2019 trends

2019 Forecast: 5 Trends to Expect in Voluntary Benefits

Published by PR Newswire insurancenewsnet.com November 27, 2018

In a tight job market with employers vying to recruit and retain top talent, it's no surprise that voluntary benefits are now a "must-have" in the employee benefits package.

In addition to explosive growth in the range of available voluntary benefits in recent years, their popularity among employees is reaching new heights as well.

"Gone are the days where voluntary benefits are simply a 'nice-extra' for employee benefits. In today's modern workplace with a diverse, multigenerational workforce that has varying characteristics, lifestyles and preferences, employers can no longer provide one-size-fits-all benefits even in the voluntary arena," said Purchasing Power Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Halkos. "A broad benefits package positions a business as a company that listens, cares and is worth working for. Voluntary benefits offer employees a variety of specialized benefits so they can choose the ones they want."

Whether it's benefits that supplement their "core" benefits such as health, life and disability insurance, or the plethora of others that range from identify theft protection to pet insurance to employee purchase programs and even student loan refinancing arrangements and egg harvesting, voluntary benefits are a cost-effective method for employers to provide a broad benefits package that give employees options.

"That's important," Halkos said, "because only 60 percent of employees believe their employer's benefit plans are competitive with those offered by other organizations, according to the PwC 2018 Employee Financial Wellness Survey."

What's ahead in 2019 for voluntary benefits? Here are Halkos' predictions on the trends for next year.

Addressing Student Loans.

Student loan debt continues to reach record highs and it even exceeds credit card debt and auto loan debt. More than one-third of employees overall (and 55% of millennials) said student loan repayment is a must-have benefit, according to a Unum study. With only 4 percent of employers currently offering employees some form of assistance to repay student loans, 2019 is going to see employers and the industry itself finding ways to offer student loan refinancing and repayment benefits.

Taking Care of the Caregivers.

Next year will see employers being more comprehensive with benefits that address the needs of employees who serve as caregivers. Today's multigenerational workforce includes employees who care for parents, adult children and even grandchildren on a variety of levels -- emotionally, financially and with general caregiving support. In fact, nearly one in four employees is providing financial support for parents or in-laws; and among employees with adult children, 42 percent are providing financial support to them, according to the PwC study. Elder care support, childcare, adoption assistance, financial wellness benefits -- all are increasingly important to the caregivers.

Facilitating Savings.

The statistics are staggering -- employees are still struggling paycheck-to-paycheck; many don't have $1,000 or more in savings to use for emergencies; and the typical worker has saved $0 for retirement. It's time for the industry to help employees start to take control of their financial future by encouraging savings. Look for more financial services benefits in 2019 that offer automated savings plans as a voluntary benefit.

Encouraging Utilization of Financial Wellness Benefits.

Financial wellness has been the buzz for a couple of years now and employers have added a variety of financial wellness and education voluntary benefits. But only one-third of employees utilize the financial wellness benefits their employer offers, according to the 2018 Workplace Benefits Report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. It's a simple fact that when financial wellness benefits aren't used, they don't work. Employers and the industry alike will be searching for ways to make these benefits more engaging, personalized and effective in order to help their employees improve their financial wellness.

Communicating Year-Round.

With so many benefit offerings available today, it can be mind-boggling to employees to be aware of them all and to understand them. Year-round benefits communications in a multitude of communication methods that appeal to each generation and on platforms and devices they pay attention to is mandatory. 2019 will see employers and the industry re-dedicate itself to benefits communications, understanding and engagement.

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