As employers look to keep employees as healthy and productive as possible, voluntary products, including prepaid legal services, continue to grow in popularity.
In the United States, an estimated 122 million Americans are enrolled in some form of a legal plan, according to Hyatt Legal Plans. However, some say this is part of a trend of providing too much to employers and causing confusion for employees.
It's no surprise that most people will experience some form of legal event in their lifetime, whether it's a divorce, a dispute with a home contractor, the creation of a will or a traffic violation. Legal plan provider ARAG estimates that three-out-of-four employees experience a life event every year that requires legal counsel.
Those events are stressful for employees, with 79% of workers in an ARAG survey saying they did not know where to turn or how to get strarted with help during or immediately following the event.
It all ties back to another buzzword in employer circles - wellness. There are many times when "you could use some advice or guidance to work through a [legal] project," says ARAG vice president Dennis Healy. "With all this noise, people get stressed out and distracted, their health deteriorates [and] ... productivity goes down."
Joseph M. DiBella, executive vice president at Conner Strong & Buckelew, a Marlton, N.J.-based brokerage, says that when he brings legal plans to his employer-clients they are very receptive because it does not cost them anything.
"Part of our job as a good benefit adviser is to bring new solutions to clients that can help them round out their health and benefit plans," he says.
While deBella has his employer-clients asking for the product, Bill Danish, a partner at Seacrest Partners Inc. in Atlanta, says that in the battle for space on enrollment systems and payroll slots, he doesn't have many employers looking at this coverage.
"Our role is providing solutions-based consultative advice. Within that purview, the difference we really need to look at - are we selling a product for commission or selling service?" he says. "With the rising cost of medical ... are we putting too many things in front of people? Once you start down that path, are you measuring things portable to the employee and employer or stacking the deck so employees see where they should spend their money versus where they want to spend?"
DiBella explains that if a new product is properly communicated and planned out, employees should not be confused. Healy agrees, saying there are numerous surveys demonstrating employees, particularly Gen Y consumers, want choice, and voluntary products, including legal services, provide that choice.
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