Workers overwhelmingly (87%) consider health insurance to be the most important workplace benefit when considering whether to stay in a current job or choose a new job, according to the 2017 report on the value of voluntary workplace benefits by Employee Benefits Research Institute.
“Employers who offer a strong employee benefits package that balances costs and choice should find themselves with a competitive advantage over other companies when it comes to attracting and retaining desirable workers and will have more satisfied employees overall,” the EBRI report concludes.
Because The Affordable Care Act increased premiums for anyone not receiving a subsidy, many choose a high deductible to keep their premium down. The concept of providing voluntary benefits—a menu of coverage options above and beyond traditional health insurance—has gained traction as a way to help employers cover the broad variety of needs and wants of its employees.
What Are Voluntary Benefits?
Voluntary benefits are supplemental options that can include dental and vision coverage, disability and cancer insurance, group purchasing plans—whatever employees want.
Voluntary insurance pays financial benefits regardless of any other insurance coverage employees have in place—including policies available through government health care exchanges.
Voluntary benefits can also include wellness products, such as gym memberships or day care, or even more untraditional offerings, such as group purchasing programs and discount merchandise. Among the softer ones are concierge services, which can range from travel agents to personal shoppers.
They’re simply a customized package of additional insurance products and other group programs presented to employees on a menu they can pick from.
Why are they a good bet?
It costs little to offer them.
The good news is voluntary benefits can be offered at little-to-no cost to the employer. Administrative services (such as online billing) cost very little—especially if a company’s existing insurance vendor offers the package. Most options are paid for by the employee through payroll deductions with pre-tax dollars. And firms with as few as three employees can offer voluntary benefits.
Your employees will welcome them.
Here are more strong reasons your employees may welcome a package of voluntary benefit offerings:
They remove the need for employees to find benefits on their own. With the vast array of voluntary benefits on the market and a number of outside companies eager to sell them, people are understandably worried about making the right choice. When plans are offered at work, employees are likely to be more comfortable knowing their employer vetted the carrier.
They’re flexible. The wide range of options available allows employees to choose benefits that suit their circumstances and lifestyle, whether they’re age 20 or 75.
They bridge the gap. Voluntary benefits complement core offerings such as life insurance or disability insurance. Even if an employer provides a life insurance offering, employees can choose to increase their coverage by adding voluntary life benefits. Voluntary benefits can also help provide a financial safety net to employees with expenses that may not be covered by their core medical plan, such as cancer care.
They’re affordable. As well as potentially being less expensive if purchased through an employer, voluntary employee benefits can usually be deducted via payroll. That means that there’s no need to set up bank drafts or worry about missing premium payments. Plus, pretax dollars are often used to pay for many voluntary benefits, which will save employees on federal income taxes.
They’re portable. Many voluntary benefits are portable, so an employee can keep the coverage even if he leaves the company, as long as he pay the premiums.
The bottom line
Good employees are critical to a practice’s survival. Offering a personalized package of voluntary benefits is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to make life less stressful for valued employees.
A flexible, personalized menu of optional benefits can help small practices compete with larger competitors for talent. And for those already on payroll, a benefits package that employees choose themselves tailored exactly to their changing needs is hard to give up.