Survey: Canadian Firms Like Flex Benefit Programs

October 22, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - More Canadian companies than ever offer flexible benefits programs and a majority of those are glad they did, according to a new survey.

The Hewitt Associates survey¬†found that 56% of the 136 companies participating either already offer a flex plan or plan to do so within two years. Only 7% of respondents said they wouldn’t take the step, a dramatic decrease from 28% recorded in a survey four years ago.

Firms offering flex benefits say the approach better meets employee needs and more effectively helps them hold down future benefit costs hikes.

The poll numbers seem to back up those expectations: 94% reported that flexible benefits met or exceeded expectations around addressing employee needs, while 71% indicated flexible benefits met or exceeded their expectations in containing benefit cost increases.

In a flexible benefits program, employees are able to choose the type and level of benefits coverage that best suit their needs.

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Companies without flexible benefits plans indicated their resistance was largely attributable to perceived administration (33%) and communication challenges (21%).

However, companies with flexible benefits plans said that these problems had not cropped up for them, with 80% indicating their administrative solution meets their requirements and less than 10% expressing dissatisfaction.

Some 80% also felt that flexible benefits met or exceeded their expectations for enhancing employee understanding of benefits.

Employees Taking Advantage of Flexibility

According to the Hewitt study, employees are taking advantage of their ability to choose their own benefit options.

Half of the respondents indicated that between 11% and 50% of their employees make at least one change to their personal benefit package at each re-enrollment. A quarter of respondents indicated that this number is increasing.

Medical and dental benefits continue to be the ones most frequently offered as part of a flexible benefits program, with 93% of respondent organizations offering choice in this area.

The Hewitt survey also identified emerging benefits that companies include or are thinking about including in their benefits plans.

The benefit most likely to increase in popularity over the next three years is a college savings plan in which workers can set aside money for a child’s higher education bills.

Other benefits likely to become more prevalent are fitness memberships, financial or tax counseling, lifestyle personal/wellness accounts, long-term care insurance and sabbatical leave.

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