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Americans Demand More from their Employers, Voluntary Benefits Can Help

Workers juggling both career and family may feel like their “to do” list is out of control. Work that extra hour, hit the gym, pick up kids and see to dinner, chores and homework all before bedtime. In this whirl of activity, it’s no wonder that working Americans expect their employers to help them simplify their lives by offering voluntary benefits as part of an overall employee benefits program.

According to a new survey from WellPoint, nine in 10 Americans believe companies that offer a full range of benefits help them simplify and secure their lives. The survey compares employed Americans’ knowledge and attitudes toward voluntary benefits from 2010 with those of employed Americans today. The survey found that employees continue to favor companies that offer voluntary benefits with 90 percent of Americans agreeing that voluntary benefits are a good tool to help companies balance the needs of their employees while dealing with tightening budgets. Similar to 2010 findings, saving money and offering protection for the employee and his or her family were cited as the most popular reasons for choosing to purchase a company’s voluntary benefits.

Voluntary benefits, which are traditionally paid for by the employee through payroll deductions, range from life insurance benefits, short-term and long-term disability, vision and dental care to pet care, legal plans and discount health and lifestyle benefits.

“Offering voluntary benefits is a cost-efficient way to support employees both personally and professionally,” said Bill Smith, president of WellPoint’s Disability, Life and Voluntary business. “Employees report that they are more productive at work and they think more highly of their company, if it offers a range of benefits, including voluntary benefits.”

While two thirds of employees report that they are satisfied with their employers’ benefit offerings, this represents a small drop in satisfaction compared to 2010 when 73 percent registered their satisfaction with their current benefits package. The survey also flagged that companies can do more to help their employees understand their benefit options. Only half of workers surveyed in 2010 and 2012 report being knowledgeable about voluntary benefits. And, employees in small companies are less knowledgeable about voluntary benefits than employees at medium and large size companies (small, 47 percent; medium, 60 percent; large, 58 percent).

There are a number of ways that companies can help their employees learn more about the voluntary benefits that are available to them, including organizing benefit fairs with insurance representatives, as well as group enrollment meetings. Companies like WellPoint have a special voluntary benefits team that can talk with employees and explain the voluntary benefit details during benefit fairs and enrollment meetings.

WellPoint’s dedicated voluntary benefits team can also create personalized enrollment kits (which are sent to an employer in security sealed envelopes that are pre-populated with the employee’s personal information and cost information for the WellPoint voluntary benefits available to them). Employees complete the sections on their personalized enrollment form, sign and date it and return it to the WellPoint representative at their company’s enrollment meetings. Online educational resources on voluntary benefits are also available on WellPoint’s local state plan websites. Efforts like these are important since Americans spend little time on their own researching benefit options.

The 2012 survey found that nearly half of employees (48 percent) say they spend less than one hour researching their options before deciding on enrollment benefits, with about a quarter (26 percent) spending less than 30 minutes. Only eight percent of employees report spending five hours or more on research before deciding on their enrollment benefits. All in all, the survey findings continue to suggest that voluntary benefits are an easy, convenient and highly beneficial tool that employers can offer their employees. The omnibus survey was conducted in online among a national sample of 2,500 Americans ages 18+ balanced to U.S. Census, of which 1,370 are currently employed.

Fielding took place in December 2012 using the field services of TNS. Please note the number of employed Americans in 2010 was 1,278. The margin of error for the employed Americans sample is ±2.7 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. This means that if we were to replicate the study, we would expect to get the same results (within 2.7 percentage points) 95 times out of 100.

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