With only 19% of U.S. households comprising “traditional families,” employers must rethink how they deliver benefits to meet diverse family needs.

Today’s definition of family stretches well beyond the traditional makeup of mom, dad and the 2.5 kids. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey in 2019, married couples with children under 18 account for just 19% of households. These numbers show that non-traditional families, including single parents, LGBTQ+ parents and grandparents raising grandkids, are redefining what families look like.

The ‘sandwich generation,’ which finds nearly one in five Americans providing care to adult family members, and the upheaval in childcare resources caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are also driving evolving family dynamics. In response, employers are seeking innovative health benefits solutions to address diverse needs and support employee well-being.

Broadening the range of family-friendly health benefits makes good business sense, especially in today’s tight labor market. WTW’s 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey reports that nearly half of employees cite benefits as an important reason for joining a company—and 46% would be willing to forgo a bump in pay for enhanced health benefits.

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“The definition of family continues to evolve,” says Paul Bartosic, vice president of Rhode Island commercial accounts at Point32Health, the parent company of the combined Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. He notes that societal changes are requiring employers and their benefits partners—including health plans—to “rethink everything.” It’s important to know how to better meet the needs of employees by understanding the benefits they will value, and “connect in a deeper, more meaningful way.”

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While remote work and flexible schedules grab the headlines, employers and their benefits advisors are thinking outside the box, as they expand benefits to meet diverse family needs.

Prioritizing family-support benefits and resources

Family-planning support that encompasses all types of family journeys, including fertility, IVF, donor and gestational carriers, adoption and parental leave, has broad appeal for employees. Offering parenting resources and tools that support all employees—including singles and LGBTQ+ families—can be a powerful recruiting and retention tool. At the same time, this type of support can have a positive effect on employee health as well as overall health care costs.

Caregiving support is another example of how non-traditional benefits can help strengthen employee loyalty and increase productivity. Eight in 10 employees with caregiving responsibilities say it has a negative impact on their productivity at work. Caregiving support is offered through the workplace, ranging from flexible schedules and paid leave through employee assistance programs, child and elder care reimbursements and concierge caregiver resources. These significantly reduce the mental and emotional stress that comes with complex care decisions.

Financial support continues to be essential

A recent study by plan decision support service MyHealthMath revealed that private health insurance covers approximately 40% of low-wage earners. Of this group of workers, 43% are likely to have children, and slightly more than half are the sole earners in their families or make major contributions to the family income. Plan decision support may help deter individuals from “over-insuring” and can be a valuable addition to an employee benefits package.

Adding a health savings account (HSA) to an employer’s benefits offering can also provide an essential financial savings component for growing and evolving families. HSAs pair with high-deductible health plans to allow employees to pay for qualified out-of-pocket health care expenses with pre-tax dollars. HSAs can be a valuable tool for employees because the balances roll over year-to-year, with unused funds serving as an investment vehicle for health care expenses during retirement.

HSAs, however, are often underutilized because employees don’t always understand how the accounts work. Individualized plan decision support can help employees choose the most cost-effective health plan to fit the employee’s unique needs, and help explore whether an HSA is a good fit.

As the family unit continues to evolve, employers that prioritize expanded health benefits to meet diverse family needs will have a tangible advantage as they compete to attract and retain top talent. “When it comes to addressing the diverse needs of a company’s workforce, we take a consultative approach so we can bring customized, relevant solutions to the table,” says Bartosic.

Learn more about how Tufts Health Plan, a Point32Health company, can help build inclusive benefits packages to support Rhode Island businesses and their workforce by visiting www.tuftshealthplan.com/ri-local.

This article was first published in BenefitsPRO in Fall 2022.