providing seminars, webinars or literature to promote well-being (85%) as well as stress-reduction programs and offerings such as yoga, massage and meditation (82%).

“Organizations had to quickly pivot and get creative when offering total rewards programs as a result of COVID-19,” Boddy said. “The results of the survey support these findings as programs such as leave offerings, well-being programs, and remote work all significantly rose year over year.”

While organizations did well to provide extra benefits to their employees during difficult times, offerings such as market-based pay adjustments, bonuses and internships were negatively affected in 2020. Just 69% of employers provided market-based pay adjustment, down from 80% last year, and performance-based pay increases fell from 93% to 88%. Internships fell from 84% to 77%. 

And, illuminating a trend from social justice movements in the summer, the number of reported diversity and inclusion initiatives rose from 65% in 2019 to 76% in 2020 and 80% of employers stated that employees are eligible for pay equity adjustments.

About the Author

Brett Christie Bio Image

Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.

About WorldatWork

WorldatWork is a professional nonprofit association that sets the agenda and standard of excellence in the field of Total Rewards. Our membership, signature certifications, data, content, and conferences are designed to advance our members’ leadership, and to help them influence great outcomes for their own organizations.

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