Ch-Ch-Changes: 5 Ways HR Can Handle Employee Qualifying Life Events Seamlessly

An illustration of a woman standing next to moving boxes

It’s no secret that health insurance coverage is a top priority for candidates and employees. In fact, nearly half of the 475 companies on Inc. magazine’s 2022 Best Workplaces list now offer free employee coverage to invest in recruitment efforts and employee retention.

However, employee insurance elections aren’t only confined to onboarding and open enrollment. Qualifying life events (QLEs)—whether planned or unexpected—can occur year-round.

These are time-sensitive instances. So if your HR team isn’t equipped with efficient processes and technology to update benefits information, it could impact your employees’ access to necessary care.

With BambooHR’s centralized Benefits Administration tool, HR is freed from manual processes and has more time to show up for employees who need additional support and reassurance during life-changing moments. In this article, we'll dive into some of the ways you can manage QLEs effectively.

What Is a Qualifying Life Event?

A qualifying life event for insurance is a significant change that makes an employee eligible to enroll in health insurance outside of the yearly open enrollment period. Depending on their plan, they may be granted 30 or 60 days to update their insurance or sign up for new coverage.

A health insurance qualifying event can fall under four categories: Loss of health coverage, changes in household, changes in residence, and changes to your eligibility. Here is an example from each category:

When Is Open Enrollment for Health Insurance?

Open enrollment for Marketplace health insurance plans happens yearly (November 1 to January 15). However, job-based plans may have their own open enrollment periods.

What Is a Special Enrollment Period?

A special enrollment period (SEP) is a time outside regular open enrollment when people who've experienced a QLE can sign up for health insurance. Job-based plans must provide a SEP of at least 30 days, but some types may grant 60 days before or after the event to enroll in a plan.

Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment Period

The main difference between open enrollment and SEP is when people are allowed to sign up for health insurance. Open enrollment happens once a year within a designated window. Any other time is activated by a QLE and referred to as a SEP.

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

Make sure nothing falls through the cracks with BambooHR's free pre- and post-enrollment checklists.

Download the Free Checklists

5 Ways HR Can Manage Qualifying Life Events with Ease

On top of QLEs affecting the mental, physical, and emotional health of employees, they can also make administrative upkeep challenging for HR. Here are five ways your team can make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved:

1. Get Your Document Ducks in a Row

When it comes to QLEs, time is of the essence. If employees miss the 30- or 60-day window to change their health insurance plan, they'll have to wait until the next open enrollment period—which could be as long as one year away.

The documentation an employee is required to provide depends on the QLE. For example, birth certificates, adoption records, and marriage certificates indicate new family members that must be added to the plan. To prove a loss of health insurance, they may need a termination letter or proof of prior coverage under a parent’s plan (for an employee who just turned 26).

Once employees have submitted their documents, it’s key for your HR department to keep their sensitive information safe, yet easily accessible for future reference. If time-sucking DIY spreadsheets and overflowing filing cabinets slow you down, employee database software can save you hours and headaches by keeping your people data organized, accurate, secure—and all in one place.

2. Provide Employee Benefits Resources Year-Round

When it comes to their benefits, some employees have a one-and-done mentality and they think open enrollment is the only time to make changes. However, a QLE can happen at any point during the year and could potentially cause an employee or their loved ones to lose coverage if they don’t take action fast enough.

Between experiencing the event itself and managing their daily workload, it’s easy to see how these oversights can happen. Here are some ways your HR team can keep employees engaged and informed about how to change their benefits:

3. Build Your Organization’s Psychological Safety Net

Psychological safety is a shared belief that expressing ideas and concerns, admitting mistakes, and bringing your authentic self to work shouldn't be met with negative consequences. Although vulnerability can feel uncomfortable at times, 89% of employees believe psychological safety in the workplace is essential. This philosophy yields several advantages, such as:

It’s not uncommon for employees navigating major life events to try to compartmentalize and march on as though nothing's happened for fear of repercussions. However, that separation is hard to sustain and personal stressors can inevitably affect mental health and work performance. If employees don’t feel comfortable enough to ask for support at work, they’re more likely to experience burnout and consider resigning.

By intentionally cultivating a psychological safety net, HR teams can help improve employee wellbeing, and, in turn, the organization’s overall performance. After all, fostering open communication transparency increases employee trust. When leaders model vulnerability, employees can feel more empowered to speak up when they’re experiencing professional and personal challenges.

Free Resource: Open Enrollment Comms Kit

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

Download the Free Kit

4. Keep Qualifying Life Events in Mind During Benefits Planning

As far as benefits packages go, one-size-fits-all actually fits no one. Instead, consider the variety of QLEs employees may experience and select inclusive, generous benefits that suit a diverse workforce. Examples include:

A well-rounded compensation package should support your employees’ physical, mental, and financial health. With resources in place to support work-life balance, employees can be more engaged at work instead of stressing about whether they can afford to continue working for your company.

5. Make Everyone’s Lives Easier with Benefits Administration Software

Deciding what employee benefits to offer is a complex task in and of itself. But when it’s coupled with error-prone manual processes across disparate systems, benefits management can feel like a marathon.

Leveraging the right software helps lighten the load for HR professionals as they oversee benefits updates year-round due to QLEs. For instance, automated features that save every election to the employee record and sync enrollment data to benefits providers can save your team hours of work.

With BambooHR’s Benefits Administration, the whole experience is bundled into one easy-to-use interface. Everything you need is at your fingertips and your employees can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve got their back throughout life’s big changes.

Make benefits administration a breeze all year ‘round.

See how quick and easy managing benefits can be when you do it all in BambooHR.

Get a Free Demo Today