When Does it Make Sense to Offer Voluntary Benefits?

Jeff Griffin

Voluntary benefits have been particularly popular in the past few years as healthcare costs rise and employers continue to shift more of the cost burden onto employees. Benefits that were once completely or partially financed by the employer, such as dental and vision, are sometimes now voluntary. A growing number of employers have also replaced low deductible health plans with high deductible health plans.   

But if you’re not careful, cutting these types of benefits can present a coverage gap for your employees, many of whom are not prepared to take the hit on unexpected medical expenses. This could leave you with a financially insecure workforce — not to mention a stressed, unhealthy and ultimately unhappy one. Offering voluntary benefits can be a meaningful addition to an employee benefits package and a win for employees and businesses alike: employees feel as though they have helpful supplements to their health insurance, and employers don’t have to increase their health care budget to offer them.

Required Benefits vs. Voluntary Benefits

As we’ve discussed in the past, certain employee benefits are required by law, and employers who fail to provide them can be hit with serious — and costly — penalties. These benefits include social security and Medicare withholding, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation benefits. Depending on where an employer is located and how many employees it has, it may also be required by law to provide disability insurance, FMLA benefits and “acceptable” health insurance per federal statute.

Voluntary benefits, on the other hand, are usually paid 100% by the policyholder, and employers are neither expected nor required to cover any portion of the premium. Furthermore, what constitutes a “voluntary benefit” is frequently up for debate — some claim it’s a benefit paid entirely by the employee, while others say it can include benefits that are partially subsidized by the employer. In reality, almost all benefits are voluntary, as employees can waive coverage as long as a benefit is not required by law.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Employee Retention, Voluntary Benefits

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The Changing Definition of Work-Life Balance

David Rook

The term “work-life balance” has gotten quite a bit of buzz in recent years, thanks in part to the new priorities millennials are bringing to the workplace. This idea captures the desire to work and grow a career, but also the desire to enjoy one’s life outside of work — with the goal of creating a meaningful sense of balance between the two.

However, it’s not just millennials who crave a healthy balance between their working lives and time spent outside the office. Because the workforce is currently juggling three different generations (not counting the bookend demographic groups of Generation Z and The Silent Generation) who view the working world in different ways, it’s important to define what “work-life balance” truly means to each of them, as it may change how employers can effectively motivate employees.

For example, employers might consider adjusting incentive programs to accommodate different needs and desires among several different generations of workers.

How Baby Boomers Feel About Work-Life Balance

The baby boomer generation encompasses the group of people born after the Second World War — between the years of 1946 and 1964. Although baby boomers are frequently described as the largest generation in history, Pew Research reports that millennials have now overtaken boomers are the largest living generation. Millennials also make up the largest demographic in the workforce today.   

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Topics: Employee Benefits, millennials, Multi-Generational, Employee Retention, work life balance

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When Good Employee Perks Go Bad

David Rook

More and more, employers are looking for innovative ways to increase the value of their employee benefits packages without breaking the bank. Oftentimes, this comes in the form of unique employee perks which attempt to depart from the tried-and-true. 

While this quest for creativity should be commended, no matter how well intentioned, sometimes the best laid plans wind up backfiring in spectacular fashion. To keep this from happening, it’s a good idea to vet your ideas with a representative cross-section of your workforce before introducing them to the entire company. Role playing worse case scenarios as an HR team might also help mitigate any disasters. Here are five examples of good employee perks gone bad.

Penny Wars for a Good Cause

“At a previous employer, we had a ‘penny wars’ competition to raise money for a good cause. It was part of a lot of fun activities for the annual workplace giving campaign and employee engagement (which was a good idea). Employees donated coins in jars labeled with each executive’s name. The executive whose jar collected the most money would get a pie in the face. When the CEO won, the penny jars quickly disappeared as it didn’t seem like a good idea to pie the CEO in front of employees — and no one wanted to be the one to actually do it.”

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Employee Retention, employee culture

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5 Ways to Encourage Employees to Enjoy Their Paid Time Off Over the July 4th Holiday

David Rook

Many employees feel like they have to check-in with work even when they’re supposed to be enjoying paid time off. More often than not, this is a cultural issue within a company. Supervisors might be checking-in and sending emails in the evening or on weekends. This leads their direct reports to believe they need to respond immediately, and they may even start adopting these behaviors themselves. 

Yet, research has shown time and time again that workers need frequent breaks and unfortunately, Americans leave a lot of that paid time off on the table every year. It might seem like workers would be more productive if they aren’t using all their vacation time, but in reality, skipping our vacations actually makes us less productive. To keep employees operating in top shape, we need to encourage them to enjoy their downtime — and perhaps it’s fitting to begin with the July 4th holiday. Here are 5 ways to encourage employees to enjoy their independence...and their paid time off this weekend.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Paid Time Off (PTO), Employee Retention

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If the Employer Mandate is Repealed, Should Companies Drop Employer-Sponsored Healthcare?

Jeff Griffin

President Trump promised to repeal ObamaCare on “day one”. While it’s going to take a little longer than he had planned, it does look inevitable that an overhaul to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will eventually pass both houses of Congress, even despite recent legislative setbacks.

One of the least popular provisions of the law, at least for employers, is the “employer mandate”, which requires certain employers with 50 or more “full-time equivalent” employees (FTEs) to provide an affordable healthcare plan. With the proposed law as it stands today, now in jeopardy, a pressing question is now looming over employers: if the employer mandate really is repealed, should they drop their health coverage?

The issue certainly isn’t cut and dry, with some believing that no matter what happens in Washington, employer-sponsored healthcare is dying and others predicting it will never really go away. Assuming the ACA’s employer mandate is repealed, every company will have an important decision to make, weighing the benefits and pitfalls of dropping coverage.

Repealing the Employer Mandate

Republican lawmakers have spoken on countless occasions about wanting to repeal the employer mandate. The Trump administration even ran on a platform of getting rid of it. In theory, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in practice, it’s more difficult than it seems. The employer mandate, after all, is the primary mechanism by which healthier people are brought into the overall risk pool, which is the only way a healthy insurance market works (healthy people subsidize the unhealthy, essentially). Without it, most experts predict that insurers would pull out of the healthcare exchanges and the entire program will collapse.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Affordable Care Act, ACA, Employer Mandate, Employee Retention

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Employee Retention Tips to Keep Top Performers

David Rook

Retaining highly qualified and specialty skill employees is something every company strives for: turnover, especially among higher-level employees, directly affects your company's bottom line. Keeping the people who have demonstrated excellence over and over again requires a more intensive effort than keeping moderate performers. Those with an excellent work history, especially if they're on the fast track, are often being approached by other companies and may be tempted away by lucrative offers.

Keeping employee retention high among the top performers on your team is essential to your success for a number of reasons, but figuring out how to do that can be a bit of challenge. Here are a few simple things you can do to keep that top talent on your team.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Employee Retention

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