CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Aug. 5, 2020) — With student loan debt topping more than $1.6 trillion nationwide, employee benefits provider Unum (NYSE: UNM) found a novel solution to help its employees pay some of those burdensome loans. Announced to employees in 2019, Unum’s Student Debt Relief Program, managed by Fidelity Investments, allows the company’s 9,500 U.S. employees to transfer up to 40 hours of carry-over paid time off (PTO) into a payment against student debt. In the first year of the program, the company paid $625,000 in student loan principal and estimated interest for participating employees, with an average payment of $1,200.
Unum has a very competitive time off program. In their first year with the company, full-time employees receive 28 days of PTO, including holidays and personal days, with additional PTO available over time. Almost half of Unum employees carry over unused PTO each year. This program provides an additional benefit option in how they use that time.
Student loan debt crosses all generations. “Around 30% of our workforce carries student loan debt – either their own, for a child or a family member, and monthly payments can leave employees struggling to contribute to savings goals,” said Carl Gagnon, assistant vice president, global financial wellbeing at Unum. “This first-of-its-kind program, along with a range of other benefits and resources, provides our employees tools to help reduce stress, build financial foundations, and improve overall well-being.”
Generous PTO, student debt repayment options and other financial planning resources are regularly at the top of U.S. workers’ wish lists. With student loan debt tripling over the past decade, studies suggest that rising debt is hurting employees’ focus at work and their retirement planning.
“The option to use this student debt relief program has been a big deal to help pay down my loans even faster,” said Jimmy Valentine, professional development program associate, and one of the 427 Unum employees who took advantage of this benefit this year. “I’m definitely taking advantage of this program again this year.”
Additional financial benefits for Unum employees include a generous 401(k) with company match, an additional core 4.5% defined contribution plan retirement savings contribution, one-on-one financial advice through Ameriprise, online investment and financial modeling tools and an employee stock purchase plan.