5 Voluntary Benefits Employees Want Now – and how to help them make the most of them!

Non-traditional employer-sponsored voluntary benefits are on the rise, driven by the need to attract and retain talent. Willis Towers Watson’s (WTW) 2022 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey found employer interest in voluntary benefits mushroomed in the past three years, with 94% of employers reporting voluntary benefits as important to their employee value proposition and total rewards strategy, compared to just 36% in 2018. But there is a disparity between employee expectations and employer offerings. MetLife’s 2022 U.S. Employee Benefits Study reveals a 36-point gap for “comprehensive benefits package,” comparing what plan to offer to attract and retain talent (31%) versus what employees say is a “must have” (66%). The pandemic has also driven the growth of voluntary offerings, increasing demand for supplemental health insurance products, such as critical illness, long-term care and mental health coverage.

Give employees tools to make smart choices

A robust voluntary benefits package necessitates educating employees about their options and how to use them. Recent research from Nayya shows that 63% of employees lack confidence in selecting benefits. Unique messaging and content based on eligibility are essential for effective enrollment communications, as is a consumer-friendly shopping process. Employees need tools to guide them through enrollment, help them choose benefits that best suit their needs and access support for basic requests.

Workterra’s benefits administration system, seamlessly enabled with Nayya data-powered technology to enhance the employee experience, supports employee enrollment throughout the benefits lifecycle while providing full cost transparency in real-time. Our platform helps employees make the best year-round use of their selected benefits—including innovative ways to use existing flex accounts—reinforcing the employer value proposition and strengthening talent recruitment and retention efforts.

Offer a customizable package of voluntary benefits

Employees value the ability to pick and choose the benefits that best meet their needs. A varied and robust package of voluntary options provides access to benefits they may not be able to qualify for or afford through private purchases. Further, it demonstrates your interest in their holistic health and wellbeing.

As you plan your 2023 benefits package, consider these five voluntary benefits trending in the market.

  • Pet Insurance. Remote work options make pet ownership more feasible, however, pets can represent a financial burden. U.S. pet ownership rose 3% since 2019—now up to 70%, according to the American Pet Products Association. Among new owners, one in four said the pandemic influenced their decision to get a pet. WTW’s Emerging Trends report lists pet insurance as the third fastest-growing voluntary benefit for 2022, up 23%.

  • Benefits that offer Family Care Support. Family care support can include flexible work hours, paid leave, child care reimbursement through a flexible spending account, concierge caregiver resources and more. In the 2022 Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) Employee Benefits Survey, 70% of employees named family care benefits “very” or “extremely” important. A Harvard Business School study found that “flexible work hours” is the most-used family care benefit. This category of benefits also returns value to employers. The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that 8 in 10 employees with caregiving responsibilities say it impacts their work productivity, costing employers up to $33 billion annually. Providing benefits that help employees manage this burden can help them maximize productivity at work, and in their personal lives.

  • Mental Health. Consider voluntary benefits beyond your EAP and medical plans, such as preventative mental wellness programs, screening and treatment for behavioral health diagnosis, text-based therapy apps and virtual therapy. COVID-19 has had a profound negative effect on the mental health of American workers. Mental Health America reports that 57% experienced pandemic-related mental health adversity or trauma, often in the form of stress, burnout, anxiety or depression. A 2022 Lyra Health survey found that 84% of employees said mental health benefits were important when considering a new job, and 59% would stay at a job because it provided “robust” mental health benefits.

  • Student Loan Repayment. Stress associated with financial concerns impacts employee productivity. Differentiate your organization by offering benefits to help employees reduce debt (and financial stress). A recent change in the law makes a Section 127 Plan more appealing for employers and allows up to $5,250 in tax-advantaged contributions. Roughly 45 million Americans collectively owe $1.7 trillion in student loan debt. Despite these eye-popping numbers, less than 10% of employers offer student loan repayment benefits, according to the 2022 SHRM survey. There are compliance considerations, so consult an expert before instituting this benefit. Other options include loan payment match programs and swapping cash payments to a loan servicer for unused paid vacation.

  • Identify Theft. The appeal of identity theft protection is universal. Purchased through payroll deduction, this low-cost benefit increases employees’ sense of financial wellbeing. The Federal Trade Commission received 1.4 million reports of identity theft in 2021—an increase of nearly 50,000 since 2002. The pandemic-fueled growth of online commerce has heightened interest in identity theft protection as a voluntary benefit. It topped WTW’s list of fastest-growing voluntary benefits in 2021, with a projected increase of 25% for 2022. Ayco Personal Financial Management reports that 60% of employers included it among their voluntary benefits this year—up 18% from 2021.

As you plan for 2023, consider how these emerging benefits, as well as traditional favorites, could add value to your organization. If you decide to add additional voluntary options, do not overlook the importance of a streamlined and supportive benefits enrollment system, like Workterra BenAdmin, to ensure employees get the most out of your enhanced benefits. Schedule a demo today to learn more!

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