A closer look at data from the 2015 Employee Benefit Research Institute/Greenwald & Associates Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey (WBS) reveals that most employees do indeed take advantage of voluntary benefits offered at the workplace.
While about 85% of employees participate in their company’s health insurance plan, the WBS also found that, when offered, 82% participate in employer-sponsored retirement savings plans, 80% in dental plans, 75% in vision plans, 73% in life insurance, 61% in short-term disability plans and 59% in long-term DI.
It’s no surprise that workers overwhelmingly consider health insurance to be the most important workplace benefit. Nearly two-thirds (64%) say this benefit is “extremely important,” while an additional 24% consider it to be “very important.” In fact, having access to health insurance through an employer is considered so important by employees that 6 in 10 report they are planning to work longer than they would like in order to continue receiving health insurance through their employer. But the study found other workplace benefits are also highly valued by employees.
A retirement savings plan (rated “extremely” or “very” important by 75% of workers) and dental or vision insurance (rated “extremely” or “very” important by 70%) are also among the highest-rated benefits. Fifty percent of workers say a traditional pension or defined benefit plan is extremely or very important, while at least 4 in 10 indicate disability insurance (47%), life insurance (46%), and retiree health insurance (41%) are extremely or very important.
When it comes to which benefits employers are offering, 80% report their employer is offering health insurance; 70% have access to dental insurance and retirement savings plans; 63% have access to vision and life insurance; 56% short-term DI and 49% long-term DI.
The survey examines public opinion on a broad spectrum of workplace-benefit issues, with a particular focus on voluntary workplace benefits.
The EBRI has been conducting “value of benefits” surveys for 20 years to determine the relative importance of different benefits to workers and to assess the role played by benefits in job choice and job change over time.
Among other notable findings:
- Three-quarters of workers state that the benefits package an employer offers prospective workers is extremely (36%) or very (41%) important in their decision to accept or reject a job.
- Nevertheless, 30% are only somewhat satisfied with the benefits offered by their current employer, and 20% are not satisfied.
- Eighty-eight percent of workers report that employment-based health insurance is extremely or very important, far more than for any other workplace benefit.
- Workers identify lower cost (compared with purchasing benefits on their own) and choice as strong advantages of voluntary employment-based benefits. However, they are split with respect to their comfort in having their employer choose their benefits providers, and think the possibility that they may have to pay the full cost of any voluntary benefits is a disadvantage.
- Only about half of workers report being “extremely” (14%) or “very” (37%) satisfied with the overall benefits package offered by their employer, while 30% are “somewhat” satisfied and 20% are either “not too satisfied” (11%) or “not at all satisfied” (9%).
Workers see a number of advantages to voluntary benefits. Foremost among these are cost and choice. Half (50%) report a strong advantage of voluntary benefits is that purchasing these benefits through an employer may cost less than purchasing them on their own, with another 30% saying this is a moderate advantage. In fact, one-half of workers are extremely (19%) or very (39%) confident that insurance and other benefit products are less expensive when purchased through the workplace. Close to half (44%) report that the ability to choose which benefits they want to purchase is a strong advantage, and 35% say it is a moderate advantage. Other advantages workers cite are portability (74% say it is a strong or moderate advantage) and payments made through payroll deduction (67% percent say it is a strong or moderate advantage).
Workers also noted some disadvantages, including 39% saying having to pay the full cost of any voluntary benefit is a strong or moderate disadvantage.
In summarizing the report, Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Research and Education Program and co-author of the study, said, “Workers overwhelmingly consider health insurance to be the most important workplace benefit. We also find that many workers do not rate the benefits package offered by their employer as high.”
That signals an opportunity for benefits brokers to pitch more comprehensive benefits programs that will be meaningful to employees.
As findings from the WBS clearly show, worker benefits continue to be important to workers. Even with enactment of the ACA, employers who offer a strong worker-benefits package should find themselves with a competitive advantage over other companies when it comes to attracting and retaining desirable workers.
About the survey: The WBS is co-sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan, public-policy research organization, and Greenwald & Associates, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based market research firm. The 2015 WBS data collection was funded by grants from eight private organizations. Staffing was donated by EBRI and Greenwald & Associates. WBS materials and a list of underwriters may be accessed at the EBRI website: www.ebri.org/surveys/hcs/