July 8, 2020 Open Enrollment, Payroll & Tax Support, Year-End Payroll Planning

COVID Considerations for Open Enrollment

Nothing is going untouched by the pandemic in 2020, open enrollment included. Much of the impact will be unique to each organization based on their experience of navigating the past four months of COVID-19 issues. Not all industries have been challenged in the same ways, not all employee populations have suffered the same rates of infection, and each organization has handled their pandemic issues in the way that makes sense for them. The common thread connecting everyone is uncertainty.

Open Enrollment Delays

Because of the need to address employee uncertainty as well as the additional tasks COVID has created, many HR and benefits administrators are behind in getting open enrollment rolling. “The challenge with COVID going on right now is that HR has had to engage more with employees to de-escalate their fears: ‘Are we going to have jobs tomorrow? What will my paycheck look like? Are my benefits going to still be there?’ Now we are getting into year-end and open enrollment, and we don’t know what the carriers are going to do this year. Budgets may be constrained if revenue is not coming in for an organization as usual, and it’s all going to impact what open enrollment will look like and the messaging that needs to go along with it,” observes Jennifer Southworth, Director of Client Services with Wise Consulting.

Open Enrollment Trends

Amanda Wagner, SPHR, and Wise consultant, weighs in: “The biggest thing I’m hearing this year is that people are behind! I think efforts have been focused on COVID and vendors are taking longer to get back with rates, etc. I have also heard the renewals are coming back higher than expected, which is pushing some to go to market over sticking with their current vendor – which means new deduction codes. Additionally, I have heard talk of validating dependents more this year than I have in a long time.”

Fellow consultant, Amanda Babbidge, GBA, agrees. “A lot of employers are incorporating a restriction that has to do with spousal coverage. Also, a lot of employers are starting to beef up their wellness programs and work on incentive programs for employees. A lot of that work can be done pre-emptively even if we don’t have rates from the carrier. There is a lot of work that can, and should, be done 2-3 months in advance while waiting for final rates to ensure companies are prepared for open enrollment.”

Getting Open Enrollment Rolling

“July and August is really when we need to be having the conversations with clients about what worked and what didn’t work last year to get them set up in time for an October/November open enrollment,” says Wagner.

Jennifer Southworth brings the point full circle, pointing out that 2020 is truly different. “The priority of most HR and payroll professionals and benefits administrators is the employee. If we [at Wise] can help from a functional standpoint to alleviate their stress and fear, we want to be there for them. It’s not that they don’t know how to make the changes and do the updates, it’s that providing them assistance takes the stress off of the company so they can focus on the employee.”

Gain Open Enrollment and Year-End Payroll Assistance with Wise Consulting

Interested in working with our team of knowledgeable payroll and HCM consultants so your year-end can be a smooth one? Contact a Wise consultant at 800-654-4550 or HCMHelp@WiseConsulting.com. You can also contact our team here.

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