Modernizing Traditional Benefits

Attracting and retaining talent is getting harder. Your culture and overall rewards play a key role in employee satisfaction. Employees today want more than just a paycheck—they want convenience, flexibility and choice.  Women in law make up close to 40% of the current workforce, and almost 50% of current law school students are female. It is time to reconsider the traditional approach to employee benefits, and modernize your offering beyond the traditional medical and dental coverage. This article will address several innovations you can consider to appeal to women (both partners and staff) and help you provide the following benefits:

  • Saving time
  • Protecting income
  • Promoting flexibility and choice


Saving Time

Time is the most precious gift you can give to any of your partners and staff. Women in the workforce are especially short on time due to juggling work and family obligations. A number of “perks” can be part of your benefits program going beyond “time off,” including features making formerly difficult tasks much, much easier.

Imagine if you or your family members could be in and out of the physician’s office within 10 minutes, and had access 24 hours a day. This service is included with most large group medical plans today, or you can purchase it individually to coordinate with your health plan. It is called Virtual Health Care. Most medical plans have this service built in—you use your mobile phone to have a call or video chat with a licensed physician. Based on the diagnosis, they will call in a prescription (if needed) to your nearest pharmacy. The service is limited—it is typically used to replace an urgent care visit and has limitations as to the types of medications available. Typically a flat fee per use is required, which you or the employee can pay. You can modernize your communication to your employees by advertising this plan feature consistently through the year. Many of the providers have great free videos available to help you communicate the benefit.  Some clients have placed an iPad in their wellness room(s). The client pays the per-visit fee (usually $45) and all partners and staff have access to this “free” health care service right on site.

Another time-saving benefit is a service to provide back-up child care and/or eldercare. Many working professionals are also managing day care for young children and caring for aging parents. These vendors provide emergency access to back-up licensed day care facilities for your children, and can coordinate back-up nurses for aging parents or grandparents.  Vendors who provide this service tend to have large, national footprints and employees can find facilities near them. Being able to find quality, licensed day care at the last minute saves a lot of stress and potential missed days out of the office.  This benefit is designed to be paid for by the employer on a per-employee per-month basis. Employees receive 10-20 visits per year of back up care.


Protecting Income

For some of your higher wage earners, your current income protection policies, such as short-term disability coverage (STD), long-term disability (LTD) and life insurance products are inadequate.  If you review your policies, most have limits on the maximum income they will cover. STD policies are designed to replace a portion of you income, like 60% of earnings for a certain period of time in the event you are unable to work due to a disability. These plans typically have monthly income caps of up to $10,000 per month. Most plans include pregnancy as a disability. With more women in the workforce, offering income replacement while out on protected leave is an appealing benefit. Some states have state-provided plans (like CA, NY and NJ). Other states do not have any protection. If you find your STD policy does have a monthly income cap of $10,000 per month, this means any of your employees making more than $200,000 a year will actually be receiving less than the full 60% benefit. The same provisions apply to LTD and life insurance policies.  Most law firms have negotiated a higher earnings cap on their policies or have special supplemental coverage (either employee-paid or provided by the firm) offered to the higher wage earners such as partners.

Flexibility and Choice

Four generations of employees are in the workforce today, from Millennials to Boomers. You need to offer more choices and allow employees to select the benefits most important to them. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and offer unique perks or benefits to complement your corporate culture, brand and identity.  In addition to the ones mentioned above, here are some innovative benefits becoming the new traditional benefits:

  • Student loan refinancing: This allows employees to explore refinancing their student loan online. These providers typically save employees $15,000 over the life of the loan and reduce stress related to debt. Many providers have a corporate offering, a web portal, real-time approvals, free T-shirt and, if a loan is placed, they will fund the education of a global child in need. There is no cost to you to provide this service, and the loan agreement is between your employee and the refinancing company.
  • Wellness programs: Wellness program can be simple (gift cards) to complex (points to achieve lower monthly premiums). You can ask your medical carrier (for fully insured plans) to provide you with a wellness fund to help you with these activities. The simplest program I have seen has been one organization who reimburses every employee for a new pair of sneakers each year. You can also get your health plan to cover flu shots and some preventive screenings on site at your workplace or at a nearby location. Wellness programs can fun, engaging and promote competitions between offices or departments.
  • Voluntary benefits: A number of 100% employee paid coverages allow your staff to select coverage where they most feel at risk. These plans include accident coverage, critical Illness/cancer, and whole life policies. Most of these plans are designed to provide a cash payout in the event you quality. The cash can be used for anything you need, from paying rent or covering your medical expenses.
  • Vision benefits: You can ask your vision provider to include coverage for computer glare as a standard service for your lens coverage.
  • Pet insurance: Employees like to cover their furry family members as well, and have the convenience of payroll deductions.
  • Identity theft: This offers voluntary identity theft protection for yourself and your family members. Programs vary and can include active credit monitoring, credit reporting, resolution as well as sex offender monitoring, opting out of junk mail and up to $1 million in coverage.
  • Volunteer days: More and more partners and staff want to give back to the communities they live in or to the causes they are passionate about. Many organizations are offering a set number of paid volunteer days. In some cases these are organized office events and in other cases it is up to the individual. Whatever you choose, be sure there is choice from reading to kids, running a marathon for charity or raising money for the animal shelter. This way everyone can find something they are interested in.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and move beyond the traditional benefits. Partners and staff, especially women in your workplace, demand a new approach to benefits. Focus on options to save time, protect income and offer flexibility and choice and you will have a happier, more engaged workforce.

About the Author

Tiffany McClellan is the regional director for EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants in southern California. Contact her at

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