Are You Ready for Open Enrollment 2024? A Guide for HR Pros

When job seekers are hunting for their next big career move, one of the primary things they look for in a company is its benefits package. Our research shows 68% of employees want to know what benefits companies offer, yet many HR professionals say their company doesn’t disclose their packages upfront.

Creating a program ahead of time for open enrollment 2024 that’s cost effective for you and appealing to your workers is a great way to diversify your compensation package and boost engagement. It’s also a powerful recruitment marketing tool. If you offer everything your ideal employee might want in a benefits package, why not advertise that information as part of your recruitment strategy?

A lack of transparency leaves job candidates wondering. And if they see another job post from a company that’s more straightforward about what their employees get out of the deal, you may not be their first pick. This can also hold true for current team members who secretly yearn for more purpose and value at work.

At BambooHR, we help make the benefits administration experience go smoothly for HR pros and employees alike. In this article, we’ll discuss what to expect during open enrollment 2024, which benefits truly attract talent, and how you can use total compensation to empower your team to live their best lives.

When Is Open Enrollment for Health Insurance?

Open enrollment season is a short window of time—often just a few weeks—when your employees can opt into your business’s health insurance plan. This is also when they can adjust their current coverage level or cancel a plan altogether (if they need to). Open enrollment typically occurs toward the end of each calendar year, ensuring everyone is covered by the time a fresh, new benefits period rolls around.

When Is Open Enrollment for Health Insurance 2024?

For businesses that offer private health insurance, this period typically occurs a month or two before the policy’s renewal date. That way, your employees have enough time to review their options. For example, open enrollment may begin on October 31, 2024 for a company offering Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance that renews on December 1, 2024.

Keep in mind the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), has its own enrollment dates that vary slightly by state. Generally, open enrollment for the ACA marketplace begins on November 1, 2024.

When Does Open Enrollment End for 2024?

Employers with private coverage typically end their enrollment period a few weeks before the policy’s renewal date. This gives benefits administrators plenty of time to submit the necessary forms to the insurance company. For many business owners, open enrollment 2024 ends sometime in December.

In most cases, open enrollment for the ACA marketplace ends on January 15, 2025.

Some states with health exchanges offer extended enrollment periods with end dates further into the new year, such as California, New Jersey, and New York. It’s always a good idea to check in with your state’s website to confirm important deadlines.

Are Employers Required to Notify Open Enrollment?

It’s an employer’s responsibility to notify its employees about an upcoming open enrollment period. This means communicating annual notices, benefits options, and other information your team needs to know. Some small business owners take care of this in-house through their HR department, while others may enlist the help of a representative from their insurance company.

Ideally, this is done well before enrollment begins to ensure everyone has enough time to consider their options, familiarize themselves with the process, and make decisions. And company messaging around employee benefits shouldn’t be a one-and-done thing—be sure to offer resources year-round. Ask yourself:

When you effectively communicate employee benefits, provide helpful insights, and offer ongoing support all year long, your employees stay better informed and the enrollment process can feel easier for everyone.

Missed Open Enrollment

We get it—sometimes things happen. If an employee missed open enrollment at work, they may just have to wait until the next enrollment period to sign up. In certain situations, they may be granted a special exception that allows them to enroll after the cutoff date. A few other health insurance options may be available, such as:

On the other hand, sometimes a big life event opens the door to enrollment. Did someone at your company just get married or adopt a baby? This activates a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Employees who've experienced a qualifying life event that impacts their insurance status can update their coverage any time of year and worry less about a missed benefits enrollment period.

Free Resource: Open Enrollment Comms Kit

Gearing up for open enrollment? Follow this prebuilt employee communications to make benefits administration a breeze.

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5 Most Common Employee Benefits

If you’re a new small business owner wondering what you should put in your compensation package, start by looking at what other companies like yours offer. A few employee benefits stand out across the board and are often ranked as some of the most popular among employers and employees alike.

1. Health Insurance

Investing in health insurance is a win-win for your team and company as a whole. Healthcare coverage varies widely among providers, as do the specifics of each group policy, but here are a few common types:

Be sure to shop around to see which insurance option is the most affordable for you and beneficial for your team. Along with a group health plan, many employers also offer dental insurance and vision coverage. Providing a variety of options does more than give your team peace of mind and help them stay healthy—it also shows you value their wellbeing.

2. Retirement Plans

Retirement plans are among the top 5 benefits employees want, according to Forbes Advisor. They help ease financial worries by making it more manageable to prepare for your golden years. Plus, employees and business owners can both reap tax benefits.

Many retirement plans are available, so you’ll have to do some research to figure out which would be the best fit for your small business. Some factors to consider when choosing a 401(k) plan (or any other option) include:

When you have a doctor’s appointment or take a family vacation, paid time off (PTO) has you covered. This benefit enhances your team’s work/life balance and typically encompasses the following:

Many companies offer specific limits to the amount of PTO an employee may take during the year. For instance, an employee may be allowed 15 vacation days and three sick days, which can grow the longer they’re with the company. Unlimited PTO has also become popular, giving employees the freedom to use as much or as little as they want.

Certain states have laws regarding sick leave and vacation time, so be sure to consult your area’s most recent regulations while crafting your company’s PTO policy.

4. Life Insurance

It’s easy to see why 43% of employers and 45% of employees say life insurance is a perk worth having—it helps ease the financial and emotional worries for policyholders and beneficiaries. Group policies typically include term, permanent, or universal life insurance.

When offering this voluntary benefit, consider the coverage options available. For instance, will the policy extend to your employees’ partners and dependants? Will it have accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) coverage? It’s also important to factor premium costs and tax advantages into the equation.

5. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) or Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are tax-advantaged savings that employees can use to pay for wellness-related expenses. Qualified health expenses include things like prescription medications at the pharmacy and co-pays at the dentist’s office.

As an employer, you can offer one or both of these benefits. However, HSAs are typically tied to high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). While they can be used for the same purchases, each plan comes with its own unique set of restrictions to review.

Don’t lose track of another open enrollment to-do.

Make sure nothing falls through the cracks with these free pre and post enrollment checklists.

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When crafting a compensation package, mixing creative benefit ideas with tried-and-true staples can help your organization attract the talent it needs to thrive. Some of the most popular trends in employee benefits are influenced by the values of the modern workforce. Staying up to date on what employees and prospects truly want can help your company stand out and stay competitive.

1. Flexible Hours

Designing a flexible workplace is one way employers have addressed the evolving expectations around work and helped to improve employee satisfaction. Flexible hours may include remote work opportunities, a schedule outside the regular nine-to-five, flextime, and other arrangements.

Flexible work strategies are adopted in many ways. The key is to figure out what system works best for your organization and communicate guidelines and expectations clearly. And if this program isn’t a good fit for every single position, consider alternate benefits those employees may want.

Paid vacation time is a core component of many compensation packages. At first glance, it may seem like a simple, all-too-common benefit. However, investing in an appealing time-off policy can positively affect your company’s culture, productivity, and retention rate. Some companies even cover vacation expenses, such as plane tickets and hotel rooms, making this perk hard to resist.

And don’t forget: a modern vacation policy—and how it’s encouraged—speaks volumes about how much you value your workers’ time and wellbeing. Fostering a culture that supports time off can help your employees feel comfortable taking advantage of their hard-earned PTO and minimize the guilt sometimes associated with being away from work.

3. Mental Health Assistance

Incorporating mental health resources into your benefits package is a great way to invest in the success of your workforce and curb burnout. Plus, it may help attract up-and-coming talent. Thoughtfully crafted mental health resources can be a big draw for a majority of Gen Zers and Millennials, two groups that find wellness support a key factor when evaluating employers post-pandemic.

Work with your team to improve mental wellness in the workplace at several levels. On the employee side, you can offer workshops, tools, and resources that are easily accessible. On the leadership side, you can train your managers to recognize when someone on their team is struggling and provide support. Initiating better conversations around mental wellness and reducing stigma in your workplace can make a big difference in many people’s lives.

4. Wellness Stipends

A wellness stipend, or lifestyle account, encourages employees to follow personalized pursuits outside the office. Not to be confused with an HSA or FSA, this stipend can be used for a wider range of health-related programs, such as:

This is one perk that’s unique to each person, allowing your company to fuel a variety of needs and interests. Plus, it’s easy to customize to your business’s benefits budget. You just have to decide how much to spend per employee and how often ($50 monthly, $1,000 yearly, etc.).

5. Professional Development Opportunities

Professional development refers to the continued education employees receive throughout their careers. And a well-crafted professional development strategy can help boost employee recruiting and retention, as well as engagement. It gives you the chance to grow your workforce in meaningful ways and lets your employees take an active role in their own success.

One key thing to keep in mind when crafting a professional development plan is to figure out how each employee’s vision for their career path aligns with your business. Defining a clear path toward a more rewarding career for each individual can also pave the way for new and exciting possibilities for your organization.

How to Choose Which Benefits Your Organization Offers for Open Enrollment 2024

The key to employee happiness isn’t one elusive perk that trumps them all—it’s a well-crafted benefits package that speaks to a workforce with diverse needs and values. Strive to craft a compensation package with a mix of standard and trending benefits that work best for your team. When you do, it can be a powerful attraction and retention tool for job seekers and employees alike.

Before open enrollment 2024, make sure you have all your ducks in a row to make benefits administration feel as seamless as possible for your company. The better prepared you are, the better prepared your team will be to make big decisions about their health insurance and other perks.

A lot goes into benefits management, but it doesn’t have to be cumbersome and complicated. Using tools like benefits administration software can help streamline the process during open enrollment 2024 and beyond.

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