Voluntary benefits growing in importance among employers

Nearly six in 10 companies say that voluntary benefits are a significant part of their benefits strategy, new research shows.

MetLife discloses this finding in a summary of results from its “Study of Employee Benefits Trends.” The 11th annual report describes successful tactics and strategies to increase the value of company benefits programs.

The study reveals that 58 percent of employers say that voluntary benefits are a “significant benefits strategy.” The sentiment is most pronounced among businesses with more than 500 employers: Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of these firms view voluntary benefits as important.

Among companies with 500 or fewer employees, the proportion falls to 50 percent.

More than half of the employees surveyed say that employer-paid life, dental and disability benefits influenced their decision to join their employer (51 percent) and stay with their employer (54 percent). In respect to medical benefits, the proportions are 57 and 47 percent, respectively.

The share of survey respondents who say that employee-paid voluntary benefits were key to their decision to join and stay with their companies, though generally lower by comparison, are still significant.

The survey finds that between four and five out of ten employees view voluntary life, dental and disability benefits as key to their decision to join their employer (45 percent) and stay with their employer (47 percent). In respect to voluntary supplemental health benefits, the shares are 38 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

“The weak economy has sharpened employee interest in benefits — especially for benefits that meet personal and diverse needs,” the report states. “Seventy-seven percent of employees value benefits geared to their individual circumstances and voluntary products can satisfy this desire for more choice and customization in their benefits program.”

The survey adds that more than six in ten (62 percent) of surveyed employees say they want employers to diversify their voluntary benefit offerings. The desire is most pronounced among young workers: 70 percent of Gen Y employees (born 1981-1994) and 67 percent of Gen X employees (1965-1980).

These shares compare to 60 percent and 44 percent, respectively, of young boomers (1956-1964) and older boomers (1946-1955).

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