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Voya initiative promotes supportive benefits for employees with special needs

Employees with disabilities and special needs often face unique roadblocks in their careers and financial lives, but there are strategies employers can take to better support, include and advocate for this community.

One in four Americans has a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and one in five is a caregiver in the workplace. The planning and support needs for these employees are vast; from needing accommodations in the workplace to making sure the costs of caring for a child with disabilities don’t impact someone’s ability to retire.

Voya Cares works to provide people with disabilities and their families with resources to secure their financial future. Voya Cares specializes in financial planning benefits for people with disabilities, like an employer-provided ABLE account, which is a savings account to be used to finance expenses related to a disability. Voya Cares also offers resources to help employees navigate government benefits and maximize the company offerings available to them.

“The COVID crisis has really amplified the caregiving crisis,” says Jessica Tuman, head of the Voya Cares Center of Excellence. “We started this group as a way to really start connecting the dots between individuals with disabilities themselves, the workplace and caregivers.”

In a recent interview, Tuman shared which benefits are helpful to this population and the importance of allowing employees to self-identify.

How can employers promote inclusivity at work?

One of the most critical and fundamental ways to help employees is to create a culture of trust where employees can feel comfortable enough to self-identify.

A lot of employees don't want to self-identify because they fear backlash from their supervisor and there's this whole stigma around self-identifying. But it's so important because it opens up the doors for that employee to get access to resources and accommodations. Employers need to be prepared and make sure that they have a really robust accommodation policy, so that employees feel good and safe in their work environment.

Make sure that you have a centralized accommodations policy that is reasonable — you don't have to change the whole floorplan of a building. In most cases, employees come to work with their own devices and their own adaptive equipment. One of the big myths is that employers have to spend a whole bunch of money around accommodations and that's not true.

The other consideration that employees should make is training for managers to be able to better engage employees that have intellectual disabilities or physical disabilities.

What financial considerations should employers be aware of when supporting disabled employees and their families?

There's a number of things that employers can provide [to caregivers]: tools like Wellthy — a caregiver benefits provider — are really helpful. The other thing that employers are doing is offering backup care.

Additionally, there is a financial vehicle called an ABLE account, which is like a 529 education account where employers can match dollars. An ABLE account is a very similar tool that is specifically designed for people with disabilities. So if you're working and you have a disability, you can save up to $27,760 a year (2021 limit for individuals who are working and not participating in their employer’ retirement plan) in these ABLE accounts. You're also protected from jeopardizing your government benefits, because you might need in-home care that’s paid for by Medicaid.

Employees need employers to educate them about this financial tool. It's just one of those things that the general public doesn’t know about. It's really a free employee benefit.

 

This article was written by Amanda Schiavo from Employee Benefit News and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

Learn more about Voya Cares.

 


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