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Benefits in the News > By Subject >

Voluntary benefits


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The Truth About Voluntary Benefits
"Some voluntary benefits, such as disability or term life insurance, may make financial sense for employees if the potential loss is more than they can cover with their savings. The problem with many other voluntary products is that employees trade a reduction in their monthly take-home pay to protect against a very small risk of incurring a large claim. In many cases, employees are already protected against a large financial loss by their health plan, group disability plan, and other employer-provided benefits.... Voluntary benefits often provide the broker with a first-year commission exceeding 60%, compared to a 3-7% commission for health plans." (Marsh Consulting Group)
Control Health Benefit Costs with Voluntary Coverage (PDF)
"Reluctant to stop offering benefits such as health insurance, many employers have turned to cost-sharing to keep premiums down. But this strategy is putting many of America's workers in serious financial jeopardy.... One solution to this seeming conundrum is offering your employees voluntary benefit plans designed to help bridge their financial exposure. Products such as hospital confinement indemnity plans can help offset the cost of hospitalization and some of the most common out-of-pocket expenses associated with a hospital stay. Some plans also offer additional coverage for health screenings, outpatient surgery and diagnostic procedures." (Colonial Life)
Benefits Buyers Study 2015 Outlook: New Perspectives on Balancing Employer Costs and Employee Protection (PDF)
24 pages. "How health care reform and the economy are impacting benefits strategies; What your evolving workforce wants; Which buying trends you should watch." (Unum)
More Dental, Vision Insurance Choices for Federal Employees
"The Office of Personnel Management ... announced that it will add four carriers in 2014 to its current dental and vision portfolio, for a total of 14 insurance contracts. The agency will award 10 contracts for dental plans and four vision contracts. This is the first time since 2006 that OPM has solicited new contracts." (Government Executive)
Small Businesses Equal Great Opportunities for Adding Employee Benefits
"A new LIMRA study finds that the majority (53 percent) of small businesses (2-99 employees) do not offer insurance benefits to their employees, often believing they cannot afford them ... This year's study found that two-thirds of small employers who do not currently offer benefits have not been approached within the last 12 months. However, more than 4 in 10 of these businesses have considered offering benefits and nearly half agreed to meet with a producer once they were contacted." (InsuranceNewsNet.com)
2013 Top Five Global Employer Rewards Priorities Survey (PDF)
"The global race to attract and retain top talent is foremost on employers' minds as reward challenges continue in a difficult economy.... [T]he Top Five priorities for 2013: [1] The ability of reward programs to attract, motivate, and retain employees; [2] Clear alignment of Total Rewards strategy with business strategy and brand; [3] Motivating staff when pay increases are flat or non-existent; [4] The cost of providing benefits to employees; [5] Demonstrating appropriate return on investment for reward expenditures." (Deloitte, IFEBP and ISCEBS)
Five Ways to Improve the Success of Your Voluntary Benefits Plan
"Employees who graded their company's communication tactics with an 'A' or 'B' ... consider the following methods most helpful: post-enrollment confirmation of benefits elections (58%); personalized messages and materials reflecting individual needs and/or life stages (53%); employer benefits website (53%); one-on-one meetings (49%); and online decision-support tools, such as calculators, FAQS, etc. (48%)." (HR Benefits Alert)
Five Myths About Group Voluntary Products
"[W]hile more and more brokers have come to know voluntary benefits, group products tend to get the lion's share of attention. That's because group products are easy to understand, easy to implement and more familiar to brokers. But that doesn't mean they're always the best option." (Colonial Life, in Health Insurance Underwriter)
Invasion of the Health Insurance Brokers
"Largely dealt out of benefit distribution by Obamacare, intermediaries are looking to work directly with your employees.... In addition to insurance carriers and brokers, the commercial players looking to pick up business directly from workers will include worksite marketers, benefit consultants, retirement-plan representatives and payroll-services providers[.]" (CFO.com)
Who Uses Out-of-Office Benefits More?
"[O]nly 37 percent of women regularly use employee benefits designed to help them meet demands outside the office, compared to 42 percent of men.... only 38 percent of women regularly use flexible-work arrangements, compared to 42 percent of men.... [O]ne-third of all working Americans (33 percent) say work interfering during personal or family time has a significant impact on their level of work stress and one in four report that job demands interfere with their ability to fulfill family or home responsibilities." (Human Resource Executive Online)
Silicon Valley Employers Provide Lavish Perks for Employees
"Say 'employee benefits' and pensions and health care will jump to most people's minds. Maybe life and disability insurance will pop up as well. But employers in Silicon Valley are going way beyond that. They're providing housekeeping, cooking, babysitting and a host of other services as perks for their employees." (Forbes)
Voluntary Benefits Can Be Part of a Winning Game Plan in a Post-Health Care World (PDF)
"Four out of 10 employers are going on the offensive against costs by adding new voluntary benefits within the next two years, signaling a significant interest in expanding their benefits offerings to employees.... As employers seek to engage their workers and make their voluntary offerings more successful, they are demanding tools that will make these products not only more accessible, but more understandable." (Guardian Life)
Multigenerational Employee Engagement Imperative
"[B]enefits played a stronger role in influencing employment decisions for Gen X and Y than for Boomers. [Recent] MetLife research noted that 54% of Gen Y said that if it were up to them, they would like to work for another employer a year from now versus 21% of older Boomers. But one critical commonality ... is a greater willingness across all age groups to pay for voluntary benefits." (Employee Benefit News)
In Difficult Economy, Employees Get Greater Purchasing Power Through Workplace Employee Purchase Programs
"[A]bout one in five U.S. households owes more on credit cards, medical bills, student loans and other unsecured debt than they have in savings, checking accounts and other liquid assets. However, in a survey ... among 2,099 U.S. adults age 18+, of whom 700 were employed full time and/or their spouses are employed full-time, 37 percent of those who are employed full-time and/or whose spouse is employed full time said they would be 'at least somewhat likely' to use employee purchase programs for major purchases, if given the opportunity[.]" (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)
Sixth Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond
"[P]rudential has surveyed a representative cross-section of benefits plan sponsors, benefits plan participants, and brokers/consultants across the United States and compiled the findings in ... the Sixth Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond. This study is a valuable reference that benefits providers and brokers/consultants can rely on to see the real challenges and trends we believe will shape the delivery of employee benefits programs for the next five years." (Prudential)
[Guidance Overview] ERISA's Voluntary Plan Safe Harbor Met, Despite Payment of Premiums Through Cafeteria Plan
"Other courts have concluded that collecting payments for a voluntary plan through the employer's cafeteria plan is at least a factor that weighs against finding that the plan meets the safe harbor, even if not a deciding factor on its own.... Because collecting premiums on a pre-tax basis necessarily increases an employer's involvement in a program, employers should carefully consider whether to do so for an arrangement that is intended to meet the voluntary plan safe harbor." (Thomson Reuters/EBIA)
Eight Discounted Perks Programs That Can Boost Employee Morale
"Employers sign up to offer the perk to their employees, and in turn their employees will receive a discount if they enroll in the service. It's a win-win all around: The employee wins by saving money, the service provider wins by gaining more business and the employer wins by increasing employee morale. The best thing about perk programs is that they are free to the employer." (Employee Benefit News)
Voluntary Benefits Emerge As Bigger Player in Future Benefit Programs
"[The target page provides] a summary of key trends, along with charts and data to help employers plan their voluntary benefits strategy going forward." (Employee Benefit News)
Workplace Perks Aren't What They Used to Be
"Pet insurance, at-your-desk meditation services, jewelry discounts and funeral planning -- from the quirky to the somber, workplaces are providing a range of unique benefits in 2012." (www.greenbaypressgazette.com)
Some Employers Turn to Quirky Perks for Workers
"Pet insurance, at-your-desk meditation services, jewelry discounts and funeral planning -- from the quirky to the somber, workplaces are providing a range of unique benefits in 2012." (USA TODAY)
Lifestyle Benefits Are Becoming More Important to Employees
"'The big focus now is on offering people pleasers,' explains Marie Dufresne, a Dallas-based senior principal with Hay Group. She defines these pleasers as offerings that cost the employer little to nothing, but save the employee on something that they would be paying for anyway, or perhaps couldn't quite afford." (Workplace Management: free registration required)
Build Voluntary Benefits into Workplace Strategies to Attract, Engage and Retain Generation Y
"Total rewards packages that incorporate voluntary benefits will play a key role in not only giving Gen Y workers the flexibility to balance work and life, but also the ability to build more financial security for them and their families. In addition, effective education and communication efforts will be critical components in helping Gen Y workers understand and appreciate the true value of voluntary benefits." (Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company)
Gold and Silver Buying Service Newest Voluntary Benefit
"Josh McCleary, Mass Metal's chief operating officer, says that the SilverSaver benefit program is the only service that enables participants to automatically save in precious metals through the convenience and safety of payroll deduction." (Employee Benefit Adviser; free registration required)
Company Offers Employers Prepaid CPA Services as Employee Benefit
"The CapellaTax Network is aimed at individuals who might not otherwise engage a professional tax or financial consultant. The mission is to help employees establish a year-round, long-term relationship with a trusted advisor. In addition to taxes, these professionals promote the employers' other tax-saving programs, such as retirement plans, flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts." (Employee Benefits News; free registration required)
Buyers Study 2011: Benefits Strategies for a New Era
"[The study] offers information on benefits trends ranging from the shift in how employers and employees share the cost of benefits to the latest buying patterns by industry, age, gender and company size . . . ." (Unum Group)
More Employers Embrace Voluntary Benefits
"A LIMRA study found that overall voluntary benefits penetration improved across the board during the recession, but growth was brighter with mid-size employers (firms with 100 ?999 employees)." (PLANSPONSOR.COM)
Eliminating the 'Worksite' from Worksite Voluntary Benefits Using a Virtual Benefit Counselor
"For employers who currently use their human resource information system or benefit administration online enrollment platform for open enrollment, the most advanced [virtual benefit counselor] technology can easily 'bolt on' to the existing platform, providing effective communication of benefits and a superior open enrollment experience." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)
[Opinion] The Traditional Distinction Between 'Core' and 'Voluntary' Benefits No Longer Relevant
"Since the terms 'core' and 'voluntary' no longer serve a real purpose, we'll ignore these designations and instead focus on the actual purpose - the value proposition, if you will - of these benefits for the insured, which we'll categorize as health, life and disability insurance." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)
When It Comes to Auto and Home Benefits, There's a Lot Employees Don't Know
"In recent years, employers increasingly have embraced the opportunity to enhance their employee benefit packages by offering access to voluntary benefits such as dental, long-term care, and property and casualty insurance." (Employee Benefit News; one-time free registration required)
Hybrid LTC Plans Cited Among 2011 Benefit Trends
"The message comes courtesy of Mark Konen, president of Lincoln Insurance and Retirement Solutions, who believes voluntary plans will continue to gain importance as more employers search for cost-effective benefit solutions." (Employee Benefit Adviser; one-time free registration required)
Dental Insurance, the Third Most Requested Benefit, Can Be Voluntary
"With minor plan adjustments, a voluntary dental benefit can offer employees the flexibility in selecting their preferred dentist and provides a price point that is of value." (Employee Benefit News; one-time free registration required)
Parity Noted for Online vs. Face-to-Face Benefits Enrollment
"The value of cyberspace during open enrollment is at least on equal footing with face time, suggest two recent unpublished surveys of employees and carriers that sell voluntary benefit plans. Neither communication method appears to be proving itself superior." (Employee Benefit News; one-time free registration required)
Some Employers Thinking Outside the Benefits Box
Excerpt: "At some companies, benefits sweeteners can extend beyond health and dental in an effort to better retain employees even after the job market improves. Some of the less-routine perks include pet insurance, elder care, free personal trainers and a $500 allowance toward a commuter bike purchase." (Workplace Management: free registration required)
Aflac Survey Highlights Demand for Dental Plans
Excerpt: "A recent Aflac survey of 1,000 working Americans suggests there will be increased opportunities for brokers and advisers to sell voluntary dental plans, particularly among those between the ages of 35 and 54 in a post-health care reform market." (Employee Benefit News; one-time free registration required)
Critical Illness Insurance Has Never Been More Relevant, Says White Paper (PDF)
14 pages. Excerpt: "Employers and their broker partners have a tremendous opportunity to articulate a simple message about where critical illness insurance fits into the employee benefits equation, how it can help employees secure their financial well being and why it should be considered a priority." (Metropolitan Life Insurance Company)
With Little Room for Raises, Companies Can Offer Perks
Excerpt: "For employees at companies strapped for funds, experts say these workers can request rewards that won't necessarily show up on a paycheck." (QCOnline)
Employees Value Employers More that Offer Voluntary Benefits
Excerpt: "According to a survey conducted for insurer WellPoint, Inc., most employees (83%) think more highly of employers that offer voluntary insurance benefits than those that don't." (PLANSPONSOR.com)
Awaiting Broad Use of Medical E-Records
Excerpt: "There is no silver bullet for reforming America's health care system, but medical experts have long agreed that digital patient records and electronic prescribing can help improve care and curb costs." (The New York Times; free registration required)
[Guidance Overview] Voluntary Employee Wellness Programs: Hidden Legal Risk for Employers.
Excerpt: "[W]hat happens when there's a legal dispute between one or more of your personnel and the provider? In many cases, businesss unwittingly get dragged into court. The provider may argue that the plan is covered by ERISA, and the employee's lawsuit should instead be filed against his or her business." (Employee Wellness Programs)
Mobile Applications Provide Participants Daily 401(k) Balance Updates
Excerpt: "Fidelity Investments, which administers 401(k) accounts with 14 million participants, launched a mobile app earlier this summer. Although users can view their 401(k) account balance, year-to-date performance and several other measures, they cannot make changes to their account." (CNBC, Inc.)
Employer Funding a Big Influence on Voluntary Benefits Selection
Excerpt: "In a nationwide survey of more than 2,800 employees, respondents rated the 'Likelihood of Using in the Near Future' as the most important factor influencing their benefits choices, followed by 'Financial Protection Provided.'" (PLANSPONSOR.com)
How Smaller Employers Can Use Voluntary Benefits to Create a Competitive Advantage
24 pages. Excerpt: "Research from Colonial Life shows the top three most frequently offered voluntary benefits by small businesses are short-term disability, long-term disability and supplemental life." (Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company)
Broadening Your Employee Benefits Portfolio with Elective Benefits (PDF)
5 pages. Excerpt: "Employers are taking a fresh look at incorporating elective benefits strategies as an option when core benefits are being reduced in the current economic climate. This is leading to an array of new elective benefit programs. Today's landscape includes offerings to fill gaps in health care coverage linked directly to an employer's plan, or new features that encourage healthy lifestyles. Employers are likely to incorporate these plans since the value of the benefit has increased and the need for choice is more evident." (Aon Consulting)
[Guidance Overview] Chart of 415, Etc., Limits Updated for News Release IR-2009-94
The chart of maximum limits subject to inflation indexing at Carol V. Calhoun's employee benefits site has now been amended to include the newly announced 2010 limits. Among other things, the chart shows limits under sections 415, 403(b), 401(k), and 457, as well as the Social Security wage base and Social Security and Medicare tax rates, for 1996-2010. (Calhoun Law Group, P.C.)
Voluntary Benefits Still Big Part of Enrollment Season
Excerpt: "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%)." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)
How Do Voluntary Plans Affect Engagement?
Excerpt: "Tangible benefits associated with increased employee engagement and enablement resulted in revenue growth that was 4.5 times greater than the lowest-performing organizations in those two areas, as well as 54% higher customer satisfaction scores. Moreover, there was a total reduction in voluntary turnover of 54% when comparing the best and worst performers on employee engagement and enablement." (Employee Benefit Adviser; free registration required)
Insurers Offer Benefits Bundles
Excerpt: "Insurers are offering small businesses a new way to cap the cost of insurance coverage for workers and their families through contracts for bundles of group disability, life and other insurance benefits. The platforms allow small-business owners to create a baseline of group benefits, which they can fully or partially subsidize for eligible workers and their dependents. It doesn't include medical coverage, which is contracted separately. Employees can purchase supplemental coverage and pick from a range of other voluntary benefits, such as short-term disability policies and critical-illness insurance, which they would pay for out of pocket but at discounted group rates obtained by the employer." (The Wall Street Journal)
Providers Are Mixing New and Different Elements in Today's Dental Insurance Plans
Excerpt: "Demand for dental coverage is increasing, and providers are responding with a new generation of plan designs that are progressive on one hand, 'retro' on the other, and increasingly consumer centric. 'It's very interesting to watch what's happening in the industry right now,' says Karen Gustin, vice president of group and managed care products for Ameritas. 'Employers and employees are looking for value in dental benefits, not just price. But at the same time, they want products at less cost. The result is that it's taking the industry back to the products of the 1980s.'" (Employee Benefit Adviser)
Maximizing the Value of Benefits in a Recession
Excerpt: "Cash no longer flows as freely as it once did, and employers are responding. Many employers have cut back on funding retirement plans and other benefits. Many employers have cut back on staffing levels. Many employers have cut back on both. However, all employers want to come out of this recession ahead of their competition. History indicates that a workforce focused on achieving the next goal, rather than dodging the ax, will help an employer win. This puts pressure on human resource managers in the classic dilemma of keeping morale high while cutting employee security. Fortunately, most people value more than just cash and have the ability to do so in the workplace just as well as other parts of their life. Tapping into those values offers a source of low cost morale raisers. In this article, we outline a few ideas for motivating a workforce without a large outlay of cash." (JPMorgan Chase & Co.)
[Guidance Overview] No Voluntary Plan Exemption Where Employer Determined Eligibility and Assumed Administrative Role
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: This employer's involvement with the short-term disability plan -- which included assisting in drafting plan eligibility requirements and helping employees with claims -- is a virtual 'what not to do' list for satisfying the voluntary plan safe harbor's no-endorsement rule (also referred to as 'employer neutrality'). We suspect that this employer intended for the plan to be subject to ERISA, thereby allowing it to use ERISA preemption as a shield to protect it from state-law claims, such as those alleged by the employee." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)
More Small Companies Turning to Voluntary Benefits As Low-Cost Way to Bolster Business and Empower Employees
Excerpt: "Difficult economic times mean tough either/or choices for small-business owners. For many, adding voluntary benefits to compensate for cutbacks elsewhere in a benefits package or to enrich an existing core benefits plan--particularly one with a high deductible--makes more sense than making cuts in critical areas of a business, laying off key employees or losing them to a competitor with a richer benefits package. Instead of paying for disability insurance, life insurance, dental insurance and the like as core employee benefits, small-business owners have begun to see the wisdom of providing those kinds of benefits on a voluntary basis, a la carte-style, where employees can pick and choose among them and pay for the ones they want and can afford." (Entrepreneur.com, Inc. via MSNBC.com)
Tough Times Demand Smart Solutions in Employee Benefits Packages
Excerpt: "Economically challenging times require creative solutions, especially among small and midsize employers who, despite budget constraints, are trying to offer comprehensive benefits packages that adequately protect their workforce. With the help of brokers and advisers, employers are finding that creative benefits solutions ? a strategic mix of employer-sponsored plan designs and added voluntary plans ? can close coverage gaps and still be affordable." (Employee Benefit Adviser; Registration may be required)
The Problem with HR Pitching Voluntary Benefits
Excerpt: "Topic - 'Voluntary Benefits', defined as benefits in which the employee pays all of the cost, provide employees with options for benefits and insurance coverage they might not otherwise be able to afford. The affordability of such benefits is usually enhanced by the face that employees can often pay for voluntary benefits with pre-tax dollars. Sounds noble, right? Here's are a few problems that are often overlooked . . . ." (Benefits Buzz)
International and Cross-Border Retirement and Fringe Benefit Plans: IRS Advisory Committee Survey Seeks Opinions of Employers, Administrators, Practitioners, Consultants
2-page Word survey questionnaire; September 30 deadline. Excerpt: "The IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (TE/GE) (the 'ACT') is undertaking a study to identify international and cross-border activities, issues, challenges, impediments and barriers in connection with the design, coverage, portability, and tax administration of US employee retirement (qualified and non-qualified) and fringe benefit plans. . . [T]he ACT is particularly interested in the views of stakeholders, such as employers, administrators, trustees, custodians, practitioners and consultants regarding these issues [and asks for your views on or before September 30, 2008]." (IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities)
Vision Benefits Can Provide Employees Cost Relief - Also Makes Good on Often Promised Cross-Benefit Preventative Opportunities
Excerpt: "'A vision check may be one of the few times that an employee may go see a doctor for some kind of check up,' . . . . Couple that with the fact that many vision benefits are easy to comprehend and that the check-ups rarely - if ever - involve drills or needles and before a company realizes it, they're catching medical mole hills before they morph into hospitalization mountains." (Employee Benefit Advisor; free registration required)
Voluntary Benefits Becoming More Popular as Employers Scale Back Health Benefits
Excerpt: "Non-health policies include accident, life, home and auto insurance as well as non-traditional benefits that offer shopping discounts, identity-theft protection, wedding protection and group legal plans." (AISHealth.com)
Linking Wellness and Voluntary Funding
Excerpt: "Payroll deduction has proven to be a powerful employee motivational tool in meeting health and wellness goals at Nature's Sunshine Products Inc. . . . . Employees enjoy the convenience and affordability of paying for a discounted membership to their nearest Gold's Gym, which is $18 a month. But there's also a built-in incentive to show up for a workout: They can earn a $1 credit up to $12 applied to the following month's payroll deduction." (Employee Benefit Advisor; free registration required)
Changing Workforce Demographic Reflected in Employer Benefit Choices
Excerpt: "A new report from Unum lays out changing trends in voluntary benefits purchases by employers driven by a changing workforce demographic and rising health care costs, and provides employers with suggestions on how to deal with these factors." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)
Employee Communication, Enrollment Periods, and Voluntary Benefits
Excerpt: "If employers really want to convey the value of their benefits offerings and advisers want to uphold their role as benefit educators, they both need to make enrollment a priority. That may mean offering multiple enrollment opportunities throughout the year." (Employee Benefit Advisor; free registration required)
Many Advisers and Employers Give Group Life and Other Ancillary Products Short Shrift
Excerpt: "Employers and advisers don't always take a proactive approach to educating employees about their life insurance needs and providing meaningful entry points to increase their coverage, experts observe. Although health plans have claims data to rely on to know when and how to target new parents, life insurers have it a little tougher. However, says, Gemus, 'To the point an employer is willing to share demographic information with us, we can reach out to employees as these types of life events are happening.'" (Employee Benefit Advisor; free registration required)

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