Voluntary Benefits Now in Vogue

by Jeff Kirke

The verdict on voluntary benefits is in they are fast becoming a sought-after commodity by the American workforce, and a familiar staple in the American workplace. According to a recent survey commissioned by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife), and conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide, American employees welcome voluntary benefits products at work with open arms. In fact, two thirds (66 percent) of all employees surveyed agree that it is a good idea for employers to offer extra financial products and services that employees can choose to purchase themselves.

Voluntary benefits include financial and insurance products such as life, vision, long-term care, auto and homeowner's insurance, legal plans, mutual funds, even pet insurance made available to employees on a voluntary basis either partially or 100-percent employee-paid, utilizing payroll deductions through employers.

Increasingly, employers around the country are answering the call for expanded benefits by supplementing traditional benefits like medical or dental plans paid by the employer, with a variety of voluntary benefits options.

The combination of benefits available to the employer is virtually limitless. Here's a menu of some of the voluntary benefits that employers are serving up a la carte:

? Insurance benefits: group universal life insurance, long-term care insurance, auto/homeowner's, pre-paid legal; accidental death and dismemberment; dental, vision, pet insurance, short-term disability, long-term disability, and critical illness;

? Financial security benefits: annuities, pension plans, and mutual funds;

? Concierge and convenience benefits: child care, alternative work arrangements such as flextime, telecommuting and job sharing; dry cleaning; car repair pickup and delivery; and takeout foods from company cafeterias.

More-bang-for-the-buck value and timesaving convenience are the top two advantages that today's discriminating American workers want from their employers' voluntary benefits programs.

Employees are seeking better rates or group rates -- and find that being able to pay for benefits through payroll deduction is an attractive advantage.

Employees agree that learning about new benefits products through their employer is more convenient than shopping for these products on their own. Employees also like the convenience of having their employer provide them with objective information about the products and services they offer.

Over the last decade, American workers weathered countless mergers and acquisitions, felt the pinch of downsizing, and were nicked by cutbacks in many of their basic benefits packages. Despite the constant flux in the American workplace, most employees are comfortable purchasing financial and insurance products when offered through their employers, and they welcome the opportunity. Employees trust their employer to find the best voluntary benefits products and services and employees expect to get better customer service from the provider as a result.

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