Workers More Likely to Join Retirement Plan than Medical Plan

August 23, 2007 ( - More workers had access to medical plans (71%) than to retirement plans (61%), but they were more likely to participate in retirement plans, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Eighty-four percent of workers with access to retirement plans participated in a plan. Virtually all workers with access to defined benefit plans participated in them, while only 77% of those with access to defined contribution plans participated, BLS data showed.

One-third of large establishments (those with 100 workers or more) offered a defined benefit plan to their employees, compared to only one out of every 10 small establishments (with fewer than 100 workers). Eighty-two percent of larger employers offered defined contribution plans, compared to 42% of their smaller counterparts.

The take-up rate for employer-sponsored medical plans was 73%. Union workers chose to participate in medical care benefits in greater numbers (88%) than their nonunion counterparts (71%), which BLS attributed to a larger proportion of premiums paid by employers in union plans.

Employee contributions for medical care premiums averaged $81.37 per month for single coverage and $312.78 per month for family coverage. Employer premiums for medical care plans averaged $293.25 a month per participant for single coverage and $664.04 for family coverage. Employers paid higher premiums for those employees who were not required to contribute than for those who were, the BLS report said.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) were available to 8% of workers – more often to management, professional and related occupations and sales and office occupations. Full-time workers, those in occupations with average hourly earnings of $15 or higher, and workers in large establishments had greater access to HSAs than other workers.

Paid leave was the most commonly provided employee benefit in the private sector, BLS data showed. Paid holidays and vacations were available to 77% of employees. Paid jury duty and paid funeral leave were also common, available to 71% and 69% of workers, respectively. Forty-nine percent of workers had paid military leave benefits.

Fifty-eight percent of workers had access to life insurance and nearly all (56%) participated. Nearly all workers offered short- and long-term disability benefits participated as well. The benefits were available to 39% and 31% percent of workers, respectively, BLS found.

Employer assistance for childcare was available to 15% of workers, while childcare resource and referral services were available to 11% of workers. Employer-provided funds for childcare (3%) as well as on- and off-site provided childcare (5%) were uncommon, the BLS report said. However, these benefits, particularly on- and off-site provided childcare were more commonly offered to workers in management, professional, and related occupations.

Adoption assistance was offered to 11% of employees. Long-term care insurance was offered to 12% of workers.

Workers in management, professional, and sales and office occupations had greater access to stock option plans than did workers in the other occupational groups, although access to this benefit among workers in production, transportation, and material moving occupations was only slightly lower. Full-time workers were also more likely than part-time workers to have access to stock options.

Full-time workers were also more likely provided bonuses of most types than part-time workers.

The complete BLS report, National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in Private Industry in the United States, March 2007, is here .