How voluntary benefits help attract – and retain – employees in a hot job market

July 7, 2021 | By Kim Buckey – BenefitsPRO


The pandemic focused employee attention on the gaps in their coverage that left them exposed financially and medically.

According to a recent paper, more than one-third of U.S. workers have changed employers or lost jobs since February of last year. Employers across the country are struggling to fill open positions and are often finding that benefits—not compensation—is the deciding factor for many candidates. Differentiation is key in an increasingly competitive landscape, and a flexible and a competitive benefits package is one way employers can stand out.

Today’s employees want flexibility, financial security and protection from unexpected health care bills. The pandemic focused employee attention on the gaps in their coverage that left them exposed financially and medically. Now, as they prepare to return to their jobs (or the workforce in general), many are asking the age-old question: “What’s in it for me?”

The solution for many employers—particularly those with smaller benefits budgets—is voluntary benefits. Not only do they offer employees flexibility in their choice of benefits—allowing them to tailor a package that meets their needs—but, in many cases, flexibility in how the payout from those benefits is used.

Employers are certainly recognizing the value of voluntary offerings—according to a recent Willis Towers Watson survey, 94% of employers cite voluntary benefits as a key piece of their employer value proposition.

The growing demand for voluntary benefits

Voluntary benefits are always evolving—new offerings become available, existing programs are tweaked (contagious disease riders, anyone?) and employee preferences change. If employers haven’t assessed voluntary benefits recently, it’s worth revisiting the options currently available, such as:

Hospital indemnity – Because this insurance pays a lump sum directly to the policyholder, employees can use the money to pay for whatever they want —whether medical bills or groceries, rent or childcare. Offering a benefit that puts money directly in employees’ pockets and gives employees the flexibility to spend that money as needed will be well received.

Critical illness – This type of policy now often includes infectious disease riders—of particular interest to a workforce that’s weathered COVID-19. As with hospital indemnity, these policies pay out cash, which means employees control how the money is used to improve their lives or relieve their finances in the most meaningful way.

Supplemental disability and life plans…

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