Pasar al contenido principal Saltar al pie de página del mapa del sitio

Tips and Strategies To Improve the 2025 Open Enrollment Benefits Process

  • Beneficios para empleados
  • Artículo
  • Lectura de 6 minutos
  • Last Updated: 06/25/2024

HR manager has virtual benefits sessions to communicate about open enrollment to remote employee

Table of Contents

The benefits enrollment process is often complicated and confusing for your business and your employees. Choosing the right benefits plans can perplex employers while bogging them down with paperwork. Employees may not understand how each benefit offering impacts themselves, their families, or their paychecks.

Fortunately, employers can streamline the open enrollment process, making it more likely for employees to participate. By increasing overall employee participation, you can reap the benefits — from decreasing per-person costs to attracting and retaining high-quality talent.

Read on to learn some open enrollment tips for employers to improve processes in 2025.

What Is Open Enrollment for Benefits?

So, what is the meaning of benefits enrollment? Benefits enrollment is the process by which employees select or change their benefits options, often occurring annually.

During benefits open enrollment, eligible employees can enroll in benefits or change their existing benefits options each year. This period allows employees to take advantage of new benefits, restructure their current offerings, or stop coverage altogether if they experience certain changes, such as if a spouse or other family member now has access to comprehensive insurance through their own job.

Benefits options in open enrollment typically include health coverage, dental, and life insurance, as well as additional voluntary benefits like legal services or pet insurance. In addition to these benefits, there are mandatory benefits a company must provide to its full-time employees, including Social Security and Medicare, unemployment insurance, workers' compensation insurance, and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protections. These mandatory benefits are provided without an open enrollment period.

Why Is Open Enrollment Important, and How Does It Work?

Once benefits elections are made, they often cannot be changed until the following year's open enrollment period unless specific qualifying life events occur, such as getting married or giving birth to a child. For this reason, your employees must understand their options during open enrollment.

So, how does open enrollment work? Employees can choose or adjust their benefits during this period to better suit their needs. For example, they can choose new benefits, change their coverage levels, and select from various plan types. They can also adjust contributions to a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA). If they already have coverage under specific benefits options, they can update it by adding beneficiaries or increasing coverage amounts.

When Is Open Enrollment, and When Does It End?

For most Americans, the federal health insurance marketplace open enrollment period for health insurance benefits starting in 2025 will run from November 1, 2024, through January 15, 2025, but dates may vary by state.

Employers may set up a benefits enrollment period for individual employees that begins and ends earlier than the federal marketplace open enrollment period. Most employers have an open enrollment period of at least two to four weeks.

Many states, such as California, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington, have their own health insurance exchanges and may have extended deadlines. Health insurance plans purchased outside of a workplace plan also follow annual open enrollment periods that may mirror the period set by the state.

No matter where you're located, checking with your state to confirm important health insurance deadline dates is a good idea.

Open Enrollment vs. Annual Enrollment

Do you know the difference between open and annual enrollment? Benefits open enrollment is a special enrollment period for making changes to health insurance plans, while annual enrollment is a broader opportunity to modify all benefits and healthcare plans annually. The annual enrollment period typically spans from November to mid-December, but the exact dates may vary depending on the employer. Changes made during annual enrollment usually take effect on January 1 of the following year.

Active vs. Passive Open Enrollment

Employers can use two approaches to manage employee benefits enrollment: active and passive enrollment. During active enrollment, employees must review and select their benefits during the enrollment period.

So, what is passive benefit enrollment? Passive enrollment is more of a hands-off approach, where employees' existing benefits automatically roll over into the new plan year unless they choose to make changes. It's critical that your employees understand whether you offer active or passive enrollment, so they fully understand how to change their current benefits.

How Long Is Open Enrollment?

Open enrollment can last for any amount of time, but most companies commonly choose to have an open enrollment period for employees that lasts between two and four weeks. Since many benefits like health insurance will begin at the start of the new year, businesses often choose to end open enrollment in November or December. This allows for a few weeks before enrollment forms must be submitted to benefit providers, with coverage beginning January 1.

Is Open Enrollment the Same for All Companies?

The open enrollment period differs for every company. Each organization has its own unique approach and timeline for open enrollment.

Here are a few of the key differences:

  • Timing: While many organizations hold open enrollment around the same time of the year, the specific timing can vary depending on financial planning and renewal cycles.
  • Duration: Some companies may opt for a shorter open enrollment window, while others may provide a longer period to allow employees more time to review their options and make decisions.
  • Enrollment process: The process can also be different. Some companies may use online platforms or portals for employees to review and select their benefits, while others may require paper forms or direct communication with a benefits administrator.

How Long Do New Hires Have To Enroll in Benefits?

New-hire waiting periods for benefits coverage vary from business to business. Assuming the new hire has completed their onboarding and benefits enrollment paperwork, health insurance can begin on their first day, while others may be eligible after a waiting period of up to 90 days before coverage starts. The Affordable Care Act, for instance, provides that group health plans cannot have a waiting period of more than 90 days after a participant satisfies the plan's conditions for eligibility. Communicate any waiting periods to potential new hires when discussing compensation packages and negotiating benefits. You may even want to include this information in your employee handbook.

Are Employers Required To Notify Employees of Open Enrollment?

Employers are responsible for distributing annual notices related to benefits open enrollment to employees. For example, employers must provide employees with certain legal disclosures and annual notices informing them of their rights and responsibilities regarding the company's health plan offerings, such as a Summary of Benefits Coverage and a HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices. Keep in mind that you may need to provide notices within a designated time frame. For instance, you may need to provide a notice at the time of enrollment, but you may also need to provide a disclosure at any point when a participant requests one in writing.

What Is a HIPAA Special Enrollment Period (SEP)?

If individuals miss the annual open enrollment period, they may be allowed to enroll in a health plan during a special enrollment period ("SEPs"). Under HIPAA, SEPs are designated opportunities for individuals to change or update their current insurance plans or enroll in new plans if they experience a qualifying life event. These events are defined as circumstances that would impact the household's need for medical care, such as the birth of a child or the loss of a job currently providing health insurance.

SEPs vary based on the type of qualifying event, but most enrollment periods last for the 30- to 60-day period after the life event occurs. Employers should educate their employees on these special enrollment periods so they don't miss out on electing health insurance after such life events.

Tips To Improve Your Company's Current Benefit Open Enrollment Process

With the federal open enrollment period coming up, you should prioritize reviewing your open enrollment process to ensure you adequately support your employees.

As you review your benefits enrollment procedures, use this open enrollment guide to engage your employees and show them you are listening. Ask your employees for input on what's working well and what needs improving. For example, are there areas where employees need clarification or more information? What benefits should you add to meet your employees' needs or wants? Identifying gaps and opportunities for improvement year to year is the best way to upgrade your process continuously.

And more doesn't necessarily mean better.

Just because your health insurance carrier offers 20 different plans doesn't mean you have to provide that many to your employees. Offering too many benefits may confuse or overwhelm your employees, causing them to select benefits that don't fit their needs.

When you understand what your employees want, pick two or three plans that meet most of their needs. This makes it easier for employees to compare and for you to administer. You may, for example, consider offering one co-pay plan and one that is a high deductible health plan ("HDHP") that you can pair with an HSA.

These strategies can help improve employee satisfaction and provide a critical opportunity to educate workers about the value of your benefits. A well-managed process also reduces stress on your HR team while helping you meet your vendors' deadlines.

Here are 7 open enrollment strategies to improve your process and employee experience.

1. Start Early With an Open Enrollment Communication Strategy

When developing or fine-tuning your open enrollment communication strategy, consider how to deliver the necessary information to your team. For example, if you have staff working remotely or in a hybrid work setup, you may need to communicate with employees in non-traditional ways, such as offering virtual benefits sessions. You should start communicating early to allow for unexpected delays. Remember – it's never too early to start the informational process concerning employee benefits open enrollment.

To make this possible, contact vendors to determine when new information will become available and how that information can be relayed to your employees. Also, company-wide surveys should be conducted well before enrollment season to gauge employee satisfaction with current plan options and seek input on what they'd like to see changed in the year ahead. This requested input should start well ahead of your benefits open enrollment period.

2. Allow As Much Lead Time As Possible

Benefits open enrollment is a collaborative activity. Your employees may need to coordinate with spouses or partners and run multiple calculations to determine which plans and optional coverages are best to protect their families properly.

Employees registering remotely for the first time may have more questions than usual or need extra support. To account for these delays, allow for additional lead time to help ensure that all your employees can still register on time.

To encourage maximum participation, provide as much lead time as possible between sharing the initial benefits information and your specified deadline for enrollment. This will give your employees time to:

  • Review benefits information
  • Ask questions
  • Coordinate with relevant family members
  • Think about their benefits enrollment
  • Evaluate any change in benefits needs

Additionally, consider sending regular reminders to employees during that interval to keep the upcoming deadline on the radar.

3. Send Out Information on the Benefits Enrollment Period Through Multiple Channels

One of the most common reasons for not participating in employee benefits programs is a lack of information. Employees may need help understanding the full range of benefits available to them or feel they need more information to make smart decisions.

To empower your employees to make informed decisions and improve your open enrollment process, strive to offer information about benefits and plan changes in different formats and through multiple channels. Better communication results in a smoother enrollment experience.

With employees working on-site or remotely, consider making benefits information available to employees through:

  • Employee benefits websites
  • Emails
  • Newsletters
  • Home mailings
  • Webinar presentations
  • Text messages

Sharing information in different formats helps explain key details to employees who learn differently while also providing reminders for your whole team. For example, some vendors now offer comprehensive plan overview videos or benefits comparison charts that make it easier for employees to digest a large amount of detailed information.

Remember that applicable businesses must adhere to Affordable Care Act regulations covering the distribution of electronic summaries of benefits and coverage, their availability, and when these and related materials must be provided. Calendaring these deadlines while ensuring the content meets legal standards is essential to your benefits compliance.

4. Offer a Self-Service Option

Many workers prefer a self-service option for employee benefits enrollment. Self-service allows employees to enroll in benefits programs without undue stress while taking the time they need. The functionality also enables employees whose benefits enrollment is straightforward or involves minimal or routine changes to make those adjustments online quickly without interfering with work schedules. A self-service option can save your employees and your HR team valuable time during busy work periods.

Self-service enrollment may also be the only way to enroll your team if most of your workforce is remote, hybrid, or spread across multiple states. This option gives your employees the freedom to enroll at their earliest convenience without needing to contact you directly or use mail-in forms that could get lost in the shuffle.

5. Provide HR Support for All Open Enrollment Options

While many employees want the flexibility of self-service, it's also critical for HR to support employees with questions. Employees are more likely to embrace self-service when they know they have access to a team of knowledgeable professionals who can answer questions. The following strategies can help companies achieve this balance:

  • If you have employees on-site, invite insurance carriers/agents to make in-person presentations where employees can ask questions directly
  • Offer virtual drop-in Q&A sessions from insurance carriers or your HR team to address questions from remote or hybrid workers and review plan variations
  • Provide email addresses, phone numbers, and websites where employees can find answers to individual questions

6. Hand Out Printed Materials and Other Resources

For many companies, open enrollment packets are distributed to all employees during the typical workday or through internal office mail delivery. If you have remote or hybrid workers, you must deliver resources via postal mail or email. For the former, allocate time for employees to receive the information and create a follow-up process to ensure each employee receives a packet. For the latter, you can get the news in your employees' hands faster and save on shipping costs, but some insurance carriers may not have the information in digital form.

As such, you may need to create some benefits documents specific to your company and your benefits offerings. Producing easy-to-read printed pieces, such as summaries or FAQs, can be helpful when improving open enrollment communication, particularly if you offer information that shows side-by-side comparisons of:

  • Premiums, projected employee contributions, and deductibles
  • Lists or links to/of in-network medical facilities and consulting physicians
  • Changes in plan offerings from the past year and the upcoming year. Try to anticipate the kinds of questions employees will ask. Include a detailed frequently asked questions document with any digital information you share (a PDF version on your company's intranet can help, too).

7. Consider Benefits Enrollment Software

Consider the role that technology can play in helping you conduct open enrollment. Benefits administration software is built not only to help you manage your offerings but also to help employees make benefits choices with ease. Some critical capabilities of employee benefits administration software include:

  • Providing a centralized administrator dashboard
  • Offering an employee benefits portal that allows staff to access benefits plans, update their information, and enroll
  • Allowing administrators to create compensation statements
  • Providing built-in compliance checking and reporting features

Additional Open Enrollment Information

If you're looking for a more streamlined way to manage your benefits offerings, help is available. You can streamline the benefits enrollment process with employee benefit services. With the help of trusted and licensed insurance agents, you can get the resources you need to empower your employees throughout the open enrollment 2025 process.


Podemos ayudarlo a abordar desafíos empresariales como estos Contáctenos hoy mismo

Don't brave open enrollment alone. Paychex's employee benefits services provide support with benefits administration while helping save you time.

* Este contenido es solo para fines educativos, no tiene por objeto proporcionar asesoría jurídica específica y no debe utilizarse en sustitución de la asesoría jurídica de un abogado u otro profesional calificado. Es posible que la información no refleje los cambios más recientes en la legislación, la cual podrá modificarse sin previo aviso y no se garantiza que esté completa, correcta o actualizada.

Acerca de Paychex

Paychex fue fundada hace más de cuatro décadas para aliviar la complejidad de dirigir un negocio y facilitar la vida de nuestros clientes a fin de que puedan centrarse en lo que más importa.

Ofrecemos lo siguiente: