Voluntary benefits are becoming a staple in the employee benefits package and the new generation of voluntary benefits will continue to evolve in 2013, according to Purchasing Power’s Chief Marketing Officer Elizabeth Halkos.  

Here are her predictions for voluntary benefits for the coming year:

1. ) Voluntary benefits have arrived and are here to stay.

Voluntary benefits have been giving companies a much-needed boost to their total rewards packages. They have become an asset to employers and a welcome choice for employees.  Eastbridge Consulting Group’s recently-released study, MarketVision™ — The Employer Viewpoint after PPACA, reports that 77 percent of employers with 10 or more employees now offer at least one voluntary product.   In 2013, the percentage of employers offering voluntary benefits will rise and those already offering voluntary benefits will add more VB options to their benefits packages.

2. ) The new generation of voluntary benefits (the non-traditional ones) will continue to be popular among employees. 

Benefits such as auto and homeowners insurance along with critical care, supplemental life and disability insurance are common voluntary benefits that help address employees’ financial needs. But other non-traditional voluntary benefits such as group legal plans, financial planning, and employee purchase programs will continue to grow in popularity as viable financial-support tools.

3. )  Non-traditional voluntary benefits will continue to evolve.              

The ability to choose benefits that meet their life-stage needs is something employees want.  By providing non-traditional voluntary benefits, employers are able to offer a variety of benefits that meet the diverse needs of their workforce.  Because they’re becoming increasingly popular, non-traditional voluntary benefit providers will continue to develop their offerings.

One example of this evolution is in employee purchase programs.  With the average American continuing to have financial stress, it can be difficult to purchase essential or life-enhancing household items.  For several years, employee purchase programs focused on computers, electronics and home appliances, branching out in the past 12 to 18 months into furniture, home fitness equipment, power tools, grills and baby and kid gear.  2013 will see expansion beyond products into services.

4. ) Educational services will emerge as a highly popular non-traditional voluntary benefit.

Empowering employees with educational benefits can be a valuable addition to the benefits package, especially when it is offered as a voluntary benefit at no cost to their company.  Giving employees a better, more affordable way to pay for education shows that a company truly values the future of their employees and their families.  Educational services are just now being introduced by employee purchase programs, allowing employees and their families to access a variety of online education options – college courses; SAT and ACT test preparation and tutoring courses; professional certifications; and high school and career diplomas.

5. ) The impact of employee financial stress will continue to shape non-traditional voluntary benefit products.

Despite improvements in the economy, employees continue to be burdened by day-to-day financial concerns. The distractions and resulting levels of stress seriously affect their health and productivity. Employers are beginning to realize what this impact means to their bottom line and are taking steps to improve workers’ financial health, such as introducing or increasing financial education benefits and offering non-traditional voluntary benefits, such as employee purchase programs, so that workers can acquire high-ticket products and services on a disciplined budgeting plan.


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