Cyber Threats to Retirement Plans and What Plan Sponsors Can Do About It

Cybercrime continues to increase and pose a credible threat both to employers and their employees. According to the FBI’s 2022 Internet Crime Report, losses caused by internet crime rose 48% in the last year to over $10.2B. 
There are four types of threats retirement plan sponsors and their participants should be concerned about:

1. Unauthorized access and acquisition of their personal data.
Over the last year we have seen a number of large data breaches impacting leading social media, telecommunications, and credit reporting businesses resulting in the disclosure of over 800M customer records1.

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Getting Your Money’s Worth From an MSK Care Solution

Every business leader is reaching for the same brass ring: ROI. You need benefits solutions that will move the needle with buy-in-worthy metrics that back up claims of success. And you need them now.

Health benefit costs per employee are projected to jump 5.4% in 2023 and continue to increase in the years ahead, notes Mercer. This is in sharp contrast with the prior decade, during which costs went up only 2.1% to 3.9% every year except 2021.[1]

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Meeting the Moment in Mental Health: 3 Actions to Support the Workforce

In an era where the significance of mental health is finally being acknowledged, a 300-person audience gathered in Las Vegas for a groundbreaking conference titled "Meeting the Moment in Mental Health: Real Community Solutions to the Mental Health Crisis."  Conference host, CareSolace, a trailblazer in mental health care solutions, holistically approached this topic with speakers who were leaders spanning state and local communities, public and private education, corporate and not-for-profit sectors, and, of course, healthcare. I had the privilege of representing NEEBC as a speaker identifying trends in Employee Benefits that focus on mental health.  My remarks aimed to illuminate a crucial aspect of this crisis: how employers can proactively address mental health concerns within their workforce. My focus was on simplifying access, advocating for affordability, and ensuring cultural relevance.  Any trends observed in this space offer insights into how employers can lead the way in nurturing a mentally healthy workforce.

Simplifying Access: The Gateway to Employee Wellbeing
One of the most formidable barriers to mental health care is the complex and often bewildering process of finding the right support. This conference emphasized the pivotal role that employers can play in simplifying access. By partnering with mental health care providers and platforms, employers can create streamlined channels through which employees can seek assistance.

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Promoting Company Culture Through Internal Communications

Many companies have come to realize that creating an inclusive and inviting organizational culture isn’t just the responsible thing to do — it also has a direct impact on the business bottom line. 

That’s because diverse and inclusive workplaces can help companies recruit1 and retain high-quality talent in this ultra-competitive market, create happier and more productive employees, achieve higher revenues and increase innovation2

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Nondiscrimination testing: Simplifying the core concepts

Nondiscrimination testing is a crucial part of sponsoring employee benefits as required by the IRS. In a world of constantly changing rules and regulations, it is crucial that employers remain up to date on how these tests impact their benefits. Nondiscrimination tests work to satisfy the Golden Rule, which dictates that highly compensated employees cannot receive a higher benefit than other employees.

Basics of Nondiscrimination Testing
There are three major tests you should have an understanding of as a plan sponsor Cafeteria Plan testsDCAP FSA tests and Health FSA tests. All the three categories include eligibility tests, which is where we see the Golden Rule at play.

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Evaluating and Strengthening Your Employee Health Benefits Through a DE&I Lens

Employee health benefits are a key area where employers need to focus their DE&I efforts. With three-quarters of employers (76%) ranking health benefits as their top priority to support their workforce1, there will need to be an increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) to ensure benefits offerings meet all employees’ needs – especially the under-served.

Why DE&I matters in healthcare benefits

Employees from marginalized communities often face unique health challenges and barriers to healthcare access, which have high long-term costs for employers in terms of medical and disability claims and worker productivity. Deloitte estimated health inequities related to race, socioeconomic status, and sex/gender account for $320 billion annual health care costs2. By tailoring health benefits to under-served populations, companies can bridge the healthcare gap, promote equitable health outcomes for all and help reduce rising healthcare costs.

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Leading by Listening: How to Support the Mental Health Needs of Your LGBTQ+ Employees

The LGBTQ+ community has and continues to bring value and unique perspectives to the workforce. Knowing that their employers stand by them can help employees feel safe in their workplace, which is critical to ensuring that the workforce has the diverse thoughts, perspectives and people we need for today’s world.

Part of standing by your LGBTQ+ employees means helping support their mental health. LGBTQ+ individuals have unique mental health needs. These individuals may face threats, violence, rejection and lack of acceptance in the community, as well as issues with accessing affirming care. We know from our own families and friendships that having an accepting, supportive workspace with validating mental health benefits also helps the loved ones of those in the community who already worry about their safety every day. 

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Why dads don’t reach their caregiving goals

Through many years of research, my colleagues at the Boston College Center for Work & Family and I have developed a portrait of today’s white-collar working fathers – and those who make the choice to be at-home fathers, a choice still relatively rarely rare for American dads. We do this to support fathers who strive to have a balanced life, but also to support gender equality and women’s success in the workplace. In spite of many years of Affirmative Action and organizational efforts to promote women’s advancement, a gap continues to exist when it comes to women’s equality, especially in senior levels of leadership.

There’s an old saying that “charity begins at home” and maybe the same holds true for equality. While the government and employers can and should make efforts to level the playing field and advance women in the workplace, much of the reason for workplace disparities is a direct result of the home-based arrangements of working couples. The disparity in time that mothers spend caregiving has been very well documented over the years so this isn’t news. On average, American mothers spend nearly two-times as many hours providing care than working fathers. Yet, in much research, including our own, two-thirds of white-collar fathers say that their goal is to be an egalitarian caregiver. This is especially true for fathers who have a full-time working partner who contributes significantly to the household income. And wives’ financial contributions to family income has continued to increase over the years as the graph below from the Pew Research Center indicates:

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How a flexible workforce approach helps organizations grow and thrive

7 strategies for increasing your talent pool and employee retention rate

The future of work is – in a word  flexible. Companies are fiercely competing for talent. Job openings remain above pre-pandemic levels and are higher in Massachusetts than in the country. Broadening your hiring strategies and taking a flexible approach that creates a positive employee experience will give your organization the upper hand in attracting and retaining top-quality employees.

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Creating a Culture of Wellness: How to Foster Employee Wellbeing from the Top-Down

In today's fast-paced work environments, the need for a workplace culture of wellness has become increasingly essential. Employee wellbeing is no longer just a personal responsibility; it is now recognized as a key driver of productivity, engagement, and overall organizational success.  In the recent study published by HR.com, "The State of Employee Financial Wellness," we learn that 21% of employers are looking to expand their wellbeing benefits this year, with the goals of improving employee mental health, becoming an employer of choice, and improving employee retention. 

To establish and nurture a culture of wellness, it is crucial for HR and benefits professionals to collaborate with team leaders and gain their buy-in and active involvement.  This blog explores the significance of leadership in promoting employee wellbeing and providing actionable guidance on fostering a culture of wellness at all levels of the organization.

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A Library of Mental Health Resources

Each May, we recognize Mental Health Awareness, a complex and multi-faceted aspect of total well-being, often impacting and interconnected with other components of overall health. Mental Health is of paramount importance to NEEBC and our community and is a topic we will highlight and progress throughout the year.

With the spotlight on mental health awareness this month, we asked our partners to share their research, tools and solutions on mental health, and they delivered. This compendium of partner content (in alphabetical order by organization) covers a spectrum of mental health-related topics from access and care to the unique considerations for under-served communities, and it offers toolkits, strategies and a framework to help employers expand existing resources.

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How telehealth can address inequities — and change the future of health care delivery

The lack of access to health care is often the biggest challenge that patients encounter when they are sick or seeking preventive care. Patients can face weeks of waiting to see a provider and insufficient time with that provider once they are finally seen. For many, access remains out of reach, particularly for those living in rural areas or under-resourced communities.

With virtual and digital capabilities becoming more convenient and widely adopted, consumers today have more options in how they access their care. The past year has seen people become increasingly comfortable with virtual care and, according to our recent Health Care Insights Study, 59% of consumers feel it is important to their health that they have access to virtual and telehealth services. This greater acceptance of virtual care, combined with the proliferation of telehealth options in the past few years, offers a promising solution to closing gaps in health care inequities and helping shape a better care delivery model for all.

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Improving Access to Mental Health Care – The 4 Cs for Employers to Consider

As we head into May, National Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to acknowledge the gains made to reduce mental health stigma in the workplace. When I started in the employee assistance field over 16 years ago, many organizations were reluctant to speak openly about mental health beyond the concepts of “stress” and “resilience.” Now, campaigns such as Just Five, StigmaFree and Mental Health First Aid are common in workplace settings (2,4). Organizational leaders, managers and employees are speaking openly about their own mental health challenges, reducing traditional taboos. These are important steps in the effort to place mental health awareness on the same level as other physical health needs.

Yet, stigma is not the only barrier to mental health.  Access to care is a hurdle many people struggle to overcome. Once an individual acknowledges the need to address their own mental health concerns, they face challenges of finding and connecting to appropriate care (6).

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Retirement Planning Tips for Women in 2023

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.


High inflation rates have led many women to lose confidence in their retirement trajectory, with 62% of women planning to retire later than they had planned1. These added challenges are taking a toll on many women's financial confidence.

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

SECURE Act 2.0 has improved the retirement savings landscape for women

In December of 2022, the SECURE Act 2.0 was signed into law. The Act contains many provisions, some of which are especially important to women’s retirement savings.


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Supporting Working Caregivers: Beyond the Push to Get “Back to Normal”

A recent email started like this: “I have had a few situations recently where managers are becoming impatient with employees who are parents, feeling that the pandemic is over and the desire to get “back to normal.”  The sentiment is very real and understandable, compounded by pressure from the top, but for caregivers, life is not normal, and many of the challenges presented by the pandemic endure. The incidence of serious mental health issues like depression and anxiety remains at crisis levels. Concerns about kids’ learning gaps and mental health, persistent illnesses and sick days, the specter of layoffs, confusing return to office messaging and plans, and economic instability have all impacted retention, advancement and efforts to make organizations more equitable and inclusive.

Caregivers represent an essential portion of your workforce, whether we realize it or not. Many of those who have caregiving responsibilities are invisible in the workplace; researchers estimate that while 73% of the workforce identify as caregivers, only 56% of them say their work supervisor is aware of their caregiving responsibilities—a phenomenon Julia Cohen Sebastien, CEO of caregiver-support platform Grayce, has described as “quiet caregiving.”

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What employers need to know about Medicaid redetermination and its impact on employees

Starting April 1, 2023, employees no longer eligible for Medicaid may look to employer-sponsored health insurance to stay covered.

Beginning as early as April 1, approximately 15 to18M people will no longer be eligible for Medicaid coverage because of the redetermination process and likely will seek health insurance from another source, including employer-sponsored coverage. As a result, employers, brokers, consultants can work together to determine what this development might mean for companies’ health plans and employees.

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The "Love Your Heart" Guide for American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month.  To mark this important event, Hello Heart is pleased to provide benefits leaders with this guide to help encourage your members to “Love Your Heart,” and promote health and wellness throughout the year. Here’s what’s included: 

  • The basics of high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Why addressing these conditions is so critical
  • A brief history of American Heart Month
  • 10 simple yet powerful heart healthy-tips for your employees  
  • 10 great ways to mark American Heart Month in your organization 

The Basics of High Blood Pressure 

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood that pushes against the walls of the arteries, which in turn carry blood from the heart throughout the body. High blood pressure puts individuals at risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to guidelines published by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC), high blood pressure is said to exist when: 

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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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