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Unprecedented times call for unprecedented action


Tools, resources and programs organizations are implementing to support their workforce during the global pandemic

The world was flung into a situation that most governments, employers and citizens were not fully prepared for. Very quickly, organizations were required to make massive adjustments to the way work gets done—from shifting workforces to virtual work, to rotating workers to increase social distancing, to even closing operations. These changes, in addition to the pressures of lost paychecks, no child care, illness and general stress are creating a great strain on people around the world.

And while it’s easy to target employers for doing too little, or making tough choices to keep their companies operational, many organizations are taking important steps to ensure their people and their families are cared for during these tough times.

Benefits programs

In many cases, employers are enhancing benefits beyond what is required, while others are making sure benefits and support are more easily accessible. These changes include simple gestures like expanding the window for off-cycle annual enrollment by a week or more to accommodate to providing robust employee microsites with COVID-19 information, resources and benefits information all in one place.

The mental health toll for people around the world is immense and organizations are providing specific resources to help people care for their mental wellbeing through specific campaigns. One Alight client has introduced a webinar series including live and on-demand discussions about topics like productivity, resilience, sleep and mental and physical wellbeing. This particular client is also providing weekly “office hours” via webinar with its medical director.

Organizations are also making sure workers and family members diagnosed with COVID-19 receive special care by providing access to health professionals through a special Alight Healthcare Navigation service. These health professionals help diagnosed workers or family members navigate the health process from education and resources, to help locating treatment, to coordinating the leave of absence process.

And to help address difficulties accessing in-person healthcare, employers and providers are increasingly adding access to telemedicine—even if it isn’t typically covered by an employer plan. This option allows people to access doctors and other qualified health professional remotely to ensure they’re getting the care they need. This is particularly critical for people with chronic conditions who may otherwise put off regular care and put their health at risk.

Time off

While many local and national laws have been enacted to provide enhanced leaves provisions, some organizations are adding even more generous time off programs and some smaller employers are providing workers with 14 days of additional paid leave, even though they aren’t required to do so. For example, one client has added additional time off for older and at risk employees. Organizations, including Alight, are providing additional time off for workers who may need to care for others during the pandemic, this includes caring for sick loved ones or caring for children who would otherwise be in school or childcare.

In addition, organizations are making it easier for workers to support one-another. Some employers are giving workers the option to donate unused time off to their fellow colleagues who may need additional time.

Day-to-day expenses

Easing some of the financial burden being felt by many is one way to help and employers have found some innovative ways to provide this support. 

One simple and fast way Alight clients are providing financial help is through the Employee Care Card. The card allows organizations to provide tax-free qualified disaster relief (QDR) payments to employees and provide targeted support to address employees’ most basic needs.

Loan-alternative are another option some organizations have added to help people avoid other, more costly loans. Some employers are making services available to give workers access to low-interest loans in time of need, which can help workers avoid taking high-cost pay-day loans, or 401(k) loans or withdrawals that have costly taxes and penalties.

Some companies have formal employee assistance funds that provide grants to workers in need. For example, Alight employees have access to the Alight People Matter Fund, a non-profit program born out of our colleagues’ desire to help colleagues impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017. Colleagues can request quick grants or apply for larger grants.

Organizations can provide a wide range of tools and resources to support workers and their families during this global pandemic. From on-point communication, to mental health workshops, to financial support, the opportunities for organizations can range from simple and easy to quickly implement, to complex and impactful.