Survey shows how employers managed through the crisis and are planning return-to-work.

April 2020

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 organizations 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?

We serve 55% of Fortune 100 companies or their subsidiaries and affiliates* and our teams 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 21-24, 2020, we surveyed 287 companies across the U.S. We asked how they have been managing the COVID-19 crisis and for their plans going forward.

These are the key trends that emerged: 

Workplace insurance coverage during furlough

One in three (31%) of the companies we surveyed have laid off or furloughed employees since March 1, 2020. 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. About half say they will fully cover the employee-paid share of medical or life insurance premiums (52% and 54% respectively) to avoid a lapse in coverage during furlough and ease the financial burden on employees. Slightly fewer than half of furloughing employers claim they will do the same for dental (46%), vision (44%), STD (41%), and LTD premiums (45%).

And while slightly fewer than half of companies (46%) 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, six in ten (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.

The rate of change in recent weeks is evident in the number of companies who still do not have a plan in place for this transition. Nearly a third of companies (32%) say they do not have plans in place yet for returning employees to the workplace.

Unum 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”. For organizations still working out these plans, McCann and Newson offer key questions to consider from an employment law standpoint when building a return-to-work strategy. 

* Fortune, Fortune 500 2019, 2019; Unum internal data, 2020.