That was a key conclusion of a recent benefits survey carried out by the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
The survey, which covered 856 federal employees during a six-week period ending January 8, found that health benefits topped workers’ list of factors keeping them from job hunting; 78.4% listing them as very important and 15.1% as important. The Thrift Savings Plan – the federal government’s K plan-like offering – garnered a 68.8% rating as very important and 13.1% as important, according to results released by OPM.
Benefits described as very important also included:
- retiree health benefits – 79.8%
- life insurance – 44.1%
- long-term care insurance – 33.3%
- flexible spending accounts – 19.4%
Asked to specify the single most important benefit, workers chose:
- employee health benefits – 52%
- retirement annuity – 30.1%
- Thrift Savings Plan – 11.3%
- retiree health benefits – 3.3%
- life insurance – 1.2%
When asked which benefits best met their family needs, 84% of the survey respondents said their health benefits to a “great or moderate extent” and 82% said the TSP, according to the survey.
Asked what they thought about their ability to continue health coverage in retirement – a benefit disappearing in the private sector – only 36% of the newer hires rated their retirement coverage as very or moderately competitive, and 49% said they did not know how this benefit stacked up against the private sector. The newer employees gave higher marks to the TSP – 69% viewed it as very or moderately competitive with the private sector – and 55% said the same about their current health coverage.
Employees who have worked in the government more than three years saw their key benefits as slightly more competitive with the private sector than the newer hires did, except in the case of the TSP. Sixty-four percent of these employees viewed the TSP as very or moderately competitive with private-sector plans, according to the OPM.
The survey results, in general, show the government is on the right track with its job benefits and do not indicate that OPM should recommend any policy changes, Doris Hausser, a senior policy adviser at OPM told the Washington Post.
The survey, Hausser said, did not attempt to find out what shaped employee perceptions. However, she said the high percentages of “don’t knows” to some questions could suggest that the government needs to do more research and perhaps revitalize efforts to communicate and educate employees about their benefits.
Dan Blair, the OPM acting director, in remarks to the newspaper, pointed to the high marks given the TSP as a sign that employees “highly value” programs that permit them to manage their own money.