Survey shows how employers are approaching return-to-work planning


1 in 3 employers

As the United States begins to reopen from the COVID-19 pandemic and state-wide quarantine orders lift, plenty of questions are emerging for employers. How should companies start bringing employees back to worksites, open their doors to customers and re-start regular business activities in a world so drastically impacted by social distancing?

As a leader in voluntary benefits and enrollment, we are constantly analyzing market trends and internal data as well as conducting external research to help our clients navigate complex challenges. Part of this research includes short “pulse surveys” of the market where we survey both clients and non-clients to understand business practice trends and sentiment.

From April 21 to 24, 2020, we surveyed 287 companies across the U.S. We asked how they have been managing the COVID-19 crisis and their plans for going forward.

These are the key trends that emerged:

Workplace insurance coverage during furlough 

One in three (31%) companies we surveyed have laid off or furloughed employees since March 1, 2020. Almost one in four (26%) have reduced hours or pay. And of the companies that have laid off or furloughed employees, they have retained on average two-thirds of the workforce.

The silver lining to these numbers is that even as companies have been making hard choices, many have been doing what they can to support their furloughed employees. Over half say they are covering the employee-paid share of medical or life insurance premiums (52% and 54%, respectively). Slightly fewer claim they will do the same for dental (46%) and vision (44%) premiums.

And while 46% of companies said they had no plans to change their benefit plans in light of the crisis, a third of companies plan for some level of change this coming year.

Return to work planning 

A vast majority of the organizations we surveyed (92%) have transitioned workers to work from home since the pandemic. Of these, nearly two-thirds (58%) say they have plans to bring workers back in a phased approach. However, one in ten companies say they plan to allow their employees to return at once.

With state governments varying drastically in their approaches to reopening their economies, and so much still being unknown about how the coming weeks and months will play out, it’s not surprising that many companies are still evaluating their next steps. Nearly a third of companies (32%) say they do not have plans in place yet for returning employees to the workplace.

For employers still considering their own plans, our legal experts Ellen McCann and Tamika Newson discuss these statistics and more on the recent HR Trends podcast, “The ADA, COVID-19 and return-to-work planning." In the episode, McCann and Newson offer key questions to consider from an employment law standpoint when building a return-to-work strategy. HR Trends is produced by Unum Group, of which Colonial Life is a subsidiary.