Benefits matter more than ever to employees. The third annual study of employees’ views by Unum toward their benefits and enrollment was conducted online in December following the 2010 benefits enrollment period among more than 1,700 working adults. The research finds the perceived importance of many employee benefits notably increased from 2008 to 2010 across all age groups.

“This economic environment has caused employees to take a hard look at how to protect their income and savings from not only another recession, but from personal hardship, as well,” says Bill Dalicandro, vice president at Unum. “Employees are recognizing the important role financial protection benefits in particular can play in protecting their financial stability.” 

When employees were asked to rate benefits in terms of their importance, regardless of whether or not they were available through their employer, financial protection benefits saw some of the highest gains.

* On a scale of importance from 1 (not at all important) to 10 (extremely important), 53% of employees rated long-term disability insurance an 8 or higher, a seven-point increase from 2008.

* Half of employees rated short-term disability insurance an 8 or higher, up from 45% in 2008.

* Fifty percent of employees gave an 8 or higher rating to accidental injury coverage, a 10-point increase from 2008.

Further, the study finds employees age 45 and older consider long-term disability more important than life insurance as a benefit. “This is an encouraging trend because research shows that employees are far more likely to become disabled than die,” Dalicandro says. “So while life insurance is still very important to have, employees are also recognizing the need to protect their paychecks should they become disabled during their working years.”

But although employees rate the importance of benefits higher, participation has remained relatively constant since 2008 across benefits. Unum’s research also shows employees have had less access to printed benefits education materials and in-person benefits education since 2008, and that some employees are not provided enough time to make informed choices.

“Employees clearly value these benefits, particularly in a struggling economy,” Dalicandro says. “Ensuring that they understand their options and feel comfortable making benefits decisions helps them choose the coverage they need and want.”

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