Although many companies continue to tighten their financial belts, when it comes to voluntary benefits, employers are much more employee focused, as opposed to cost driven.  Seventy-five percent of employers say their top reason for offering voluntary benefits is to expand the benefits options available to their employees, with 42% offering voluntary benefits to fulfill an employee need, and 30% offering them at their employees’ request, according to a study released yesterday by Prudential.

Voluntary benefits are optional programs that are made available at the workplace and 100% paid for by employees.  Eighty-five percent of employers say they offer one or more voluntary benefits including life insurance (63%), disability insurance (56%) and dental insurance (52%). Ranking lower on their priority list were critical illness insurance (35%) and long-term care insurance (33%).

“For employees, the benefits offer a convenient and affordable way to purchase life, disability, long-term care, dental and vision insurance, while offsetting the income-related risks of a disability, long-term illness or the death of the family member,”  says Jim Gemus, senior vice president of Prudential Group Insurance.

Employees increasingly view the workplace as an important source for personal insurance and savings products. Half (51%) of workers cited convenience as the most common advantage and driving factor in purchasing voluntary benefits because they pay for them through payroll deduction, representing a nine-point increase since the study was conducted in 2008.  Fifty-two percent feel that offering voluntary benefits increases the value of their company’s offerings.

The study found a correlation between voluntary benefits offerings and employee satisfaction. For employers, employee satisfaction is the top gauge of success (47%) followed by achieving a certain set participation rate (34%). Gemus notes, “Employees’ increasing interest and knowledge of their benefits options, combined with employers’ renewed focus on employee satisfaction is a win-win situation for all.

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