Employee Benefit Priorities Shifting, With Renewed Focus on Mental Health

A growing number of small businesses are offering their employees health benefits related to mental health, at levels that have not been seen for more than a decade, according to a published report, which was based on a survey conducted by the Society of Human Resources Executives.

Ninety-one percent of small businesses offered mental health-related benefits, up from 86% in 2018. The inclusion of mental health benefits, even as the pandemic recedes and things return to normal — somewhat — indicates that the benefit is here to stay and that many employees will expect it going forward, according to the survey.

The emphasis on mental health benefits also came into focus as a result of a recent court ruling, in which a jury awarded an employee $450,000 after he was fired for having two panic attacks on the job. The jury determined the panic attacks were a disability and that the employee should not have been fired. You might remember this story more because one of the panic attacks was triggered when the employee found out that his coworkers were planning a birthday celebration — an event the employee had specifically told his supervisor that he did not want to have. The second panic attack occurred when the employee was confronted by his supervisor and another executive at the company about the first panic attack.

Going back to the survey, 63% of employers said they were offering hybrid working opportunities, and contributed nearly $900 to help employees cover the costs of working from home, such as through the purchase of computers, monitors, chairs, and office supplies.

An increasing number of companies are offering leave benefits, retirement plans, family care benefits, health-related benefits, and professional and career benefits.

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