November 04, 2021

Health benefits can be a hiring game-changer

As the restaurant industry continues to fight its way out of the worst pandemic in three generations, it’s also facing what may be the most competitive labor market at the same time.

Use health benefits to draw talent

What should operators do to attract new employees and retain the ones they already have? One thing is to provide health care insurance, says Aaron Frazier, the National Restaurant Association’s director of Healthcare and Tax Policy, especially to hires over the age of 25 who have lost or will soon lose the coverage they have under their working parents’ plans.

“Offering good, affordable health insurance, especially during this pandemic, is certain to make your business more competitive during the hiring process,” he says. “Benefits like access to primary care, telehealth options, and prescription drug programs can help you attract and retain the best employees in the market. Retention rates will likely rise because employees will want to keep their coverage. It’s a win-win for employers and employees.”

In 2018, the Association introduced its Restaurant & Hospitality Association Benefit Trust, a health care solution for members with two to 99 employees. Regarding plan design and pricing flexibility, the Trust, which is insured and serviced by UnitedHealthcare, provides operators in many states with some of the same advantages large employers enjoy in their health care plans. The objective is to help restaurants give employees easy access to health care benefits.

The program offers several options, including individual, small employer (two to 50 full-time-equivalent employees), and large employer plans (with 51 or more FTE employees).

A new addition is Healthiest You telemedicine, which could be great for part-time employees.  It’s not insurance, but it gives staffers quick, convenient access to doctors on general medical questions, mental health visits, dermatology, and more for $0 copay.  For $9 per employee per month, it’s available to part-timers and 1099 workers.

Blending individual and employer health benefits

Some restaurants are challenged in getting enough employees to participate in a program to meet insurance carrier requirements. This can cause difficulties for restaurants subject to ACA employer mandate penalties. Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Accounts (ICHRA) could be a solution for this situation.

Jack Hooper, founder and CEO of ICHRA administrator Take Command Health, explains that as companies look to hire new staff members, there are key reasons to offer health benefits as a hiring incentive:

  • ICHRAs allow employees to choose the health plan—offered on state/federal exchanges—that’s tailored to their own needs. The ICHRA quickly reimburses the employee after this selection.
  • Offering benefits shows candidates the company is invested in their overall health, and futures. That speaks to company culture and could be a compelling factor in their decision to join your team.
  • Employees returning to work in the shadow of the pandemic value health care benefits more than ever before. Even younger employees realize they’re not immune to illness.

Hooper also emphasizes the management advantages for employers. “It’s easier to set up and administer, reduces the burden of managing the plan, and helps control costs, especially as prices on health care plans continue to increase,” he says.

 Adds Frazier: “Providing quality coverage specifically designed for [our industry’s] businesses and their employees is not just a hiring game-changer, it’s also quality-of-life-changing, too.”