“Which wage parity benefits do my employees want?”
It’s the million dollar question.
“All of them” is the easy answer, but not always the truest one.
- Some benefits have higher use rates than others.
- Trends change. What’s hot today is not tomorrow.
- Even the best benefits may be underused without the right employee education and management.
Around here, we track and maintain records of every employee transaction. That means we have a treasure trove of data on the habits and preferences of home healthcare aides. We’ll give you the inside scoop on trends and a few important tips.
But first, let’s talk about how benefits work with NY wage parity laws.
When Governor Cuomo signed the Wage Parity Act in 2011, home healthcare agencies were left with more questions than answers. The base wage was straightforward enough; cash wages are cash wages.
But the benefits portion is ambiguous. The law merely states that benefits can include “health, education or pension benefits.”
Subsequent FAQs added more guidance, with the general rule that any non-wage payment that primarily benefits the employee is allowable.
Note: The above standard applies to wage parity law. Before giving any benefit, though, an agency needs to also understand its ramifications under the IRS code, ERISA, the Affordable Care Act, and NY labor laws.
A TPA can explain your options, so you stay compliant and set up your benefits optimally for you and your employees.
Based on that guideline, allowable benefits include:
- Dependent care
- Medical and pharmacy
- Supplemental insurance
- Life insurance
The three winners
So what benefits do employees want most?
We based our results on information from employee usage of our electronic benefits cards.
We have this information because we load each employee’s card with the correct amount of wage parity funds and track their usage toward benefits.
Here’s what we compared:
- Cell phone
- Dependent care
- Health benefits (medical and pharmacy, dental, and vision)
(While we also offer 401k, supplemental insurance, and life insurance, those are delivered as a fixed amount per employee. They weren’t included in this study.)
Here’s the rough breakdown of usage results across agencies:
|Education and dependent care||10%|
Transit, cell phone, and health benefits are by far the most popular.
Insights and trends
Naftali Rosenberg, our COO, offers a few insights into these numbers:
- Why doesn’t healthcare top the list? Most HHAs receive Medicaid so healthcare is not a critically pressing need. The good news is they still appreciate the wage parity benefit for OTC medications and dental or vision services not covered by Medicaid.
- In some agencies, cell phone has replaced transit as the popular front-runner. Naftali attributes the trend to the COVID pandemic. During the height of the pandemic, transit was free, and aides weren’t traveling as much. Healthcare also saw a rise in CDPAP, where family or friends serve as home healthcare aides. Those aides, of course, aren’t traveling, helping to put transit benefits in the back seat.
- This may be the most important point of all: Offering the top benefits is useless if employees don’t understand them. Any wage parity program needs to include teaching HHAs how to use their benefits. It’s also crucial to explain that they’re saving on taxes and staying Medicaid-eligible because of those benefits.
Agencies who educate their employees can see 99% usage rates on benefits cards.
“We encourage and support education,” says Naftali. “The only way the program is successful is if people use it.”
Your HHAs are people, not statistics.
So while our data can offer helpful guidelines, your aides will have their own individual preferences. Wish you knew what benefits they want? Ask them.
That’s what we did at the beginning of our business, as we were tweaking our products,
“I used to go to employee in-services and explain wage parity benefits,” says Naftali. “Since wage parity benefits were new, they really appreciated my talks. Plus, they gave us feedback. That helped us make adjustments and improve our offerings.
Now we encourage HR to do the same. Talk to your employees and find out how and where they’ll use the benefits.”