Voluntary Benefits Still Big Part of Enrollment Season

October 13, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new poll shows the continuing popularity of workplace voluntary benefits, and 73% of employers offering voluntary benefits include term life policies.

A news release from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) about the poll said other common options include: vision insurance (53%), long-term care insurance (51%), long-term disability insurance (50%), accident insurance (49%), and dental insurance (48%).

“Long term care is one of the fastest growing voluntary benefits,” explained Sally Natchek, IFEBP senior director of research, in the news release. “Aging baby boomers, who have perhaps experienced the overwhelming costs of custodial care with a parent, are expected to drive the future trend in purchasing long term care insurance.”

Newer niche voluntary products include: automobile insurance (32%), homeowners’/renters’ insurance (29%), debt counseling and financial planning (22%), identify theft coverage (22%), college savings plans (21%), and pet insurance (19%), according to the survey.

In general, 84% of the responding employers currently offer voluntary benefits and an additional 5% plan to offer voluntary benefits in the future.

As for why they bother with voluntary offerings,68% of responding employers identify providing employees access to a greater array of benefits and supporting employee choice and flexibility as their primary driving force. Other reasons: filling gaps in employer-sponsored benefits (42%) and helping employers get better prices at group rates (41%).

Participation Trends

Some 66% of responding employers said they have not seen participation levels change during the past year. Of those who have seen changes, nearly twice as many (14.4%) report participation has increased than those who report decreases (7.9%).

Explanations for increased participation appear to also be a direct effect of the economy. A quarter of employers (26%) report that employees seeking ways to manage risk is a reason for increased participation. This is followed by employees looking for advice and guidance on financial loss (23%), seeking a way to cover themselves and/or dependents as a result of spousal job loss (23%), and seeking portable benefits due to decreased job security (12%).

The survey was conducted in late August/early September 2009. Responses were received from 833 individuals in the United States – a large majority of whom represented corporations (91%).

Top Trends in Voluntary Benefits: Survey Results(Item # 6795E) is published by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. The 22-page survey costs $50. To order go to http://www.ifebp.org/books.asp?6795E , contact the Foundation Bookstore at bookstore@ifebp.org , or call (888) 334-3327, option 4.