TIAA offers free at-home COVID tests for all U.S. employees

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With COVID numbers continuing to skyrocket, it’s more critical than ever to make testing accessible and easy. Insurance company TIAA is offering all U.S.-based employees access to free at-home COVID testing as a new employee benefit.

“During this time, we have been encouraging employees to stay home and stay safe. When employees have to leave their homes to get tested, there is an additional chance of exposure,” says Sean Woodroffe, CHRO at TIAA. “The zero-cost benefit of at-home COVID-19 testing provides our associates with convenient and immediate access.”

Read more: COVID-19 at-home testing kits can make returning to work safer

COVID-19 infections have continued to increase, with more than 16.7 million cases reported since March in the United States alone. Deaths have also topped 300,000 since March, a sobering figure as states continue to grapple with full shutdowns and overrun testing centers and hospital facilities.

For employers, providing access to COVID testing and health tools has become a top priority during the pandemic. Employers including computer software company Appian and digital healthcare platform Buoy Health have launched at-home testing, antibody testing and self-screening tools.

“We've seen that high amounts of testing can help minimize COVID-19. Knowledge is power, so we're trying to get [employers] as much knowledge as possible, as quickly as possible, and provide them with another tool to keep their employees safe,” says Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian.

Read more: New tool tracks COVID-19 geographical risk to pinpoint when employees can return to work

The at-home test for TIAA is not mandatory for employees, but rather to provide “peace of mind,” Woodroffe said. Employees are able to request the tests free of charge, administer them to themselves and their families and then send them to a lab for processing. If an associate tests positive, they receive a personal phone call from Premise Health to discuss their results.

“Given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide, it felt like the right time to make testing available to ease the burden of associates needing to find testing facilities and risking being exposed to the virus when leaving their homes,” Woodroffe says.

In addition to testing, the new vaccines present another area where employers will be tasked with supporting employees and ensuring their safety. The FDA has authorized the Pfizer vaccine and plans to grant emergency authorization for the Moderna vaccine this week. Both companies have promised the federal government they will administer 100 million doses by the end of March 2021, with more in production.

In a new survey by SYKES, an IT consulting company, almost 54% of respondents said employers should require non-remote employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Sixty-three percent of respondents planned to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available.

While employers are allowed to mandate that employees receive vaccines before returning to work, employers should communicate frequently and openly with employees to ensure they feel heard and their concerns about the vaccine are being met.

“The science and information regarding COVID is constantly changing, and there will be a lot of questions. One of the places they're going to turn is their employer,” says Gary Pearce, chief risk architect at Aclaimant, a workplace safety and risk management platform. “The employer is going to be a source of information as the vaccinations roll out, so they need to ensure they’re conducting business safely to make employees confident in what they're doing.”

Employers should keep employee safety and security top of mind during COVID-19 and beyond, Woodroffe says.

“During a year of unprecedented turmoil, we want to continue supporting our employees and have intentionally focused on being nimble and responsive to their needs,” he says. “We believe that staying focused on creating the best environment for our associates will drive engagement, which in turn will drive better outcomes for our clients.”

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TIAA Workplace safety and security COVID-19 Employer mandate Employee productivity Employee engagement