It's only natural for employees worried about their financial well-being to experience a decline in workplace productivity. Expanding the line of voluntary benefits that brokers offer to employers to include noninsurance products can help employees cope, while also improving their job performance.
The MetLife Study of Financial Wellness Across the Globe, prepared by the Boston College Center for Work & Family, notes that financial difficulties have been known to "have adverse effects on [employees'] well-being, leading to social, physical and emotional stress."
Further, the MetLife Employee Benefits Trends Study finds that 58% of employers say that financial "illness" plays a role in employee absenteeism, and 78% say that concerns over financial problems while at work can have a negative impact on employee productivity. Employers are turning to noninsurance products, through a payroll deduction, to help employees focus more on the task at hand and worry less about financial stress outside of work.
Among the noninsurance products available to help alleviate employee stress are education programs and credit counseling.
The cost of college tuition continues to rise. A 2012 study by The College Board found that in 2003 the average tuition and fee price at public four-year colleges was the equivalent of $5,213 in 2012 dollars, and is $8,655 today.
Compounding that is the fact that employers are facing their own challenges by having problems filling crucial positions - 49% reported difficulties due to lack of available talent, according to a 2012 study by ManpowerGroup.
Therefore, employers have open positions internal candidates don't qualify for because they lack the proper skills. That costs both the employer and the employee money. But, in order to overcome that, there is the largest cost burden of all: education.
"Education is expensive. Student loan debt exceeds auto loan debt. Over 90% of these students get a degree and pay for it" over the next 10 to 20 years, says Elizabeth Halkos, chief marketing officer at Atlanta-based Purchasing Power.
Last October, Purchasing Power launched Learning Solutions, which provides education and degree programs through a payroll deduction. The curriculum includes online courses and online SAT and ACT test preparation from The Princeton Review. The fees range from $300 up to $1,000.
Another payroll-deducted service is credit counseling, which helps employees worrying about their car being repossessed or their house being foreclosed on, says Ross Linthicum, EVP, Caravan Credit Services.
"A lot of people spend a lot of time dealing with this," he says. "[Employers] give them yoga, etc., but none of that touches the No. 1 problem going on, which is finance."
The Houston-based company, through a payroll deduction of $30 to $40, works to educate employees and then correct their behavior by analyzing credit reports and spending habits.
In the end, most noninsurance products are about helping an employee now, rather than in an emergency, which is how health insurance often works. Financial wellness wasn't heard of as recently as 12 years ago, Linthicum says. But now, "with all the chaos going around ... we are able to help employees breathe," he says.
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