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Employee Benefits: 6 Benefits Beyond the Astronomical Premiums

Premiums are super high. Over the past 10 years, your premiums have probably doubled, and that’s for coverage that likely has even more out-of-pocket costs. So what’s a law firm to do to attract and retain top talent in today’s competitive legal market?
Uri Gutfreund

It often seems there are no more ways to make your employees appreciate the expensive benefits you’re providing them. However, here are six employee benefit strategies that don’t cost you a penny in higher premiums and will be appreciated by your employees.

1. Offer voluntary benefits. These plans are optional insurance offerings, where employees can opt to spend their own money on additional insurance policies. Employees will enjoy group discounts and access to a broad range of products unavailable in the individual market. The most popular voluntary programs are sickness and hospital indemnity (pay-per-admission) plans. The plans work in addition to your firm benefit plans.

2. Sponsor tax efficient accounts. Various types of plans can assist your employee and actually save your firm money, too. If you properly set up Flexible Spending Accounts, employees can use the pretax funds to pay for allowable health costs and/or dependent care. Employees get to pay with pretax money, and the firm gets to exclude these funds on their payroll totals, saving their portion of the payroll tax.

3. Allow your employees to pay for their disability insurance. In addition to making sure that all of your employees are properly covered by a group disability insurance plan, allow for employees (including partners) to pay the premiums themselves. The premiums are relatively insignificant, and by paying the premium themselves with post-tax dollars, they can collect the benefits tax-free in the event of a claim.

4. Implement a robust wellness program. Much has been written about the benefits of wellness programs and their impact on law firm absenteeism and presentism. Many insurance companies provide for a basic program, and in some cases your insurer may even give you a budget to implement a program that will work for your unique group. Your insurance broker should be able to set this up for you at little or no out-of-pocket cost.

5. Enroll the firm in an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Many ancillary insurance policies (i.e., dental, disability) provide a free EAP program. The EAP will help your employees resolve short-term personal issues, such as financial and emotional crisis management, and provide short-term counseling.

6. Provide higher-cost health insurance options. This might seem counterintuitive, but employees appreciate being given choices that might better suit them — even more expensive choices. Due to complex medical needs, some of your employees will want to select a more comprehensive health plan than your average law firm benefits policy. Accommodate them at no cost to the firm by offering a very high comprehensive plan side-by-side with your base plan (or plans) and allow the employee to pay the difference (in a pretax method) from your base policy. Work closely with your health insurance broker to set this up.

Bonus: Though it is not free, it is well worth the upfront cost to implement a Human Resource Information System (HRIS). A full system will include a suite of services that includes a PTO system, HR component and full compliance integration. These systems often pay for themselves by fulfilling smaller HR department needs and large improvements in employee satisfaction. Employee benefit administration can usually be included in the system to allow for online trackable enrollments, a seamless administration, and an online employee benefit portal.

These strategies can deliver impactful results to employee costs and firm costs. The cultural implications to your firm will be very positive, illustrating to your employees that you were thoughtful of their needs and supported them when they needed it most.