5 voluntary benefit trends for 2013
Voluntary benefits have been giving companies a much-needed boost to their total rewards packages. They have become an asset to employers and a welcome choice for employees. Eastbridge Consulting Groups recently-released study, MarketVision The Employer Viewpoint after PPACA, reports that 77% of employers with 10 or more employees now offer at least one voluntary product. In 2013, the percentage of employers offering voluntary benefits will rise, and those already offering voluntary benefits will add more options to their employee benefits packages.
Employers incorporate non-traditional voluntary offerings as a means to augment core benefits and appeal to a diverse range of employees, with little or no additional cost to the employer and minimum administration needed. Non-traditional voluntary benefits offer workers a way to obtain items and services through convenient payroll-deduction. These offerings provide workers with immediate tangible benefits, which further increase their appeal as they can be used year-round to obtain something that an employee needs, rather than many core benefits that employees only appreciate when they are sick or injured. Benefits such as auto and homeowners insurance along with critical care, supplemental life and disability insurance are common voluntary benefits that help address employees financial needs. But other non-traditional voluntary benefits such as group legal plans, financial planning, and employee purchase programs will continue to grow in popularity as viable financial-support tools.
The ability to choose benefits that meet their life-stage needs is something employees want. By providing non-traditional voluntary benefits, employers are able to offer a variety of benefits that meet the diverse needs of their workforce. Because theyre becoming increasingly popular, non-traditional voluntary benefit providers will continue to develop their offerings.
One example of this evolution is in employee purchase programs. With the average American continuing to experience financial stress, it can be difficult to purchase essential or life-enhancing household items. For several years, employee purchase programs focused on computers, electronics and home appliances, branching out in the past 12 to 18 months into furniture, home fitness equipment, auto audio, barbecue grills, and baby gear. 2013 will see expansion beyond products into services.
Empowering employees with educational benefits can be a valuable addition to the benefits package, especially when it is offered as a voluntary benefit at no cost to their company. According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the cost of higher education has grown 440% over the last 25 years. Giving employees a better, more affordable way to pay for education shows that a company truly values the future of their employees and their families. Educational services are now being introduced by forward-thinking employee purchase programs, allowing employees and their families to access a variety of online education options college courses; SAT and ACT test preparation and tutoring courses; professional certifications; and high school and career diplomas which can be paid for through payroll deduction over 12 months.
Despite improvements in the economy, employees continue to be burdened by day-to-day financial concerns. The distractions and resulting levels of stress seriously affect their health and productivity. Employers are beginning to realize what this impact means to their bottom line and are taking steps to improve workers financial health, such as introducing or increasing financial education benefits and offering non-traditional voluntary benefits, such as employee purchase programs, so that workers can acquire high-ticket products and services on a disciplined budgeting plan.
The 2013 benefits landscape will find employers, human resources professionals and benefits brokers challenged once again to provide competitive benefits packages that attract and retain employees. In an effort to manage benefits costs, deal with PPACA provisions, and offer benefits for a diverse workforce with varying needs, a solid voluntary benefits strategy is certain to be included. Elizabeth Halkos, Purchasing Powers chief marketing officer, shared her predictions for voluntary benefits for the coming year. [Images: Thinkstock]