Employer-Sharing Discussion: Global Benefits - April 6, 2022

In the latest of a series of monthly calls that enable Business Group on Health employer members to network on the most pressing issues impacting their workforces around the world, employers spoke about the urgent situation in Ukraine and surrounding countries and its impact on employees, benefits in Mexico; return-to-worksite planning; diversity, equity and inclusion trends; and a potpourri of additional topics submitted by Business Group on Health members.

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April 21, 2022

Recent Events in Ukraine and Surrounding Countries

Supporting employees

In a continuation of the previous discussion, employers shared what their companies are doing to support employees directly impacted by the conflict.

  • Some employers are in the process of removing their entire business from Russia, including relocating current employees. Some of these employees are Russian nationals who are facing challenges being admitted to other countries. However, given concerns about potential banking freezes, it is a priority to relocate all impacted employees to ensure that they are able to retain their employment. Russian nationals with dual citizenship and ties to other countries have been able to use those connections to relocate.
    • One company is considering facilitating refugee visas to allow Ukrainian nationals who were living in Russia to leave.
  • Several companies have been leaning on their Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to provide critical support to employees directly affected by the crisis or to those who have loved ones in the region. One employer was able to expedite extending its global EAP provider to Ukraine because of the recent events.
  • One company noted that it is looking at potential changes to vendors as several have been placed on sanction lists.

Benefits in Mexico

Benefits Challenges

Employers participating in the discussion identified a number of growing trends and opportunities in Mexico to enhance benefit offerings.

  • One company with a large population in Mexico has acquired a number of businesses within the country and is heavily focused on harmonizing benefits between these different locations.
  • Food and cafeteria subsidies and vouchers are popular benefits for employees in the region, and companies are looking at ways to continue to provide this benefit but make it more sustainable and relevant for a hybrid workforce.
  • Another company has received a number of requests from employees in Mexico looking for enhanced benefits related to physical well-being, such as gym memberships.
    • One company, through its Virgin Pulse offerings, allows employees to redeem well-being incentive points for reimbursements, including gym memberships. While this company noted that this is not one of the most popular incentives, it could be a good option for employers looking to provide gym memberships.

Recent Labor Regulation Changes

Recent regulations in Mexico are requiring employers to give 3 months of profit sharing rather than the current 1 month.

  • Some employers have not yet made any changes in accordance with these regulations but have begun to look into the options available.
  • One company has modified the payment date for its standard bonus program to take into consideration this change in the statutory profit-sharing payment. As a result, bonuses will be given several months later than the previous status quo after profit-sharing payments are finalized.

Return-to-Worksite (RTW)

Plans and Incentives

A poll found that 78% of participating employers are resuming in-person meetings and business travel. For those who said “no,” some noted that travel can still be authorized under certain circumstances.

  • Many employers participating in the conversation have leaned into varying degrees of a ”remote-first” and/or hybrid work policy. For some companies, this means that any employees who can work remotely can continue to do so for the foreseeable future. For others, it means that worksites are reopening, but not with a set number of days or hours that employees need to be present. One employer has designated the worksite as a collaboration space and has encouraged employees to choose the worksite plan that allows them the best opportunity to succeed at their job.
  • One company went through a process of designating each role as fully remote, fully on-site or hybrid in order to prepare for the RTW process as well as to ascertain its necessary real estate footprint.
  • Another company is handling its r RTW plans on a country-by-country basis, and even location to location in some countries. There is a larger focus on certain countries, and preparations include cleaning campuses, determining messaging to employees and discussing ongoing health and safety protocols.
  • Some employers have offered light incentives to draw employees to the worksite, including free lunches and snacks, holding larger meetings from the worksite, happy hours, team- bonding activities and even free Easter eggs.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Trends Around the World

Women in the Workforce

In the hope of attracting and retaining more female employees, especially women of color, employers are looking to bolster their benefit offerings.

  • One employer is looking at options to redesign jobs to be more flexible and accessible, as well as identifying what virtual environmental aspects may make work more or less accessible to different employees.
  • One company noted that employees may be experiencing “diversity fatigue”- feeling overwhelmed by the scope and number of diversity trainings that they have been offered in recent years. This company is looking for other creative ways to educate employees on these issues.
  • Employers have seen that in a virtual and hybrid environment, some microaggressions have become more obvious. They are looking at ways to combat this with further education, training and policies that create safer environments for sharing.
  • Another company is adopting a remote-first and hybrid structure for the future, pending the needs of external clients.

U.S. Ethnocentrism

Particularly regarding parental leave, employers have found it difficult to educate U.S.-based leaders on the state of parental leave globally.

  • Several members found that they needed to explain to leaders that the minimum standard of parental leave the companies offer globally may look generous to U.S.-based employees, but is a very low benchmark for much of the rest of the world. It has become difficult for employers to make blanket statements about their leave offerings without having to water them down.
  • Some employers have continued to offer their company-wide standard leave policy but allow more generous statutory allowances to supersede.
  • Some companies have identified a need for a broader leave policy that can encompass a number of other crucial reasons for needing time off work (some that have become more apparent during the pandemic), including caregiving leave, menopause and menstruation leave, bereavement leave and more.
  • Our recent guide, Creating a Globally Consistent Benefits Strategy, delves deeper into how employers can redesign their benefits strategy to ensure a more equitable experience for employees, regardless of where in the world they are located.

Other Topics

Privacy and Security Documentation for External Vendors

One member proposed a question on the process of vetting third-party vendors, who are required by risk management to complete documentation verifying they have appropriate checks and precautions in place. This company is experiencing difficulties when it comes to vendors who are General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant and thus do not want to go through a laborious process to show compliance with company requirements.

  • One employer has a set of data privacy and online security agreements that all vendors are required to complete. The initiative is done on a global scale; for smaller vendors, it is likely that the company’s data privacy office assists with ensuring their compliance.
  • Another company with a similar process (global privacy agreement) has seen issues with U.S.-centric vendors and other small vendors who do not have as many resources in place to meet GDPR and other compliance rules. However, most vendors have been able to find a way to show compliance to satisfy internal privacy and security requirements.

Telehealth Services in Emerging Markets

Business Group members were asked if they offer telehealth services in emerging markets, or if they utilize artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots or peer-reviewed algorithms for common conditions and health information that can still be easily understood by patients.

  • Most responding employers are not yet offering either, but some are in the process of learning and understanding their benefit offerings in smaller emerging markets.
  • One company uses telehealth in Austria and noted that it is looking to align with the local needs in countries, particularly emerging markets, when implementing new benefits.

Global Minimum Core Benefits

One employer was looking for information from other members about establishing a minimum core benefits strategy after a company reorganization.

  • One company offers business travel accident insurance as a global minimum core benefit, but has a general benefits philosophy for life, medical and disability insurance. This company is hoping to expand its Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to all countries and develop mental health supports globally.
  • Other members who do not currently have core benefits standards are looking to establish one in the next several years.
  • One employer is encouraging countries to offer at least 1x salary for life insurance as a core minimum, but cost limitations in some areas prevent this from being possible at this time.

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