Voluntary benefits are a hot topic among benefits brokers and general agencies alike. Employers are pretty interested in them as well. In a tight labor market, voluntary benefits can mean the difference between filling out your staff with the best talent or scratching and clawing to hire anyone you can.
The interesting thing about voluntary benefits is that the sky is truly the limit. By their nature, voluntary benefits do not cost employers much, if anything at all. That gives employers complete freedom to offer whatever they feel like their employees want. There is no set standard for what constitutes a good voluntary benefits package.
Voluntary Benefits Explained
If this is all new to you, voluntary benefits are benefits above and beyond traditional health insurance and a retirement plan. It’s not unusual for a voluntary benefits package to start with dental, vision, and life insurance. But none of these three are mandatory.
As a general agency representing more than one hundred carriers and thousands of benefit brokers around the country, Dallas-based BenefitMall is a firm believer in voluntary benefit products. In 2022 they ran a series of blog posts highlighting some of the most popular voluntary benefits. One post was about identity theft protection another was about pet benefits. Imagine offering your employees access to cut-rate pet insurance.
When Employers Contribute
The beauty of the voluntary benefits model is that employers can contribute however much they feel is appropriate. With something like vision and dental coverage, employers can treat it just like their health insurance. They contribute a portion, and the employee covers the rest.
Employers can also cover the entire cost of a voluntary benefit. Here are just a few examples:
- Free lunches and snacks
- Free gym memberships
- On-site child care
- On-site healthcare (primary care).
The voluntary benefits to which employers contribute run the gamut from student loan debt reduction programs to continuing education tuition assistance.
When Employers Don’t Contribute
Employers do not have to contribute a dime to voluntary benefits should they choose not to. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The previously mentioned pet insurance is the perfect example. A typical pet insurance policy offers pet owners free or reduced cost veterinary care. It almost always includes discounts on pet food, toys and accessories, and any of the supplies pet owners need to keep their animals happy and healthy.
Pet-owning employees might not even think about pet insurance were it not offered as a voluntary benefit. But because it is offered, they decide to enroll in it. They ultimately end up saving money with all the discounts their insurance offers them. In the end, they appreciate the fact that their employers gave them the option.
The fact is that discounts mean a lot to people, especially when they apply to things that would be purchased anyway. Offering voluntary benefits by way of discounted access to a variety of programs and services benefits employees by saving them money. At the same time, it helps build loyalty within the workforce.
Everything is on the Table
Everything is on the table with voluntary benefits. Companies can offer free lunches and coffee service. They can help with child care, financial wellness, retirement planning, and even paying off those pesky student loans. Best of all, employers can offer very compelling benefits without having to spend a lot.
The sky is truly the limit here. Employers can make their voluntary benefits packages whatever they want them to be. That gives them the opportunity to tailor voluntary benefits to the types of workers they need to hire and retain.