According to WellPoint Inc. research, 83% of American employees think more highly of employers that offer voluntary insurance benefits than those that don't.

This extends to job seekers as well, almost all of whom (nearly 90%) consider it important that companies offer a full range of health benefits, including voluntary, when accepting a new position. A full 56% consider it "very important."

Voluntary benefits can improve employees' overall perception of benefits as well. While 82% of employees whose companies offer voluntary benefits are content with their packages, that satisfaction declined by 30% for those companies that fail to offer such benefits.

"The survey findings suggest that employees definitely see the value in voluntary benefits," says Jeff Spahr, staff vice president of vision and voluntary services for WellPoint.

Most often, these benefits are used to fill a gap in coverage. "Voluntary benefits set employers apart by allowing them to offer a more expansive benefits package at any or little direct cost to them," says Elana D'Arciprete, southeast vice president at Colonial Life.

Doug Mantz, vice president of sales, The Farmington Company, agrees, finding these to complement certain types of medical coverage. "For those employers who are opting for HDHPs, offering something to round out coverage to meet specific concerns certainly makes an HDHP plan more palatable," he says.

Two-thirds of employees report that their company currently offers voluntary insurance with specific demographics more likely to have access to these benefits. This includes 71% of men, 74% of those working in the Northeast region of the United States, 81% of workers in large companies, and 74% of those with an average household income of $50,000 or more.

Even though a significant amount of employers offer these benefits, only about half of workers say they are knowledgeable about the voluntary insurance products offered at their companies.

"Just offering the voluntary benefits isn't enough ... If no one is participating, it has little or no value," Mantz says.

D'Arciprete explains that 60% of employees who believe their benefits were more effectively communicated would stay with their current employer even if offered higher pay somewhere else.

Retention is only part of the reason to offer access to these benefits; 67% of employees claim voluntary benefits would increase productivity at work as well.

The main reasons employees enroll in voluntary benefits include cost savings (54%), greater protection for their families (50%) and peace of mind (44%).

The WellPoint survey was conducted online among a national sample of 2,500 Americans ages 18 and up in August 2010.

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