Benefits to the rescue: In the wake of a natural disaster, employees can turn to benefits for support

When a natural disaster occurs, compassionate employers rise to the occasion to support their employees impacted by the situation. Your organization may even have a disaster action plan in place with critical steps to take to protect your property and employees in the case of a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or other natural disasters. Have you considered the role your employee benefits program plays in supporting your workforce when disaster strikes?

During an emergency, the immediate concern for employees is staying out of harm’s way and allowing flexibility to deal with the aftermath of whatever has taken place. Often the greatest need employees have is the ability to take time off to manage the crisis. But don’t overlook the important resource your existing employee benefits plan provides to employees impacted by an emergency.

Keep benefits top of mind for employees in need

What can HR teams do to ensure benefits are easily accessible and top of mind for employees after a crisis? Here are a few things you can do to be prepared should employees need assistance during and after a natural disaster:

  • Incorporate employee benefits considerations into your existing disaster management plan, if you have one (and if you don’t, consider this your friendly reminder to develop one!). Now that many organizations are supporting remote employees across the country, the need to support employees in different regions, and impacted by different types of natural disasters, is more prevalent than before.

  • Educate your employees about their benefits all year long. Utilize the resources of your existing benefits administration platform, or consider upgrading to a system like Workterra BenAdmin that provides these capabilities. Robust decision support tools, fully customizable benefits content, and email messaging are just a few of the capabilities to consider.

  • Remind employees how to access their benefits remotely. Even if your workforce is remote, they may not know how to access their benefits information on a personal device. A benefits administration platform with a mobile-responsive design like Workterra BenAdmin allows employees to quickly check their benefits information, even if they don’t have computer access.

If there is advance notice of an impending storm, prepare and send a one-page flyer with all employee benefits providers and contact info. Make sure this information can be printed OR accessed in the cloud, keeping in mind that employees may lose access to their computers or smartphone. Make certain employees know who to call at your company for benefits support if all else fails.

Benefits that are there when you need them most

You probably didn’t have a flood or wildfire in mind when you designed your employee benefits package. And that’s OK. Many of the most popular employer-sponsored benefits provide just the support your employees need when faced with a natural disaster. While many of these may be obvious, employees will appreciate being reminded of the resources available in a time of crisis.

  • Health, dental, or vision insurance – Depending on the type of coverage you provide and your employees select, medical insurance can help offset the cost of injuries sustained during a natural disaster.

  • Supplemental insurance – Unfortunately, you may have an employee seriously injured during an emergency. Additional coverage like accident, hospital indemnity, or critical illness plans can provide another layer of support for employees who require extensive medical care that may not be covered in full by their health plan.

  • Flexible spending accounts (FSA, HSA or HRA) – Employees who are already contributing to a flexible spending account (or receive employer contributions to an account) can tap into pre-tax money to cover a wide range of expenses like first aid supplies, medications, copays, and physical therapy. Keep in mind that there are limits to what can be reimbursed, so keep receipts and don’t claim more than what your household could feasibly use. Dependent care FSAs can also help cover costs for unexpected childcare needs while a parent deals with disaster recovery efforts.

  • Short- and long-term disability coverage – When an injury prevents an employee from working for an extended period, accessing disability coverage allows them to continue receiving a portion of their salary while they are unable to work.

  • Employee assistance program (EAP) – Crisis situations take a toll on mental and financial wellbeing. Remind employees about access to mental health resources through an EAP to help them work through the emotional impact of an emergency. Recovering from a natural disaster causes financial strain, too. EAPs often provide access to discounts, legal services, and more.

  • Voluntary benefits – This one is a real potpourri of helpful solutions for a variety of what-if events that can occur. Injured family pet? Scammed by a repair contractor? Popular voluntary options like pet insurance, legal plans, financial coaching, caregiver benefits, and identity theft protection can provide support while managing unexpected challenges. Simply reminding employees to access the benefits they’ve elected is helpful when emotions are high and fatigue sets in.

LGBTQFamily Want an easy way to share this advice with your employees? Download our ready-to-use handout that includes a handy worksheet to compile insurance contact information for easy reference in case of an emergency.

In closing

Having a robust benefits plan, easy-to-use technology, and reliable partners can help your organization and your people weather the storm. With a bit of preparation and education, the benefits your employees rely on all year long can come to their rescue in a time of need.
Workterra partners with our clients to relieve the administrative burden of employee benefits. For more information about how Workterra can help you simplify your benefits experience, contact us today.

Additional resources

Want to learn more, or create your own disaster recovery plan? While there are numerous organizations with helpful advice for employers facing a crisis, here are a few of our favorites:

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