Employers to Offer More Benefits in the Future

Posted on Friday, April 26, 2019

Employers expect to shift even more employee benefit costs to employees in future years.

This is one of several significant findings in a study released by Prudential Financial, Inc. The report is based on a survey of 1,218 randomly selected employee benefits professionals throughout the United States and 400 employees who work full-time for an employer with at least 50 employees.

What Employees Want

"A more balanced, healthier lifestyle is an aspiration for many workers and increasingly, they are turning to their employers for help in the form of flexible work arrangements and paid time off policies.

"As more employers see value in offering employee assistance programs, wellness programs, disease management, and mental health counseling, access to such plans is expected to grow significantly in the future.

"Rather than limit benefit availability, [employers who are taking a progressive approach to benefits] have expanded their employees' access to a wide range of financial and non-financial benefits and consider it critical to offer and subsidize a generous benefits package.

"These progressive employers believe their actions are long-term solutions that will contribute to their companies' success."

- Quoted by Prudential Financial, Inc.

Cost-shifting will grow. The study reports "more plan sponsors will reluctantly shift costs to employees." In fact, "twice as many employers expect to increase employee cost sharing." The top cost-sharing strategies reported are: Asking employees to pay a greater share of contributory benefits costs, and offering more voluntary benefits, with the employees paying 100 percent of the cost.

Currently, 19 percent of the surveyed employers are shifting costs to employees, and 37 percent expect to do so in the future. 

And while 24 of the surveyed employers currently offer a wide array of voluntary plans, 31 percent expect to do so down the road. 

The study findings show 35 percent of surveyed employers currently offer voluntary-paid disability insurance and 47 percent expect to offer this voluntary benefit in the future. 

And 39 percent of surveyed employers currently offer voluntary-paid life insurance with 48 percent expecting to offer this voluntary benefit later on.

The report notes, "As employees are expected to select and pay for more of their benefits going forward, the success of these voluntary programs will depend upon employees receiving the necessary information and decision support tools to make the right decisions for themselves and their families."

Lifestyle Benefits Desired

The study finds employees want more "lifestyle" benefits, things like more flex-time, more paid time off, more mental health counseling. And the study finds a significant difference in how important management and employees view these "life-style" needs.

The report states "83 percent of employees are trying to achieve an overall holistic sense of a healthy lifestyle." And adds, "This broader definition of well-being will likely necessitate continued evaluation of environment, workplace systems, and benefits to meet employee needs and maximize effectiveness."

This part of the study highlights these differences between the views of employers and those of employees:

While 61 percent of employers view flexible/generous paid time-off policies as important, 66 percent of employees view these as important.
While 46 percent of employers view flexible work arrangements as important, 57 percent of employees view flexible work arrangements as important.
While 30 percent of employers view mental health counseling as important, 52 percent of employees view this as important.
While 36 percent of employers view a healthy lifestyle as important to employees, 83 percent of employees view a healthy lifestyle as important.

Progressive Employers

The study identifies 11 percent of employers as "progressives." These progressive employers are those with employee benefits in sync with the expressed needs of their employees. Specifically, according to the study, progressive employers: currently offer benefits that are competitive in their industry and size segments, they understand employees' greatest financial and lifestyle concerns, and they are highly interested in helping employees address their needs, especially their healthy lifestyle needs.

While the study concludes 11 percent of employers currently are progressive, it projects another 31 percent of employers are "above average," and progressive and above average employers will eventually represent more than 50 percent of all employers.

The study concludes the following are the top benefit initiatives progressive employers are either addressing now or will address in the future: Programs to promote healthy lifestyle assistance, with return to work, education on retirement plan payout, retirement investment education, flexible workplace arrangements and access to mental health counseling.

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