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HR, Employment, & Benefits


As businesses begin reopening, new challenges emerge for employers and employees. Though the idea of returning to normal may be welcomed, many employees are facing the difficult dilemma of how to handle returning to the workplace and finding suitable care for their loved ones. Other employees and their dependents are cautiously trying to reenter the healthcare ecosystem after months of delaying or postponing routine care or ongoing treatments. PEOs are uniquely positioned to help employers recall employees and reengage them in their own care and the care of their loved ones. In this article, we explore opportunities for PEOs to provide guidance and actionable recommendations to help clients tackle reentry issues facing employees.

Because of the pandemic, worksite employers’ needs have increased in breadth and depth, forcing PEOs to stretch beyond traditional solutions and offer assistance in new areas. Many PEOs adapted quickly and the payoff was significant, driving home the value of the co-employment relationship. We are now entering a new phase of PEO support during the pandemic: the reentry of employees to the workplace. PEOs can play an instrumental role in supporting their clients with this.


Mercer’s global health leader, Dr. Lorna Friedman, recently shared that, due to the pandemic, the average working American will be significantly impacted by decisions related to living with and locating suitable care arrangements for his or her family. As employers are beginning to open their doors for employees to come back to the workplace, many employees are facing significant challenges at home, including how to find care for their parents or children due to the pandemic’s impact on care facilities. Childcare and eldercare facilities remain significantly impacted by COVID-19. Access to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and long-term living facilities continue to be severely restricted. Childcare facilities may struggle to reopen due to finances or the difficulties with meeting local guidelines for care. Employees may have trouble finding available care or they may not yet feel comfortable with sending their loved ones back to care facilities. Unfortunately, these struggles can quickly cascade into an overall reduction in productivity for employees. 

There is an opportunity for PEOs to bring solutions and services to their worksite employers to reduce stress on this segment of their workforces. For example, new vendors and solutions are rapidly entering the employer market to meet these needs. PEOs should actively evaluate these solutions and identify the right bundle of services to bring to their clients. Some care options are shown in Figure 1, available on the market from different sources. Further, PEOs can provide guidance about flexible and remote working and resources for restructuring paid time off (PTO) to allow employees to handle their at-home care needs. Dr. Friedman believes that intergeneration co-residency will rise at an unprecedented pace in 2021, making this is an optimal time for PEOs to be thought leaders and provide potential solutions for their worksite employers.


HREB 2 Fig 1 Sept 20



Another area where PEOs can play a key role in leading their worksite employers through the pandemic is assisting with the development of a communications strategy about the importance of healthcare and reentry into the healthcare ecosystem. A Kaiser study shows that 49 percent of Americans said they or family members have skipped or delayed care due to the pandemic.[1] With so many people delaying care, it will inevitably result in unfortunate health situations such as diseases presenting in more advanced stages and increases in complications, creating the potential for negative financial implications to health plans. This drives home the need to return to routine care and ongoing treatments.

A communication strategy may include reassurances about the reentry into care. Now that providers are reopening and implementing safety protocols, PEOs should consider communicating what to expect when individuals go to the doctor (i.e., temperature checks, required masks, etc.) and encouraging them not to further delay necessary care. Sharing these simple communications may provide a higher level of comfort with returning to the doctor to receive care, which will benefit employees’ health, employee productivity, and the future financial health of the health plan. 

Other opportunities to communicate include reintroducing the availability of health plan programs such as telemedicine, employee assistance programs (EAPs), and health advocacy programs. Employers that reached out to employees reminding them of the convenience of the benefit saw an increase in employee engagement in those benefits during the pandemic. 

We also see that many health plan administrators are limiting the number of changes they will make at open enrollment, which in turn may limit overall disruption to employees. It is important to consider the impact of significant changes on employees and their families, especially as they are reentering care for the first time in many months. 

A final thought on communicating with employees is to lead with empathy. Employers need to be prepared to listen to employees and have strategies to respond to their questions, including drafting FAQs. These are sensitive topics and simplifying the message is crucial. This is the time when PEOs can extend beyond their traditional services and demonstrate their value. These small actions will strengthen the foundation of the PEO relationship with clients. 




PEO Practice Leader

Mercer Health & Benefits, Multiple Employer Segment

Chicago, Illinois




Mercer Health & Benefits

Chicago, Illinois



Backup care—for children and adults—has been around for a few years, but is now picking up. At least since 2017, employees have been asking about backup care benefits, according to the 2017 Cost of Care survey. The survey revealed that 44 percent of working parents feel their employers care about their needs and 85 percent feel the need for backup care and discounted childcare. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many companies started offering backup care, including Amazon, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Virginia. Backup care providers, including Bright Horizons, Kinder Care, and Care@Work, have entered the market.

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