Voluntary Benefits Become Mainstream

Employee benefits may not be a new concept — the first corporate pension plan was established in 1875 — but they're growing in both necessity and sophistication. 1

For employees struggling to manage financial stress amid the uncertainty of an ever-changing healthcare landscape, the suite of add-on options offered at work is often a lifesaver. On the other side of the equation, businesses know they have to present employees with the widest range of voluntary benefits if they are to attract — and retain — top talent. 

All benefits, including a recent emergence of voluntary benefits, are becoming a major driver for employee engagement — including at small and midsize companies. Some organizations are beginning to offer voluntary benefits as an extension of their core healthcare offering, with the same enrollment, platform, and communications approach. Plus, these new benefits offerings often help organizations save money, enhance compliance, and engage employees — all without some new, complex program.

1 Source: The Beauty of Voluntary Benefits in a Multigenerational Workforce

Not long ago, employees who wanted long-term care or other non-traditional benefits would have to search on their own and investigate the best options. Deals were hard to find. A few more fortunate employees worked for employers who at least would provide a third-party vendor that would try to “sell” additional benefits. Although presented alongside traditional benefits, these benefits were still external to a company’s traditional offerings and oversight.  

Did you know? — Some 72% of employees say they're likely to purchase voluntary benefits if offered, according to the 2017 Aflac Workforces report.

Voluntary benefits have come a long way. While larger companies jumped out front on offering voluntary benefits, more small and midsize companies have begun to offer access to a world of tremendous choice. Many are doing so because they feel it’s the right thing to do; many more are beginning to realize that they and their employees can actually save money; and still, others are coming to terms with a new, undeniable reality — a comprehensive suite of benefits can help them attract and retain top talent.

Regulations and Compliance

Small and midsize firms have taken a disproportionate hit from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its complex and ever-changing regulations. Some of these firms are beginning to see this issue through a big-company lens and are investigating ways that voluntary benefits may actually lessen some burdens.

In response to increased rules and costs associated with the ACA, some employers have turned to voluntary benefits as a cost-sharing solution to help fill gaps in coverage and offset some of the medical cost exposure that has been passed down to employees. Voluntary benefits provide many additional options, such as accident insurance, long-term care, dental, hospital indemnity plans, and other supplemental health products. Cost savings can come when employers seek discounts from carriers for bundled voluntary benefits with core medical; when employees are provided a set of group-discounted benefits, they can select to satisfy their own unique benefit needs; and through innovative strategies that address new regulations.

Brian Russell
by Brian Russell

Principal, Voluntary Benefits Business Leader

Principal, Health, Mercer

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