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Benefits 101: What Are the HR Trends of 2021?

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By
Kara Robinson
October 27, 2021

Employers are embracing benefit diversity to improve their employee’s happiness and engagement 

Key takeaways:

  • Employers are adding benefits to support a struggling workforce and engage employees.
  • Employers are adding more healthcare options.
  • Employers are paying a larger share of their employees' health insurance premiums.
  • Health Savings Account (HSA) enrollment has increased in recent years.
  • Supplemental benefits are becoming more popular.
  • Employers are embracing emergency savings accounts and financial wellness programs.

In 2021, employers are expanding benefits to support their struggling workers. They're adding more financial wellness tools, making changes to healthcare benefits, focusing on mental healthcare, and taking cost considerations into account. 

Last year in 2020, employers were focused on adding benefits that supported worker productivity and made employees feel connected. That trend has continued in 2021 but this year, employers and employees are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. They want benefits that will protect them if they get sick and can’t work or lose their jobs. 

This guide takes a look at the most prevalent HR benefit trends of 2021. If you want to see what's happening in the world of HR and benefits this year, check out this list of the highlights.

Benefit diversity and enhancement

Employers are expanding their benefit packages to meet the diverse needs of their workers. Rather than offering a single healthcare plan, for example, over three-quarters of employers are now offering traditional healthcare plans along with a High-Deductible Healthcare Plan (HDHP) option. 

In 2021, employers have realized that their employees are not all the same and they need different products to meet their needs based on their age, family status, income, and other factors.

In the past, Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans were the most popular health insurance option, and although they're still the reigning option, HDHPs are catching up. Enrollment in these plans is up by about 30% since 2018

Greater demand for healthcare savings accounts

Employers are also putting healthcare management tools directly in their employees' hands. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), in particular, have become more popular. 

As Gen Z enters the workplace, they have gravitated toward this benefit and over the last three years, the percentage of employees from this generation with HSAs has more than doubled. At the same time, overall contributions into HSA accounts have increased by 10% or more this year alone among Gen Z, Millennials, and the Gen X crowd.

Controlling healthcare costs

Healthcare costs have been rising since the 1970s and concerned employers have decided to shoulder the majority of their employees’ healthcare costs in 2021. Employee healthcare premiums increased between 2020 and 2021, so employers are paying a larger percentage of total premiums for 2021. 

Employers are also helping to control costs by offering employees more health insurance options.

A focus on employee engagement

Employers want their employees to be engaged. They don't want to offer a list of benefits that don't excite and help them. To rise to this challenge, employers are offering more voluntary benefits such as income protection insurance, mental health benefits, and access to wellness programs. 

Income protection insurance pays you a regular income if you can’t work because you’re sick or disabled and continues until you return to work or retire. Employers are going beyond the mental health benefits offered with many health care plans, and they're extending their employees benefits that help them right now. This includes programs to reduce stress levels, apps to help with sleep and relaxation, and access to mental health providers over telehealth systems. 

Finally, wellness programs take a range of forms, but at their heart, they seek to support the employee as a whole person. These programs increase productivity and employee satisfaction by helping employees improve their physical, mental, and financial health. Programs like these supplement core coverage and give employees more choices. 

Supplement benefits becoming more popular

In the same vein, supplemental benefits are becoming more popular. Employees want to know that they can handle anything life throws at them and this sentiment has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic. People don't want to be caught unaware when unprecedented things happen.

Employee participation in hospital indemnity plans increased by 13% in 2021 and it has more than doubled over the last four years. These plans pick up the costs not covered by insurance if someone is hospitalized. Since 2018, participation in critical illness and accident plans has also increased by over 65%. 

Workplace giving and volunteering programs

The pandemic and racial injustice have emphasized the need for supporting the broader community and employees want to see their employers get involved. A survey from Fidelity indicates that about two-thirds of workers think it's important for their employers to give back to the community.

In response to this concern, employers have established programs that facilitate their workers' involvement in the community. Through these programs, employees can donate their time and money to the community where they live and the causes that are important to them. 

More help with student debt

Employers are expanding access to tools that help their employees manage their student debt. The most popular options include programs where employers make after-tax payments to their employee's student loans. Programs like these free up employees' financial resources so they can further focus on other savings goals like saving for retirement and creating an Emergency Savings Account (ESA). 

Assistance with emergency savings

Most employees are not ready to handle a relatively modest emergency and people in this position are more stressed and less focused. When they face an emergency, their jobs often suffer.

ESAs address this issue head-on and they help to prevent employees from dipping into their retirement accounts when something goes wrong. Employers are providing their employees with education about how to build up ESAs and some of them are providing tools to facilitate this process in their benefits packages. 

This high-impact, low-cost benefit comes at the perfect time – saving is more important now than ever, while the country still reels from the pandemic.

Ultimately, the HR trends for 2021 indicate that employers are more concerned about diversity and inclusion. They want to offer benefits that appeal to all of their workers and doing so requires diversification of the options. 

They also want to ensure that their organization's benefits packages are supporting their workers in significant ways. They want workers to feel engaged and included and whenever possible, they want benefits that support productivity and stress reduction. 

Contact SecureSave to add emergency savings to your benefits package

At SecureSave, we know how important ESAs are to both employees and employers. Our purpose-built solution meets both of these concerns. It helps employees save for emergencies, and by reducing employee stress, SecureSave safeguards productivity and focus for employers. 


To learn more about how SecureSave can enhance and diversify your benefits package, contact us today.

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Kara Robinson

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