Back in the “old days” (pre-1980s), employees generally had to settle for the standard company perks – job stability, annual pay raises, vacation time, and a one-size-fits-all health insurance plan.
Today, the benefits game has completely changed. Over the past decade, employers have weathered a faltering economy, skyrocketing health care costs and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. These changes have forced employees to become more active in their own health care decisions and shoulder more of the costs. And they’re no longer settling for the same old perks. They want more choices and more value from their benefits plans, and that’s the driving force behind the explosive growth of voluntary benefits.
Voluntary benefits continue to be a win-win for employers and employees alike.
For employees, benefits are a key driver of satisfaction. As voluntary products continue to evolve, employees are increasingly able to customize their benefits package to suit their individual needs. And according to a TNS Omnibus survey, 86 percent of employees say that the availability of voluntary benefits is an important consideration.
Traditional voluntary benefits have included gap coverage, short-term disability, cancer, critical illness, prescription, dental, life insurance, and hospital supplemental policies. But more and more, employees are getting a leg up in building a financial safety net through non-traditional benefits such as employee purchase programs, financial planning and education, pet insurance, legal plans, and identity theft policies.
For employers who want to attract and retain the best workers, keep their employees healthy, and better manage their health care costs,voluntary offerings provide no-cost and easy-to-implement options that go a long way toward building employee loyalty, increasing productivity, and improving job satisfaction. In short, these benefits are becoming increasingly indispensable. According to LIMRA, the trade group for insurance and financial services companies, more than 57 percent of U.S. employers now offer voluntary products to their employees, and 77 percent believe these benefits improve employee morale and satisfaction.
Coming to an exchange near you?
Whether you offer group health insurance plans or send your employees to the health care exchanges, voluntary benefits will be playing a role. Voluntary products are rapidly expanding into private exchanges. With health care reform driving insurers to develop new and innovative minimum essential coverage products in both the exchanges and the employer-sponsored markets,voluntary offerings are becoming a fundamental part of employee benefits packages.
The wave of the future
Both traditional and non-traditional voluntary benefits continue to grow in popularity, becoming a larger share of the benefits packages employers are offering. And at a time when many employees perceive their benefits as decreasing or being eliminated, voluntary plans offer a viable solution for increasing their benefits.