Exploring Creative Benefits Plan Offerings

Employers, you know it’s true. Your benefits plan can make your company look more attractive, help you recruit and keep top talent, and improve the morale of your workforce. While there are standard benefit plan options such as group health coverage, life insurance, and retirement plans, there are other options that can put you over the top. Here’s a look at some creative benefits plan offerings for your employees.

Creative Benefits: Ideas for Your Plan

Student Loan Repayment Assistance Plans

According to the Department of Education, in 2020, the average student owed roughly $35,400 in loan debt, up from roughly $32,600 in 2019. That amount varies a lot among borrowers and can be affected by things like whether the student stayed in their home state or not. Because of factors like this, the range runs from less than $7,000 to over $43,000.

With almost 45 million people in student loan debt, a Student Loan Repayment Assistance (SLRA) plan is a high demand benefit right now. Currently, employers can offer up to $5,250 in tax-free assistance – but only until December 31, 2025.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), only 8 percent of American companies offer this type of plan. This could really make you stand out from your competitors.

Section 139 Disaster Relief Assistance

It seems as though there is always some form of natural disaster going on somewhere in the United States. Pandemics, ice storms, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes are a few of the hazards that we have faced in recent years.

With a section 139 disaster relief plan, the costs and amount of benefits is very flexible. You can offer assistance “to reimburse or pay reasonable and necessary personal, family, living, or funeral expenses incurred as a result of the qualified disaster.”  A “qualified disaster” is defined as a disaster resulting from terroristic or military action, a federally declared disaster, a disaster determined by the IRS to be of catastrophic nature, or a disaster determined by federal, state, or local government or agency.“

Dependent Care Assistance Plans

Child care can be very expensive for working parents. In fact, costs can range from $480 – $1,740 per month. 

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has recognized the need to assist people taking care of others. If you are a working parent with a Dependent Care Assistance Plan (DCAP, also called a Dependent Care FSA), in 2021 you can put aside a maximum of $10,500 for individuals or married couples filing jointly, and $5,250 for a married person filing separately, before taxes, to cover childcare expenses. However, the decision to increase the annual limit for 2021 is subject to employer approval, so verify your status with you HR department. Keep in mind, this can also be used for non-child dependents, but can only be used for care provided while the holder is working or going to school. It is not available for overnight care or camps.

Individual Coverage HRA

You can offer a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) to cover the cost of non-group healthcare insurance for your employees. Individual Coverage HRAs (ICHRAs) were approved by Congress in 2019. ICHRAs allow beneficiaries to shop for health insurance on the open market, including exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act, and be reimbursed for part or all of their premium expenses.

Flexible Work Environment

A modern benefit that has seen a massive surge over the past year is telework. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the issue, but it could become a long-term change for many in the “new normal.” Cutting down on fuel costs and commuting times is seen by many as a significant perk. So long as productivity stays high, why not offer the ability for your team to enjoy the advantages of working from home, whether in a hybrid model or full-time?

Casual Dress

While there is still a time and place for traditional business attire, one of the easiest and most cost-effective benefit options is an appropriate, business casual dress code at the office. This is especially true for employees who are not client-facing. Keep in mind that while working from home may mean even more casual attire, employees should understand that at certain times, more appropriate attire may be needed to avoid potential embarrassment.

Re-think your benefits plan. Creative benefits, with more options, could mean a happier, more productive workforce.

DataPath Administrative Services offers employee benefits administration, including FSAs, HRAs, HSAs, and more.