Your organisation’s response to COVID-19 could be found in your Employee Benefits program.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to cause substantial business disruption risk, with many employers now making significant changes to their business operations and employee practices to respond to the virus. This is clearly a challenging time for everyone especially HR and risk managers who will be at the forefront of protecting their employees.
The good news is that organisations with a comprehensive employee benefits program can be well positioned to support and protect their employees during this complex time. Many of the typical employee benefits in Australia can provide valuable support to your employees and are likely to apply during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Employee Assistance Plan (EAP)
As your employees start to adjust to new working arrangements along with potential uncertainty around finances and their health they are likely to need additional support. Your EAP service is a good resource for employees who are feeling anxious or struggling to adjust to the events of COVID-19. Most of the EAP services are telephone based and not reliant on face-to-face contact.
Many EAP providers are also offering tools and resources for employers on the steps they can take to manage COVID-19 in the workplace.
This ranges from topics such as employee hygiene to what to do when an employee presents at the office/work site with symptoms. Now could also be a time to remind your employees of your EAP service and the services available to them.
We encourage you to be in touch with your EAP provider to understand their full range of services and that you remind employees on how they can access the services.
Group Salary Continuance
If your company provides Group Salary Continuance, it is likely there is not a pandemic exclusion and so the valuable cover afforded by this policy is in effect for any eligible employees that may be infected by the virus. Of course, all other policy conditions and requirements for a valid claim would still apply. Importantly, the policy is unlikely to have any restriction in cover if employees are working from home. At a time when employee concern around health risks is high this benefit has never been more important.
We are working with a number of organisations to assist them communicate the coverage under the company sponsored salary continuance policy and reassure their employees how it will apply in relation to COVID-19. We recommend reminding your staff of this benefit as an important strategy to maintain employee mental health and engagement. You should also seek the support of your broker/insurer in this exercise.
Private Health Insurance
Similar to Group Salary Continuance insurance, Private Health Insurance does not contain a specific pandemic exclusion. Therefore, if you have either a company-funded or employee paid private health insurance program as one of your key employee benefits then you can take this opportunity to remind individuals of its value.
One important exception to this could be with regards waiting periods. Employees who have taken out a policy for the first time in the last 12 months may need to serve waiting periods.
As with the all benefits, an effective communication strategy with the support of your vendor(s) is recommended.
Many superannuation funds will include access to employee support and, in particular, guidance on financial wellbeing for their members. At a time when financial security and potential job losses are being discussed in the media this is an important consideration for employee’s overall mental health.
Employees will also, in most cases, have Life and Total Permanent Disability (TPD) insurance inside their default superannuation fund and it is recommended that organisations work with your provider to communicate to employees the value of their insurances in relation to COVID-19.