Employees Want Benefits With a Personal Touch

Employees Want Benefits With a Personal Touch

Regardless of whether they are younger or older, employees who feel personally supported by their employer’s benefit package are significantly more likely to stay with the organization, the findings of a global study conducted by Thomsons Online Benefits indicate.

Drawing on a survey of more than 2,200 employees of multinational companies, the “Global Employee Benefits Watch” study, released on May 22, reported that respondents who said they feel that their benefit scheme has a positive impact on their lives were more than 40% more likely to classify themselves as loyal towards their employer than those who did not.

The findings indicated, however, that global employers are struggling to provide the range of benefit options needed to support today’s diverse workforce. For example, the survey showed that almost 60% of employees want to improve their mental well-being and get fit and healthy, but only 23% of employees feel fully supported in such efforts by their employer.

Researchers also observed that employees who currently have a vast array of choices in how they manage information in their personal lives now seek to have this level of choice replicated in their workplace. When respondents were asked which platforms they would like to use in managing their benefits, 45% cited their desktop and 35% said their mobile device, while 46% indicated they still want face-to-face communication. Noting that the desire to have a range of communication types was found across age groups, researchers advised employers looking to win the loyalty of their employees to focus on supporting their individual needs, and stop thinking in generational stereotypes.

In addition, the analysis shed light on regional discrepancies, with employees based in the Asia-Pacific countries (APAC) displaying higher expectations of employer support around life events than workers in other parts of the world. For example, the survey found that 42% of respondents in APAC countries, but just 19% of respondents in European, Middle Eastern, and African countries (EMEA) said they would appreciate support from their employer when starting a family. Similarly, 47% of APAC respondents, but only 19% of EMEA respondents, said they would like help from their employer when getting married.

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 61, Issue 7

The information contained in this newsletter is for general use, and while we believe all information to be reliable and accurate, it is important to remember individual situations may be entirely different. The information provided is not written or intended as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. This newsletter is written and published by Liberty Publishing, Inc., Beverly, MA. Copyright © 2018 Liberty Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Health and Other Workplace Benefits Continue To Be Valued By Employees

Health and Other Workplace Benefits Continue To Be Valued By Employees

The health plans and other employee benefits provided by employers in 2017 remained similar to those offered in previous years, and these benefits continue to be valued by employees, according to a study published on April 10 by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald & Associates.

The results of a survey of 1,518 U.S. workers aged 21-64 conducted June 13-22, 2017, are reported the issue brief “The State of Employee Benefits: Findings from the 2017 Health and Workplace Benefits Survey.” The annual survey covered a wide array of topics related to employee benefits, including employees’ knowledge of their benefits, their confidence in making benefit decisions, and their satisfaction with their benefits package.

The findings indicated that the benefit offerings of employers generally held steady between 2013 and 2017, with the most frequently offered benefits in 2017 being health insurance (67%), dental insurance (59%), and retirement savings plans (57%). The study also noted, however, that the shares of employees with access to certain types of benefits declined between 2013 and 2017. For example, 29% of respondents in 2017, down from 32% in 2013, said they are offered long-term disability insurance; while 26% of respondents in 2017, compared to 29% in 2013, said they have access to a traditional or defined benefit pension plan.

The 2017 survey also showed that most employees reported having access to some paid sick and/or vacation leave in the workplace: 84% of respondents said they receive paid vacation time, and 71% indicated they receive sick leave. Moreover, 45% of respondents reported that their employer offers paid maternity leave, and 26% said their employer provides paid paternity leave.

In addition, 52% of employees surveyed in 2017 reported that they understand their health benefits, though only 43% indicated they understand their non-health benefits very/extremely well. The study’s authors pointed out that both of these shares had declined from 2016, when 61% of respondents indicated they understand their health benefits and 48% said they understand their non-health benefits very/extremely well.

The 2017 results also showed, however, that most employees are satisfied with their benefits: 48% of respondents indicated they are very or extremely satisfied with their benefits, while another 36% said they are somewhat satisfied. Moreover, the survey found that employee satisfaction with their benefits appears to be related to overall job satisfaction, as respondents who said they are very/extremely satisfied with their benefits were more likely to report feeling very/extremely satisfied with their job.

In addition, the 2017 survey showed that benefits continue to be valued by employees: 83% of respondents said health insurance is a very or extremely important consideration for them when deciding whether to stay in or change jobs, while 73% said a retirement savings plan is an extremely or very important factor for them in assessing whether to stay in or switch jobs. At the same time, however, just 49% of the employees surveyed said are very or extremely confident that in three years’ time their employer will provide benefits similar to those offered today.

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 61, Issue 6

The information contained in this newsletter is for general use, and while we believe all information to be reliable and accurate, it is important to remember individual situations may be entirely different. The information provided is not written or intended as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. This newsletter is written and published by Liberty Publishing, Inc., Beverly, MA. Copyright © 2018 Liberty Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Voluntary Benefits Integral to Employee Benefit Strategy

Voluntary Benefits Integral to Employee Benefit Strategy

Though long dismissed as “something nice to offer,” a growing share of U.S. employers now see voluntary benefits as an integral component of their core employee benefit strategy, and are expanding the range of voluntary benefits and services they offer to help workers improve their overall financial well-being and security, the results of a survey released on April 10 by human resources consultancy Willis Towers Watson indicate.

Conducted in November 2017, the survey includes responses from 336 U.S. employers representing more than 4.3 million employees and a wide range of industries. The survey showed that just 5% of the employers polled say voluntary benefits have little importance to their employee value proposition and total rewards strategy. Researchers noted that this finding represents a considerable shift in attitudes from five years ago when 41% of the employers surveyed said voluntary benefits have little importance.

The findings also indicated that while just 36% of respondents see voluntary benefits as an important component of their current employee value proposition, more than two-thirds (69%) believe voluntary benefits will become an important component of their employee value proposition within three to five years.

Moreover, the survey showed that education benefits that address rising student loan debts and support parents saving for their children’s future college cost are becoming increasingly important financial well-being benefits. While 8% of the employers surveyed said they currently offer student loan consolidation programs, 34% expect to have such programs by 2021. Similarly, whereas 10% of respondents said they currently offer student loan refinancing arrangements, 35% anticipate providing such arrangements by 2021.

When asked about other voluntary benefits they currently offer and might offer within the next three to five years, 36% of respondents said they currently provide identity theft protection, and 63% said they anticipate offering it by 2021; and 34% of respondents reported that they currently offer pet insurance, and 57% said they expect to offer it by 2021.

The survey also showed that growing shares of employers are offering health care-related voluntary benefits. For example, 16% of respondents said they currently provide long-term care insurance, and 33% said they expect to offer it by 2021; 43% of respondents reported that they currently offer critical-illness insurance, and 71% said they anticipate providing it by 2021, and 24% of respondents indicated that they currently offer hospital indemnity, and 50% said they anticipate offering it by 2021.

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 61, Issue 5

The information contained in this newsletter is for general use, and while we believe all information to be reliable and accurate, it is important to remember individual situations may be entirely different. The information provided is not written or intended as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. This newsletter is written and published by Liberty Publishing, Inc., Beverly, MA. Copyright © 2018 Liberty Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Managing Costs Top Priority For Benefits Professionals

Managing Costs Top Priority For Benefits Professionals

While human resources professionals who focus on employee benefits are concerned with improving employee engagement and productivity, their leading concern is managing the cost of providing benefits, according to the results of a survey examining current practices around benefit decision-making conducted by insurance broker Hub International.

The annual survey of 337 employee benefits professionals from organizations with 50 to 1,000 employees was conducted in December 2017. The findings, released on March 15, showed that managing costs is employers’ top benefit priority, with 66% of respondents ranking it as a leading concern. Among the other benefit priorities cited by respondents are helping employees make more informed benefits decisions (44%), improving employee wellness and productivity (32%), and improving employee engagement and productivity (28%).

Researchers noted that whereas in recent survey years complying with changing regulations at the Federal, state, and local levels were considered top priorities, compliance has been ranked as less important in recent years: for example, 26% of respondents in the 2017 survey and just 16% of respondents in the 2018 survey cited complying with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a top priority.

When the professionals were asked to identify the cost-cutting strategy they have found most effective, the top responses were high-deductible health plans, multiple plan options, and telemedicine benefits. However, while two-thirds of respondents said one of their goals for 2018 is to better manage health benefits costs, 49% reported that they do not plan to implement any new cost management programs in the next 12 to 18 months, and 54% said they believe they have done all they reasonably can to control rising medical costs.

In addition, the survey found that benefits professionals have yet to embrace multi-year benefits planning, with 66% of respondents saying they spend less than a year developing their annual benefit plan changes. Researchers observed that these results suggest that most benefits professionals take a reactive, short-term approach to planning benefits, which can make it difficult for them to formulate cost-cutting strategies that have a long-term impact.

The results also showed that relatively few of the HR professionals surveyed prioritize addressing the diverse benefit needs of a multi-generational workforce, with just 20% of respondents identifying this objective as a top priority in 2018, down from 28% in 2017. The findings further indicated that while nearly half (46%) of respondents believe technology upgrades would reduce their workload, 34% have encountered challenges in convincing CEOs and CFOs to make such investments.

Moreover, the results suggested that although a majority of the benefits professionals surveyed believe wellness programs can provide a morale boost, they are less convinced that such initiatives have direct effects on employee health and productivity. When asked to identify the benefits of implementing a wellness program, 51% of respondents cited improved employee morale, while 32% cited employee stress reduction and employee productivity, 29% mentioned employee retention, and 28% cited a reduction in medical and prescription claims.

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 61, Issue 4

The information contained in this newsletter is for general use, and while we believe all information to be reliable and accurate, it is important to remember individual situations may be entirely different. The information provided is not written or intended as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. This newsletter is written and published by Liberty Publishing, Inc., Beverly, MA. Copyright © 2018 Liberty Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Health Benefit Costs Grew a Modest 2.6% In 2017

Health Benefit Costs Grew a Modest 2.6% In 2017

The annual cost increases for employer-sponsored health plans remained low in 2017, even without employers moving significant numbers of employees onto high-deductible plans, the results of an annual survey of employer-sponsored health plans conducted by human resources consultancy Mercer indicated.

The survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,481 employers was conducted during the summer of 2017. The results showed that the average total health benefit cost per employee rose 2.6% in 2017, up just slightly from an increase of 2.4% reported in 2016. Citing previous survey data, researchers observed that cost growth has averaged just 3.3% annually over the past five years, compared to 6.2% over the prior five-year period.

But while acknowledging that these growth rates have been modest, researchers warned that health coverage continues to represent an enormous expense for both employers and employees. The survey results showed that for employers, the average total cost of health benefits amounted to $12,229 per employee, or 14% of total payroll, in 2017; and that even among smaller employers (those with 10-499 employees), which typically offer less generous benefits, the average total cost of health benefits came to $11,527 per employee in 2017. The findings further indicated that in 2017, employees were paying, on average, 24% of the total cost of coverage through paycheck deductions.

Researchers also observed that while employee contributions as a percent of premium have been stable for decades, over the past 10 years, employers have assigned employees more responsibility for cost at the point of service, both by increasing deductibles and by adding high-deductible consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) with health savings accounts (HSAs). The survey found that in 2017, deductibles in traditional preferred provider organization (PPO) plans continued to increase, to nearly $1,000 on average for employers with 500 or more employees and nearly $2,000 for those with 10-499 employees.

However, after years of steady growth, enrollment in CDHPs was found to have risen by only a single percentage point in 2017, from 29% to 30% of all covered employees. The survey indicated that in 2017, just 10% of employers with 500 or more employees offered a CDHP as the only plan at their largest worksite, and that most mid-sized and large employers offered a CDHP alongside higher-cost plans with more generous benefits.

The survey results also showed that employers are increasingly offering tools to help employees make more informed health care decisions: 82% of the employers surveyed with 500 or more employees said they provide a “transparency tool,” or an online resource to help members compare the prices and the quality ratings of different health care providers.

In addition, the survey found that growing numbers of employers are helping plan participants defray the cost of care by promoting access to less expensive services, such as telemedicine. In 2017, 71% of the employers surveyed with 500 or more employees said they offered telemedicine services as a covered benefit, up sharply from 59% in 2016. While the survey showed that employers with telemedicine programs in use in 2016 reported an average utilization rate of 7%, researchers stressed that this rate is expected to rise as the programs become more established.

Looking at the role played by prescription drug costs in driving up overall health benefit costs, the survey found that drug benefit costs have been rising around 8% annually among employers with 500 or more employees, due in large part to an average 15% increase in spending on high-priced specialty drugs. The findings indicated that 53% of large employers are attempting to help keep these costs in check by steering employees to specialty pharmacies, which provide cost management strategies that can also prove less costly and more convenient for patients.

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 60, Issue 12

The information contained in this newsletter is for general use, and while we believe all information to be reliable and accurate, it is important to remember individual situations may be entirely different. The information provided is not written or intended as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. This newsletter is written and published by Liberty Publishing, Inc., Beverly, MA. Copyright © 2017 Liberty Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.