Employers feel a greater sense of responsibility for the financial future of their employees following the recession, says new research from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

According to its Workplace Benefits Report, following the recent economic downturn, 59% of employers feel a greater responsibility to help employees meet their financial goals. More than half (53%) feel this responsibility includes providing both financial benefit plans, as well as access to financial education and advice.

“I hate to say there’s a silver lining to come out of the recession but if there is a silver lining it’s that employers feel an increased responsibility for employees’ financial wellness,” said Stephen Ulian, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s head of institutional retirement and benefit solutions, during a conference call announcing the results of the report.

Since the recession began, nearly half (47%) of employers surveyed have seen an increase in the frequency that prospective employees ask about the financial benefit plans offered by their company.

“Employers increasingly understand that their employees don’t leave their finances in the parking lot when they walk in the door of an American business,” said Andy Sieg, head of retirement services for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Far-sighted employers are embracing this and they’re factoring that into their benefits decisions.”

Other findings from the survey of 650 senior executives and HR and benefit plan leaders include:

  • 94% of employers believe it’s important to retain older employees for a longer period of time before they retire. In order to retain these employees, 50% of employers surveyed now offer flexible or customized work schedules, 33% are implementing education programs on retirement income and health care topics, 32% are offering continuing education and development opportunities, 22% give employees the opportunity to work remotely and 21% are offering extended benefits to older employees.
  • 58% of employers find that employees approaching retirement are taking a more active, hands-on approach to their financial benefit plans.
  • 36% say that younger employees are enrolling earlier into financial benefit plans.
  • 26% say that employees are contributing enough to receive their full company match at an earlier age.
  • 59% of employers find that less than half of their employees take advantage of the financial education and advice made available to them. When asked why their workforce fails to take advantage of these resources, 54% say their employees do not view it as relevant to them.

Related content:

Survey: Companies failing to prepare workers for retirement

More U.S. workers delaying retirement

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