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Large Employers Broadening Support for Employees Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Amid growing concern over the impact of COVID-19, large employers are implementing a series of broad-reaching policies to support employees and their families as the virus spreads.


This is according to a survey of 95 large employers by Business Group on Health, which found that employers are championing initiatives that include ensuring employees are paid during the pandemic, adding more flexibility to their health benefit plans, and expanding working from home options.

“The fact that large employers are going above and beyond in this difficult time to support their employees and families is commendable and not surprising,” said Steve Boddy, content director at WorldaWork. “I would expect participation numbers to continue rise as we journey down this unprecedented path. Even with the additional forthcoming aid from the federal government, additional benefits provided by employers like pay continuation, workplace flexibility with work-from-home options, and better access to telemedicine, EAPs and enhanced Rx programs go a long way as we work through this fluid situation.”

The “Large Employer Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey, Part II,” found that employees are continuing to receive pay through leave and pay continuation programs.

For employees who have been exposed to the virus or are exhibiting cold/flu symptoms and can’t work from home:

  • Three-quarters of employers (75%) are providing access to existing paid sick leave or PTO programs.
  • In addition to standard leave programs, one-third of employers (34%) are continuing to pay affected employees unable to work, and another 25% are considering doing so if the situation continues to escalate.
  • Nearly a quarter (22%) are adding emergency paid leave or additional sick leave, while another 27% will do so as needed.

For employees who are not typically eligible for paid leave:

  • Almost one in four employers (23%) will continue to pay employees not eligible for leave if they are quarantined.
  • 16% of employers will do so for employees who are ineligible for leave and are symptomatic while 14% will pay employees who are caring for a symptomatic family member.

“Employers have increased support for employees their and families during these challenging times,” said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of Business Group on Health. “Many are implementing pay continuation polices and additional paid time off in the form of emergency leave or additional leave, especially for employees who are in roles not conducive to working from home.” 

On top of waiving or reducing costs for needed testing for COVID-19:

  • Over two-thirds of respondents (68%) are actively encouraging employees to use telemedicine during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Over nine in ten respondents (93%) are encouraging employees to utilize EAPs during the crisis.
  • For U.S. health plans:
    • Over two-thirds of respondents (69%) either have or will reduce or waive early prescription fill limits to allow patients with chronic conditions to maintain a 30-day supply of medication on hand, if warranted.
    • Over one-third of respondents (35%) either have or will reduce or waive out-of-pocket cost for mail-order prescription drugs.
  • For benefit policies outside the U.S.:
    • 21% of respondents are either in the process or have completed successful negotiation waiver of coronavirus related exclusions from medical and life insurance policies.

Employers assisting with childcare needs, expanding work at home policies:

  • Nearly all employers either have or will implement work at home policies for employees with possible exposure to the virus.
  • Slightly fewer (91%) respondents have or will adopt work at home policies for employees with a cold or flu-like symptoms.

“Employers who have been hesitant to adopt work-at-home policies in the past are finding that this flexibility is delivering immediate value in supporting business continuity plans,” said Marta Turba, vice president of content management at WorldatWork. “Employers are focused on workforce protection, and health and well-being is being prioritized in every way over productivity.”

About the Author

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Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.

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