Employer Funding a Big Influence on Voluntary Benefits Selection

August 12, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - In a nationwide survey of more than 2,800 employees, respondents rated the "Likelihood of Using in the Near Future" as the most important factor influencing their benefits choices, followed by "Financial Protection Provided."

This explains why the Voluntary Benefits: Key Factors Influencing Employee’s Choices Study, conducted by Sun Life’s Employee Benefits Group, found employees value dental (86%) and vision (77%) benefits over 401(k) (76%), life insurance (62%), and long-term disability (60%) benefits.   

However, the survey findings indicate that employer funding also has a big influence on benefit selection. Of those employees who were offered dental benefits, 90% said they would elect these benefits if costs were shared by the employer, compared to 69% who said they would elect dental benefits even if they had to pay the entire cost.   

For vision benefits, 78% would elect them if costs were shared, compared to just over half who would be willing to pay the total cost themselves. Employees value disability and life insurance benefits more when they are 100% employer-paid.  

Employees seem likely to select a majority of the benefits offered to them. Forty-six percent of respondents selected six or more products, and another 27% chose either four or five benefits. The study confirmed the finding from last year’s research that employees value benefits more than cash, but this year, respondents placed more value on getting cash back in their paychecks from unused benefit points, probably due to the economic recession, Sun Life said.  

The study found most employees prefer to learn about their benefits through printed materials (84%), online (68%), or in group meetings (58%). Regardless of their preferred method of learning, the survey revealed most employees do not spend much time reviewing benefit information, but employees who take the time to review benefits are more likely to purchase the benefit than those who do not. Employees spend the most time reviewing medical, dental, and vision benefits. 

More than a third of employees said they would turn to their employer (36%) or benefits provider (35%) to explain their benefits to them; however, more respondents said they would turn to a spouse or family member (25%) to help select benefits than any other source. Only 9% said they would trust their company’s benefits broker or adviser to help select benefits.  

Sun Life surveyed 2,828 adults who are the primary decision maker or share the employee benefit decision-making responsibilities for their households and work full- or part-time for an employer with 25 or more employees.  

A full research report can be requested from http://sunliferesearch.com.