Large Employers Broadening Support for Employees During COVID-19 Outbreak, Business Group on Health Survey Finds

WASHINGTON, DC, March 19, 2020 Amid growing concern over the impact of COVID-19, large employers are implementing a series of broad-reaching policies to support employees and their families as the virus spreads, according to a survey by Business Group on Health. These initiatives include ensuring employees are paid during the pandemic, adding more flexibility to their health benefit plans, and expanding flexibility for working from home.

The Large Employer Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey, Part II, was conducted between March 9 and 13, 2020. The results reflect responses from 95 large employers. The key findings include:

Employees continue to receive pay through leave and pay continuation programs.

For employees who have been exposed to the virus or are exhibiting cold/flu symptoms and can’t work from home:

  • Three quarters of employers (75%) are providing access to existing paid sick leave or PTO programs.
  • In addition to standard leave programs, one-third of employers (34%) are continuing to pay affected employees unable to work, and another 25% are considering doing so if the situation continues to escalate.
  • Nearly a quarter (22%) are adding emergency paid leave or additional sick leave, while another 27% will do so as needed.

    For employees who are not typically eligible for paid leave:

  • Almost one in four employers (23%) will continue to pay employees not eligible for leave if they are quarantined.
  • Sixteen percent (16%) will do so for employees who are ineligible for leave and are symptomatic while 14% will pay employees who are caring for a symptomatic family member.

Employers have increased support for employees their and families during these challenging times. Many are implementing pay continuation polices and additional paid time off in the form of emergency leave or additional leave, especially for employees who are in roles not conducive to working from home.

Brian Marcotte, President and CEO, Business Group on Health

Employers are adding flexibility to health plans in the U.S. and globally, and easing access to providers. On top of waiving or reducing costs for needed testing for COVID-19:

  • Over two-thirds of respondents (68%) are actively encouraging employees to use telemedicine during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Over nine in ten respondents (93%) are encouraging employees to utilize EAPs during the crisis.
  • For US health plans:
    • Over two-thirds of respondents (69%) either have or will reduce or waive early prescription fill limits to allow patients with chronic conditions to maintain a 30-day supply of medication on hand, if warranted.
    • Over one third of respondents (35%) either have or will reduce or waive out-of-pocket cost for mail order prescription drugs.
  • For benefit policies outside the US:
    • Twenty-one percent of respondents are either in the process or have completed successful negotiation waiver of coronavirus related exclusions from medical and life insurance policies.

One of telehealth’s many benefits is it allows employees and family members to get medical advice without leaving the comfort of home, which is so important in this time of ‘social distancing.’ Telehealth also reduces the burden on hospitals and other acute care facilities so that providers can focus on more urgent cases.

Ellen Kelsay, Chief Strategy Officer, Business Group on Health

Employers assisting with childcare needs, expanding work at home policies:

  • Nearly all employers either have or will implement work at home policies for employees with possible exposure to the virus.
  • Slightly fewer (91%) respondents have or will adopt work at home policies for employees with a cold or flu-like symptoms.

The rise in school closures around the globe is creating additional work/life balancing challenges. As backup childcare become less feasible, companies can support their employees with flexibility regarding expected core hours, reduced work hours, and relaxed procedures.

Brian Marcotte, President and CEO, Business Group on Health

The results of the survey, including other findings, can be accessed here.

About Business Group on Health

Business Group on Health is the only non-profit organization devoted exclusively to representing large employers' perspective on health policy issues and optimizing workforce strategy through innovative health, benefits and well-being solutions. The Business Group keeps its membership on the leading edge of innovation, thinking and action to address health care cost and the delivery, financing, affordability and experience with the health care system. Business Group members, many of whom have operations globally, include 74 Fortune 100 companies, and provide health coverage for more than 60 million workers, retirees and their families in over 200 countries. For more information, visit