Paid Family and Medical Leave Around New England

Last year around this time, I gave a year-one progress report on the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program, as it had finished its first year of paying out benefits to eligible workers. Since then, the MA PFML program has continued to mature and adjust according to experience, and, around New England, Connecticut has had PFML benefits available for one year, and there are related updates from Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine to report.

Massachusetts: A Year in Review
In fiscal year 2022 (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022), the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) experienced1:

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Health & Welfare Outlooks and Trends for 2023

It's the start of 2023, and we once again called on our partners to share their outlooks and perspectives on industry trends for the new year and other relevant research for the NEEBC community to consider.

Enhancing employee experience, reducing burnout and improving work-life balance through culture, flexibility and equitable, holistic benefits are some of the central themes woven throughout our 2023 compendium of outlooks, trends and research shared by NEEBC partners. 

Below are links to partner publications and microsites that canvas the landscape ahead (in alphabetical order by partner organization).

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The Rewards of NEEBC Mentoring Program

One of the tenets of NEEBC’s mission is to encourage the next generation of employee benefits professionals, in part, through mentoring.  Each year, seasoned NEEBC community members mentor a new class of emerging benefits professionals in both group and, as of 2022, one-on-one settings.  The goal of the NEEBC Mentoring Program is for HR professionals to share their expertise in various areas of career development so our mentees can build a framework for their own development and growth.  We foster a networking and collaborative environment and invite subject matter experts of chosen topics to discuss possible solutions to current challenging HR issues. Our mentors feel great satisfaction giving back to a field they love and often learn a few things as well.

Reflections from a Mentor and a Group Leader
December marked our last session of NEEBC’s 2022 Mentoring Program, and diving into January, National Mentoring Month, it is a great time to pause and reflect.  I have been fortunate to benefit from wonderful mentors over my career who helped me get to where I am today.  Through NEEBC membership and participation, I have grown my network and become a NEEBC Board member.  So, when the opportunity presented itself to help resurrect our mentoring program, which was suspended for one year during COVID, and give back to this field, I jumped at the opportunity!  I also LOVE to talk about employee benefits and learn from the mentees as well. 

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7 Ways A National Employer’s Expanded Benefits Ensure “Something for Everyone”

CVS Health® offers a wide range of healthcare and benefits programs to help meet the diverse needs of our colleagues to build equity, diversity and inclusion into health and well-being, and focused on promoting health equity and affordability. We are continually evaluating gaps in well-being, what’s working, what new ideas we can bring to support total well-being, and how we can ensure we identify and address disparities and enable our workforce to thrive.

In 2021 and 2022, we expanded seven benefits programs.  The new programs are described below.

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The World Has Changed, and so Have Employees’ Needs. Are your benefits changing at the needed pace?

The pandemic and The Great Resignation have changed the world and with it the way we work. Employees now place a greater importance on their well-being than ever before, and employers that offer benefits packages that align with the lifestyle needs of the working population have a significant leg up on the competition.

Yes, it’s time to expand your benefits program and the competitive advantages employers get – increased employee retention, engagement, and satisfaction. It is well worth the effort.

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The Cost of Chronic Pain, Depression and Anxiety in the Workplace

116 million adults in the US—more than the number affected by heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined—live with common chronic pain conditions.  Of those individuals, 20-50% experience comorbid depression in parallel to their chronic pain, and are 2-3x more susceptible to suicidal ideation and behaviors.

Over the last 3 years, we’ve conducted extensive research specifically around the relationships between chronic pain and comorbid anxiety and depression, and more importantly, how organizations like yours can reduce the associated downstream effects of chronic pain including absenteeism and high medical claim costs.  

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Biogen Working Parents Feel Supported with Onsite Child Care Center

At Biogen, we understand the importance of taking a proactive position on caregiving and offer solutions to support our employees as both a caregiver and someone who may need care. 

Employee Needs in a Competitive Industry
As with most working parents, juggling childcare needs and career responsibilities can be a daily struggle. In the competitive biotech industry, employers always needed and still need to recruit employees by providing a supportive culture that understands and meets the needs of employees where they are in their life…whether it be access to reliable, high-quality childcare or workforce education initiatives. 

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How To Overcome Social Determinants of Health in Musculoskeletal Care

The Institute of Medicine, in the 2001 landmark report Crossing the Quality Chasm, outlined six key aims for healthcare to focus on in the twenty-first century: a prime healthcare experience that is safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient, and equitable. Although many of these goals have been at least partly achieved, one is lagging – health equity.

Healthcare is no more equitable now than it was twenty years ago. The divide between rural and urban communities continues to show itself in average life expectancy. Research shows that 33 states have seen at least one rural hospital close in the last 10 years, and it’s estimated that just over 30 million Americans live more than an hour away from trauma care. In urban communities, like Milwaukee, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, physical disability, disease prevalence, and mortality rates are significantly higher in zip codes with lower median household incomes.

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Are more health benefits better?

How employers can help ensure they are getting the value from their investment and employees are getting the value to their health

A lot more is asked of employers, particularly in terms of the workplace benefits they offer, including health care. As companies continue to recover from the variability in health care spending brought on by COVID-19, high-performing employers must look toward tomorrow as they execute on providing the best health care benefits to keep their workforces healthy, happy, and productive.

At one time, the primary health benefit that employers provided their workers was a health plan. Today’s health benefits landscape looks much different, with a myriad of plan options and point solutions offered to employees. This trend has only accelerated since the pandemic started. Employers must increase the perceived value of these new benefits by raising awareness and utilization and helping employees navigate their benefits. But how can employers do all this and administer these new benefits?

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A Deep Dive Into Student Loan Repayment Assistance

Student loans are back in the headlines with the announcement of targeted loan cancelation. With so much change on the horizon, you may be wondering how the new plans for student loan repayment impact Student Loan Repayment Assistance (SLRA). Is it still something employees need or want? Is it still a benefit employers should pursue?

Let’s take a refreshed look at the basics of SLRA, as well as some of the most recent data and most compelling reasons why adding an SLRA perk to your benefits package is as important as ever.

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Long COVID will be a top 10 medical cost driver within the next 3 years

What is Long COVID?

Long COVID is the persistent presentation of symptoms 4 weeks after a COVID-19 infection. There are over 150 different symptoms of Long COVID, but common symptoms include brain fog, fatigue, loss of smell, difficulty breathing, joint pain, digestive issues.

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Using Absence Programs to Attract & Retain a Flexible Workforce

It sounds counterintuitive — how can programs that enable time away from work possibly help companies dealing with labor shortages? Yet, a 2021 survey conducted by HUB International shows that 40% of participating companies indicated their leave of absence policies needed to be more enticing to attract and retain employees.1 Absence programs are an important part of the employee experience, and organizations can leverage their time-off policies and benefits to stand out among competitors, especially now that workers have more options than ever before.

In a Gallup poll conducted earlier this year, employees identified well-being, including work-life balance, as one of the most important factors when deciding whether to accept a new job.2  Time-off policies and other absence-related benefits help employees achieve work-life balance by providing income protection while taking time to care for themselves and/or their families — from a well-deserved vacation to a healthcare emergency and everything in between.

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Using Benefits to Navigate the Road Blocks Facing Today’s Human Resource Professionals

The COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for shifting priorities and changing the way we work. The findings from our recent survey helped us understand what HR pain points and challenges professionals face in their daily lives, which will help guide future changes within this industry. Benefit Resource (BRI) conducted an extensive research project among 1000+ hiring managers to discover pain points they deal with day by day. These insights are crucial if you want to meet your company or organization’s performance goals. 

Managing cost increases can be challenging, but the underlying health plan will often be the key to reducing your costs. Position your benefits plans and the opportunities so employees pay for their increasing out-of-pocket costs. This can be achieved by offering a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) paired with a Health Savings Account (HSA), taking advantage of Self-Funded Plans, sharing educational tools that provide cost transparency, like MyMedicalShopper by Talon Health Tech, or connecting employees to health experts. 

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Ways you can celebrate Pride Month and practice allyship for the LGBTQIA+ community

Pride month is an opportunity for organizations—and individuals to identify ways to support the LGBTQIA+ community beyond the month of June. To get you started, we invite you to educate yourself about some of the current laws impacting the LGBTQIA+ population along with several supportive resources.

As the U.S. White House noted last year, "Despite our progress in advancing civil rights for LGBTQ+ Americans, too many transgender people — adults and youth alike — still face systemic barriers to freedom and equality." That sentiment still rings true, and some key facts about those barriers and other challenges include:

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Four essential components of a successful family-building benefit — Including mental health support throughout the journey

Research has shown that women facing infertility have comparable levels of depression and anxiety to women facing cancer, AIDS/HIV, and heart disease. And although discussing infertility has become less taboo in recent years, there is plenty of work to do to continue destigmatizing it. A more recent study looked at infertility patients’ reactions to treatments postponed because of COVID-19 — 66% reported infertility remained the largest stressor in their lives, causing them more distress than the global pandemic. It is no wonder that therapy calls suddenly tripled as well.

Infertility is emotionally taxing and there are many reasons relationships can get strained. Waiting for results, financing treatment, balancing work and office visits, and dealing with the side effects of medications can all add stress to interpersonal relationships. Sometimes family members and friends don’t understand or aren’t sure what to do. Often, the person going through treatment doesn’t want advice or to hear everyone else’s story, so they try to go it alone.

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Ten Steps to Prevent the Great CoronEx-it

National Mental Health Month is an opportunity for organizations to analyze a new host of challenges that have manifested since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the "Great Resignation." Since spring 2021, about 33 million Americans have quit their jobs. Some resign from their positions to fulfill their caretaking duties while others are trying to mitigate risks associated with the pandemic. There are also capable workers who simply desire to feel more valued by management and leaders of their organizations, and those who just need a break. For organizations to remain competitive, fill open positions, and retain and engage existing staff, it is critical to recognize the pervasive feeling of burnout experienced by many, especially since the onset of COVID-19. While we have been waiting over the past two plus years for our lives to resume, Americans have experienced an increase of fear, depression, and anxiety.

CoronEx and Burnout
Increased mental health issues may be due to a specific kind of burnout, “CoronEx,” or “COVID exhaustion,” a term coined by behavioral science research regarding the long-term effects of pandemic-induced fatigue. In order to stay competitive, organizations need to recognize and care for the whole health of their employees, most especially their mental health. 

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Employer-sponsored Savings and Spending Accounts and Other Benefits May Minimize "The Great Resignation”

Like everything else, employee benefits, especially healthcare benefits, have been affected by the pandemic. With the extreme focus on health in the public space, consumers and employees are more engaged with their benefits, especially healthcare benefits, than ever before.  While the historic labor shifts across the United States currently being dubbed “The Great Resignation” are driven by a diverse range of factors, according to a recent survey by Pew Research Center, roughly half of those surveyed cited benefits as either a “major” or “minor” reason why they quit a job during 2021.

Employers should consider this to be an opportunity to reevaluate the benefits they offer. Well-designed health benefits plans can aid businesses in meeting their objectives by improving a company’s bottom line, as well as attracting and retaining the best talent. In this unique environment, here is some valuable information to help you evaluate your benefits offerings.

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Retirement Planning Tips for Women in 2022

Women often face special challenges when planning for retirement. For example, if they are the primary caregivers in their families, their careers may be interrupted to care for children or elderly parents, which means they may spend less time in the workforce and earn less money than men in the same age group. And even if they remain in the workforce, women still tend to earn less than men, on average. As a result, their retirement plan balances, Social Security benefits, and pension benefits are often lower.

In addition to earning less, women generally live longer than men, which means having to stretch potentially limited retirement savings and benefits over many years.


To help yourself or the women in your life manage these financial challenges, consider the following tips.


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How Your DE&I Strategy Directly Impacts Employee Caregivers

The majority of family caregivers (61%) throughout history and still today are women. With the Great Resignation upon us, many female caregivers have been forced to leave the workforce due to lack of childcare or to take on additional caregiving duties with aging loved parents. Resignation rates have been even higher among women of color. As such, it’s no secret that the national caregiver crisis is a diversity, equity, and inclusion crisis.

As employers double down on their investments in Diversity Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) in 2022, one of the most equitable ways they can support their workforce is with caregiver support. In our blog post, “It’s Time Employers See Themselves as Caregivers,” we state:

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The Great Opportunity: 3 Ways to Turn The Great Resignation Into Your Advantage

After two full years of COVID-19 adjustments, half-baked return to office plans and experiments in engaging virtual and hybrid teams, ‘The Great Resignation’ is the latest buzzword for collective panic in the business community. It’s everywhere. It’s unavoidable. And it’s also real. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) January 2022 jobs report indicates that while unemployment has remained largely unchanged, the number of job leavers has increased. What does that mean? It means there are more jobs right now than job-seekers, supporting an atmosphere of higher standards for what candidates are looking for in their next position. This is putting pressure on organizations to rethink how they attract talent and how they can stay competitive from the very beginning of the talent funnel. Layer in the changes from remote work and you have a nationwide jobseeker mentality of “what's in it for me?”.

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