The majority of U.S. employers are making it easier for employees to access their 401(k) assets by adopting the hardship distribution and loan provisions under the CARES Act, according to the latest pulse survey by Willis Towers Watson.
Almost two-thirds of respondents (65%) increased access to plan distributions, with 16% either planning or considering doing so this year. Nearly half (48%) increased the maximum amount available for plan loans, with 64% now allowing participants to defer loan repayments.
"These are difficult times emotionally and financially for many employees," said Robyn Credico, Willis Towers Watson's North America defined contribution practice leader, in a news release. "Making cash available from defined contribution plans is an easy, relatively inexpensive way to provide much-needed assistance to employees."
Meanwhile, some employers are also suspending their matching contributions. More than 1 in 10 employers (12%) suspended contributions, with 23% planning or considering doing so this year. In hard-hit industries, such as retail and business services, the suspension rate is higher, with 26% pausing contributions and 32% planning or considering suspensions in 2020.
Employers also cited employees' financial well-being as one of their top three benefit priorities for the next six months. Almost two-thirds (63%) said they promoted existing financial counseling services, with 9% saying they introduced new counseling resources. About a quarter (26%) plan to introduce or are considering new financial counseling resources this year.
The survey polled 816 employers during the week of April 20.