Top 8 ways voluntary benefits can help address today's challenges

November  3, 2023
A man and woman point to the screen of a tablet device that he's holding. Coworkers are talking in the background.

Juggling a benefits budget while attracting and retaining talent can feel like a no-win situation. How can businesses stand out in a sea of employment opportunities without breaking the bank? A well-designed voluntary benefits package can help tackle the challenge. Typically paid for by employees through payroll deductions, voluntary benefits allow businesses to expand their benefits offerings and provide financial protection to employees. Employers have the flexibility to decide how these benefits are offered and funded while employees can choose the coverage that fits their unique needs.

Offering a well-designed voluntary benefits package not only attracts a diverse workforce, it also makes them feel supported. When employees feel cared for, they're more engaged, productive and likely to stay. In fact, 62% of employees say they are at least slightly more inclined to stay with their current employers because of their benefits while 39% are much more inclined to stay.1

Today's challenges

There's a good reason that employees are feeling financially fragile — the cost of living is rising. Affording gasoline and transportation costs is now a top worry for Americans followed by unexpected medical bills.2 An emergency expense or lost income would overwhelm many Americans.

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46% of U.S. workers have less than $1,000 in their checking/savings account at any given time.3
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Almost half (48%) would be able to maintain their finances for only two months if they had to miss work due to an injury, accident or serious medical condition — up 8% since 2020 and most prominent for Millennials and Gen Z workers.3

As high deductible health insurance plans (HDHPs) have become more popular in recent years, they have also become a double-edged sword for employees. Instead of saving money, many workers have delayed needed medical care because they feel like they can't afford the out-of-pocket expenses of a high deductible.

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50% of adults or a family member postponed getting health care.2
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39% of adults or a family member skipped a recommended test or treatment.2

Voluntary benefits can expand an organization's benefits arsenal, offering financial protection to employees at a time when unexpected expenses are a constant concern.

8 ways voluntary benefits can help 

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    Expanded benefits offerings. Rising costs, particularly in healthcare, have put immense pressure on employees' wallets, making supplemental coverage like accident, critical illness and hospital indemnity insurance invaluable.
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    Employee financial wellness. Voluntary benefits empower employees to make informed decisions that can protect them from future financial burdens, enhancing job satisfaction and productivity.
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    Employee engagement and retention. Offering diverse voluntary benefits signals an employer's commitment to employee wellbeing. This improves job satisfaction and loyalty, making it more likely for employees to stay.
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    Generational diversity. Today's workforce is made up of five generations, each with distinct needs. Voluntary benefits allow employers to diversify benefits in a way that is cost-effective and flexible for various age groups, promoting inclusivity and satisfaction across the board.
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    Personalized benefits. Voluntary benefits empower employees to choose options that align with their unique circumstances. This personalization fosters a sense of control and value within the organization.
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    Top talent magnet. A comprehensive voluntary benefits package can help provide employers with a competitive edge in recruiting top talent. Candidates may be more likely to choose an employer offering benefits that cater to their needs and priorities.
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    Remote work and gig economy. In the era of remote work and gig employment, a comprehensive voluntary benefits package can help employers meet the unique needs of these workers, ensuring they have access to essential coverage and services.
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    Customizability. Voluntary benefits can be customized to complement an organization's existing benefits package, addressing specific industry or workforce challenges and trends.

Big impact at little to no cost to your business

Because voluntary benefits programs are often fully funded by employees via payroll deductions, businesses have complete control over how much they spend and what options they choose to add. Many voluntary benefits can be paid with pre-tax income, so employers can help their workers stretch their dollars even further. Another perk is that when employees purchase voluntary benefits through an employer group, it's often cheaper than buying individually.

Offering and enrolling in voluntary benefits has never been easier

Choosing a carrier or broker that offers technology solutions for small businesses can simplify benefits administration — many have online portals that make changing or updating their employees' benefits easy. Some carriers offer benefits enrollment and administration systems at no or low cost. Also look for flexible and convenient enrollment options like virtual, telephonic, in-person and online self-service.

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Strengthen your business with our Voluntary benefits 101 guide and build a well-rounded benefits package that helps attract and retain skilled workers.

1 LIMRA, 2023 BEAT Study: Benefits and Employee Attitude Tracker, 2023.
2 KFF, Health Care Debt Survey, 2022.
3 Unum, Survey of 1,000 Full-time U.S. Workers, November 2022.