Filed Under:Markets, Employee Benefits

Survey: Employers Increase Benefits that Improve Employee Health and Wellness

Photo credit: photostock
Photo credit: photostock

More employers are offering benefits that encourage employees to improve their health in 2012, according to a new survey s

Published by the Society for Human Resource Management at its 2012 Annual Conference and Exposition in Atlanta the survey of 550 randomly selected HR professionals examines 297 benefits. The annual benefits survey asks HR respondents about their organizations' employee benefits in 12 sections: business travel, employee programs and services, family-friendly, financial and compensation, flexible working, healthcare and welfare, housing and relocation, leave, preventive health and wellness, professional and career development, retirement savings and planning, and other.

Colonial Life Columbia, S.C., is the survey’s exclusive sponsor.

Over the last five years, benefits that reward employees for improving their health have jumped, a sign that organizations recognize employees value these benefits and are looking for ways to cut business costs, the report says. For example, the percentage of employers offering health and lifestyle coaching jumped to 45% in 2012 from 33% in 2008. And rewards or bonuses for completing a health and wellness program increased to 35% in 2012 from 23% in 2008

"Employers recognize that providing employees with the opportunity to improve their health can increase morale, confidence and productivity," says Mark Schmit, vice president of research at SHRM. "Organizations continue to look for ways to manage costs as the economy slowly improves. Benefits that encourage healthier behavior are a cost effective way to keep up employee morale, while healthier employees also help decrease healthcare costs to employers and employees."

SHRM's 2012 Employee Benefits Survey found that, while most employee benefits stabilized this year, 73% of HR professionals report that the economic downtown negatively impacted employee benefit offerings (11% to a large extent and 62% to some extent). This is more or less the same as in 2011, when 77% said the economy negatively affected benefits to some or a large extent.

Because of the economy and recent employment-related legislation, many employers have shifted to benefits that place primary responsibility and control to employees. For example, more employers offer defined contribution retirement-savings plans (92%) than defined benefit pension plans (21%) in 2012, putting the impetus on employees to manage their own retirement savings instead of relying on employer-provided pensions.

Employer spending on benefits remained stable this year with organizations spending, on average, 19% of an employee's annual salary on voluntary benefits, 18% on mandatory benefits and 10% on pay for time employees did not work.

Among the report’s other findings:

● The five most common benefits in 2012 are paid holidays (97%); prescription drug program coverage (97%); dental insurance (96%); defined contribution retirement savings plans (92%); and mail-order prescription programs (91%).

● Paid time off plans have become more popular: More than half of organizations (51%) provide paid time off plans, a combination of traditional vacation time, sick leave and personal days in one plan, up from 42% in 2009.

● Domestic partner benefits: A third of employers (35%) offer health care coverage to same-sex domestic partners, and 32% offer it to opposite-sex domestic partners. Fifteen percent provide domestic partner benefits, not including health care coverage, for opposite-sex partners, and the same% offer the benefit to same-sex partners.

● Health care premium discounts for healthier behavior are on the rise: Health care premiums discounts for getting annual health risk assessments rose to 21% in 2012 from 11% in 2008, while discounts for not using tobacco products increased to 20% this year from 8% in 2008.

● Pets at work: Six% of organizations offer pet health insurance,  5% allow pets at work, 1% pay for pet care expenses while an employee is traveling for business, and 1% have a "Take Your Pet to Work" day.

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