As the importance of benefits in the workplace continues to rise, voluntary offerings can make a huge difference in how employers meet employee needs. Many voluntary options are filling in gaps as employers offer high-deductible health plans, wrote Cort Olsen for Employee Benefit Adviser. “Almost half, 48 percent, of employees live paycheck to paycheck,” Olsen wrote, citing the MetLife Employee Benefit Trends Study, “and nearly two-thirds of employees say they are looking to their employer for more help achieving financial security through employee benefits.” As a result, voluntary options like critical illness and accident coverage are growing the fastest among voluntary options.
These offerings can also allow employers a low-cost way to recruit and retain employees. “Companies are recognizing the role that non-traditional voluntary benefits can play in distinguishing their employee benefits package,” wrote Elizabeth Halkos for Employee Benefit News.
Voluntary benefits can also solve specific problems for a client’s employees. For example, offering options related to telemedicine can encourage good health by allowing employees to seek lower-cost telemedical treatment before problems become serious.
“In a day where employers are seeking affordable health care that exceeds traditional coverage, telemedicine use is hitting the ground running,” wrote Jeff Oldham for Benefits Pro.
Employers may also decide to offer voluntary benefits to part-time or seasonal employees. This could give them an advantage in a competitive gig economy. “Since there are so many other freelance and flexible job opportunities out there, they need to offer unique benefits to stay competitive,” Oldham wrote.
Other increasingly popular programs can help clients’ employees tackle productivity-killing financial stress. “(It’s) a sensitive topic, but some employers are considering preemptive and educational benefits they can provide to their employees for immediate and varied financial needs,” Oldham wrote. “They are going beyond 401(k)s and HSAs, offering services like student loan refinancing, debt repayment, credit score improvement and financial education for future planning.”
So, what’s a broker’s role as voluntary benefits soar in popularity? “Over the last decade, HR staffs are smaller than they have ever been and have become increasingly reliant upon brokers and consultants to help them design, implement and manage their benefit programs,” stated Olsen. Brokers can help clients navigate the processes of integrating new voluntary benefits with current offerings. “Brokers should be counseling clients to add benefits strategically,” he wrote, “while implementing a communications strategy to engage employees and educate them on the importance of the benefits.”