Benefits and Compensation, Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Q&A: Identity Theft Benefits More Relevant Than Ever

Under the best of circumstances, identity theft is a real concern for employers and employees alike. When employees’ identities are stolen, any number of life-altering outcomes are possible, ranging from stolen tax returns to new, false lines of credit being open in employees’ names. As our lives become more digital—a trend that has been heavily accelerated by the coronavirus outbreak—the opportunity for identity theft increases, as well.identity theft

A recent study examined the issue. The 2019 LegalShield Workplace Study was designed to assess awareness, perceptions, and the influence of identity theft protection and group legal plans in the workplace and their impact on employee financial wellness. I spoke with Emily Rose, SVP at LegalShield’s Business Solutions Division, about the findings.

HR Daily Advisor: You recently did some research about identity theft protection as a benefit in the workplace. What was your most surprising finding?

Rose: The study was designed to assess awareness, perceptions, and the influence of identity theft protection and group legal plans in the workplace and their impact on employee financial wellness.

Generally speaking, the findings of the study supported the market trends we have observed over the last 18 months. Identity theft continues to be a growing concern for employees, with more than half of the employees surveyed agreeing that their employers should offer an identity protection benefit and 89% saying that having access to an identity theft product provides peace of mind.

These findings support what we garner from market activity, which is that voluntary benefits like identity theft protection plans are continuing to gain momentum in the employee benefit space.

HR Daily Advisor: How important is identity theft protection to employees? Has interest increased over the years?

Rose: Identity theft protection is more important than ever to employees. More and more consumers are incorporating smart devices into their daily lives, which increases accessibility for nefarious criminals to steal personally identifiable information. An identity theft protection plan allows consumers to be proactive in protecting their personal information and have direct access to professionals who can help in the event of an identity theft incident.

Nearly 60% of employees state they’ve been distracted at work because of a recent data breach or an identity theft matter, leading to a reduction in workplace productivity. Employers are taking notice of presenteeism issues that stem from the identity theft concerns of their employees, and as a result, we are seeing more market activity around offering identity theft protection as a voluntary benefit.

HR Daily Advisor: What does an identity theft benefit look like?

Rose: An identity theft plan that covers not only monitoring of financial and personal information but also a comprehensive restoration process is imperative to the success of the plan. It is important that, from a monitoring perspective, carriers go beyond basic credit monitoring and also provide financial account monitoring, social media monitoring, and online privacy management services.

When comparing identity theft protection plans, 80% of employers recognize the true differentiator that a thorough restoration process provides. It is important to implement a plan that offers unlimited access to a team of professionals to help employees when their personal data are compromised.

HR Daily Advisor: I understand your research also looked into legal services benefits. What do those look like?

Rose: Such services would give access to dedicated provider law firms that supply unlimited counsel on the most commonly needed personal legal matters.

More than 60% of employees said they faced a legal event in the last 2 years, and 53% said their legal matter negatively impacted their work, indicating that legal services are a vital benefit to offer at the workplace. When selecting a legal service partner, benefit decision-makers should focus on providers that make the plan easy to use and understand.

When faced with a legal matter, employees are looking for direct access to a qualified attorney and the flexibility to use the plan in the manner that fits their lifestyle. The breadth and width of coverage provided in the plan are also imperative aspects of the legal plan. It is important to cover personal legal matters such as estate planning, real estate, consumer protection, and financial and family matters.

HR Daily Advisor: How much of a demand is there for legal services benefits?

Rose: The demand for legal services remains strong, as 77% of employers believe that accessing affordable legal services is an increasingly demanding issue that will improve employees’ financial well-being. Of the employees who desire this benefit, nearly 50% of employees surveyed felt their employer should offer a legal benefit.

HR Daily Advisor: Will the addition of one or more of these benefits really impact an organization’s hiring and retention success?

Rose: Voluntary benefits are a key driving force in employee benefits packages and a key tool for employers to deploy in attracting and retaining talent. Two-thirds of employees feel the quality of an organization’s benefit package makes a big difference in their choice of employer.

Employers realize a need to embrace benefits that cast a wider net of financial protection and offer employees peace of mind in today’s ever-changing world. Legal services and identity theft protection plans are easy to administer and are “low noise and high reward” benefits.

Sixty-one percent of employees find legal and identity theft protection plans increase their financial well-being, and employers agree. More than 60% of employers are considering offering both benefits in their benefit packages.

HR Daily Advisor: Anything else you want our audience to understand about these benefits?

Rose: Legal service plans and identity theft protection plans don’t discriminate by age, gender, income, familial status, or work title. New employees just entering the workforce have legal needs and are just as susceptible to identity theft as employees who are closer to retirement.

Employees across all life stages, including those making major financial decisions, getting married, having kids, or figuring out elder care for a loved one, also benefit from access to legal and identity theft professionals. Legal and identity theft plans are vital benefits that cross socioeconomic and generational lines, making them a valuable addition to any employer’s suite of benefits.

HR Daily Advisor: How can these benefits help in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis?

Rose: Legal services lend employees peace of mind while they navigate the uncertain times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic is a strong reminder of what is most important in employees’ lives. Some of the personal/financial wellness matters that employees will face over the coming months may include debt collection and other financial matters, consumer protection matters, tax advice, estate planning matters, and landlord/tenant issues.

Additionally, crises are a breeding ground for criminals. As the need to stay at home increases, more and more people are turning to the Internet for work, shopping, and entertainment than ever before, amplifying their need to protect their identity, as well as their online privacy.