Provision and availing of such benefits through the workplace varies as per choice of employee and if covered by the employer.
Wondering what legal benefits employees are entitled to and can demand. Well, depending on region and country demographics, some of the more known statutory and common employee benefits (in India for instance) include allowances and reimbursements, provident fund, paid time off, public holidays, maternity leave, paternity & other parental leave, daycare provisions, private health insurance, and sick leave & casual leave. So those are some of the better-known benefits, but there are more, and as companies gain a broader understanding of these and the legalities they bring along, more employees also gain a better understanding than they did a decade ago.
Legal benefits of employees at workplace and wider awareness of the concept is blurred by the fact that it is also referred to by other names such as legal assistance and legal insurance, which causes some level of confusion. Also, a large number of small employers and employees are unaware because many companies prefer to not engage or provide such services and/or benefits to employees for various obvious reasons.
Rapid advancements in technology and connected device penetration expanding and increasing access to real-time data and information have been resulting in an increasing number of individuals and employees and companies gaining a broader understanding of legal benefits at the workplace. Clearer understanding of the various advantages and benefits are among the primary aspects that garner the most attention. More employees are gaining awareness through online platforms, peers, HRD, career counselors, placement agencies, legal advisors, or through social media interactions and related outcomes posted by employees of firms and those who seek to share events or experiences in life. Besides being more related to severe legal matters and services by many outside the workplace, the concept of legal assistance or legal benefits at the workplace is being understood more on the lines of convenience, user-friendly design and structure, cost-effectiveness, reliability, service-oriented, and time saving. In addition, such benefits which can be availed if an employee needs to feel more secure should he or she experience a life event in which they need legal help is gaining more popularity as it is an advantage to have coming along with a job or with employment and other related benefits.
Provision and availing of such benefits through the workplace varies as per choice of employee and if covered by the employer. Benefits related or covering more serious matters are also offered by larger companies, and while benefits are different from the basic types that companies offer such as allowances, gratuity, reimbursements, paid time off, public holidays, and other such, ‘more legal benefits’ enable employees to get immediate assistance, reduce stress, and ultimately be directed in the appropriate direction to get help to address their concerns.
Now, the various benefits may not necessarily cover any and everyone’s need or requirement, but can be specifically beneficial to those needing access to getting niche or typical issues addressed through the proper channels. Some benefits offered above the level of those normally offered include help to create a will, assistance to follow through and address matters related to traffic violations, family law issues, such as child custody or support, divorce, dealing with debt, bankruptcy, issues with contractors or auto repairs, buying or selling a home, and some others.
By mid-2023, a sizable number of Small and Midsize Business (SMB) employers had already implemented new policies and benefits following the COVID-19 outbreak and what followed. Many more SMBs were exploring why legal benefits are becoming popular, why these companies should consider offering them, how to promote utilization, and why working with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) to obtain these benefits leads to long- and short-term advantages. By June 2023, for instance, over 55% of Fortune 500 and 75% of Fortune 100 companies were offering benefits to employees. This strategy was also part of the larger objective to compete for top talent, and has since been resulting in a significant number of smaller organizations following suit.
Explaining why or how these legal benefits have sizable advantages is a bit tricky. For example, an employee aged in early to mid-20s can benefit from legal assistance or legal benefit programs offered through the workplace. Employers have also understood the value an employee can gain from being able to access such plans or another ideal part of a personalized, multigenerational benefits package. Suppose a first-time new four-wheeler purchase decision needs to be taken by an employee in his or her 20s and the agreement of purchase needs to be filled out and this may be quite a challenge for some younger individuals to understand fully well the pros and cons that might be in the small print. Or for example, an employee in 30s wants advice on real estate investment, or one in his or her 40s is looking ahead and wants to prepare a will or seeks advice on retirement and potential investments for instance. These benefits are ideal or designed to meet the needs of employees of varying ages, and hence can be a perfect tool to add to any company’s benefits toolkit.
Other key advantage for employees are convenience, time-saving, access to reliable and trusted service providers with established credentials, and others. Rising costs of legal matters is especially important, and saving money, particularly at the initial stage of needing such services serves to instill some confidence in employees facing a legal hurdle or matter. For instance, someone needing legal assistance or related services for divorce, separation, child custody, or similar having to seek assistance in the open market and not having proper knowledge of such legal matters, or being unable to tell genuine from fake service providers can end up paying out sizable sums before realizing they are being cheated.
Another pertinent issues or challenge for an employee not availing legal benefits at workplace are having to delicately juggle between legal matter needs such as documentation and others, and need to effectively fulfil job-related requirements and complete necessary work hours further can to stress, anxiety, and other conditions and issues. Availability of such benefits through workplace can make many things so much easier for employees and this includes locating or contacting lawyers and experts, accessing details and information of client and legal expert, and doing this faster as these details and data may already be known, or can be validated on the dashboard.
Two widely used ways to provide legal service benefits to employees are through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and a voluntary legal benefits plan. Through EAP, employees can avail confidential, complimentary advice, support, and resources for various important life matters, including legal help. On the other hand, a voluntary legal benefit plan can be best suited to employees who want a higher level of legal coverage. Both programs are affordable, and supplementary plans can be used to assist with a variety of legal topics. With such benefits and advantages and positive feedback and ease of access, demand for legal benefits is only expected to increase exponentially over the next few years. As more companies face rising competition in accessing talent, onboarding, and retaining productive assets and team players to drive revenue and output, offering more such employee-friendly programs is expected to remain the norm, and will also serve to drive awareness among potential workforce and employees about the importance of such benefits at the workplace in the near future.
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