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FAQ’s on Voluntary Benefits

Frequently Asked Questions

Got a question about voluntary benefits? Here are some frequently asked questions to help you.

Who can get voluntary benefits?

Is there a minimum number or percentage of employees that must participate in voluntary benefits for them to be viable?
Minimum participation requirements depend on several factors, such as the number of eligible employees and what products are offered. Typically, the minimum number would begin with three to five employees.

Can part-time workers buy or receive voluntary benefits?
Generally yes, as long as they work a minimum number of hours to meet the eligibility criteria for coverage.

Can a contractor be added to voluntary benefits?
Typically, independent contractors cannot be covered under the employer’s policy. However, individual policies for some benefits are available.

Can non-profit organizations offer voluntary benefits?
Yes, non-profit and charitable organizations can offer voluntary benefits to their employees.

As a business owner, can I also receive coverage through the voluntary benefits that I am offering to my employees?
Yes. A business owner can apply for voluntary benefits coverage – just like their employees would do.

Are family members able to get voluntary benefits?
Yes. Many voluntary benefits provide the ability to cover your spouse and eligible dependent children.

Are there age limits for certain voluntary benefits?
Each product will have its own unique age requirements. These limits are designed to be flexible to allow the majority of employees actively at work the ability to apply for coverage.

Can home-based or remote workers receive voluntary benefits?
Yes, if they meet the requirements of being full-time eligible employees.

If you already have an existing medical condition can you get coverage?
It depends on the type of product. Some products will require eligible employees to be medically underwritten before they are issued coverage. Other products offer guaranteed-issue coverage, meaning employees can get coverage without answering any medical questions. Certain products may have a pre-existing condition limitation, which means a certain period of time must pass before the person is covered. It’s important to understand any limitations or exclusions specific to the product.

More on this next week.

Highest regards,

Stacia

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A Simple Guide to Voluntary Benefits

You can offer voluntary benefits to your employees at no direct cost to you. And, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a big company to offer them — some plans require an employer to have a minimum of just two to five employees to qualify and others have no minimum requirement. Here’s all you need to know about a voluntary benefits plan and what it can do for your employees and your business.

What are voluntary benefits?

Sometimes called supplemental insurance or employee-paid benefits, voluntary benefits are offered by the employer through the workplace where employees can choose to buy them in addition to the core employee benefits they may get as part of a benefits package.

Payment options are typically flexible. To suit their budget, companies can choose whether voluntary employee benefits are:

  • Fully employee-funded
  • Part-funded by both employee and employer

In their Voluntary Benefits and Services (VBS) survey, Willis Towers Watson highlighted four critical life needs that voluntary benefits fulfill:

  • Health – typically helping employee well-being, while minimizing health risk at a reasonable cost
  • Wealth accumulation – protecting income and assets (Willis Towers Watson calls this one Wealth, but arguably a more relevant term is “Lifestyle”)
  • Security – protecting our survivors, vulnerable people or even people’s identities
  • Personal – products that cover what’s important to the individual interests and needs of the person

What voluntary benefits are available?

There’s a huge range of voluntary insurance plans out there in the market. Some examples include disability insurance, accident insurance, dental insurance or ‘softer’ benefits that may include retail or ticket discounts, gym memberships or concierge services like collecting dry cleaning.

According to Willis Towers Watson’s 2013 survey, the most common voluntary benefits under the four banners of health, wealth, security and personal are:

Health

Vision insurance

Regular eye exams help maintain healthy vision and are the first line of defense in detecting more serious eye conditions, such as glaucoma, high blood pressure and diabetes. Vision insurance typically helps pay for eye exams, glasses and contact lenses. They may also offer discounts on treatments such as laser eye surgery or eyecare accessories.

Dental insurance

Dental insurance can provide benefits for both routine and more expensive dental procedures that are not covered by most health insurance plans. They typically include cleaning, fillings, sealants, tooth removal, crowns and dentures – and may also provide benefits for regular dental appointments.

Accident insurance

Accident insurance plans can help offset the unexpected medical expenses that may result from a covered accidental injury. Typically, they help cover some of the expenses for initial care, surgery, transportation and lodging, and follow-up care.

Critical Illness insurance

Critical illness insurance can complement major medical coverage by providing a lump-sum benefit for an employee diagnosed with a covered critical illness, such as heart attack, stroke, coronary artery bypass surgery, end-stage renal failure or major organ transplant – among others. Benefits are typically paid directly to the employee, so they can be used where they’re most needed.

Hospital indemnity insurance

Hospital confinement indemnity insurance provides a lump-sum benefit to help with out-of-pocket costs related to a hospital stay. This may include outpatient surgery, diagnostic tests, doctor’s appointments and emergency room trips.

Wealth/Lifestyle

Disability insurance

Disability insurance replaces a percentage of an employee’s income if they become disabled as a result of a covered accident or sickness, to help them continue to make ends meet while they’re out of work.

Legal

Legal typically gives employees access to qualified attorneys at a reduced cost. Coverage usually applies to the most common personal legal matters including family, vehicle, real estate, civil lawsuits and wills.

Financial counseling

Financial counseling helps employees manage their finances. Traditionally, this has mainly focused on retirement plans, but as baby boomers approach the end of their working careers, financial counseling now also includes a range of topics such as credit card debt, investment advice, tax advice, saving and budgeting.

Security

Life insurance

Life insurance pays out a lump sum to help provide financial protection for an employee’s family members in the event of the employee’s death. Coverage can be updated to reflect changes in life such as getting married, buying a home or having a child. Most plans offer spouse and child coverage.

Personal travel accident insurance

Travel accident insurance is designed to provide extra protection while travelling internationally, supplementing coverage typically provided by an accidental death or dismemberment policy. It typically covers emergency medical and legal fees.

Identity theft protection

Identify theft protection does not cover any financial loss as the result of identity theft. Instead, it may include monitoring public records and alerting the employee to any fraudulent use of their personal details, including attempted loans and credit applications. It also covers the cost of repairing the person’s credit history.

Personal

Personal voluntary benefits are those softer offerings that help meet an employee’s particular lifestyle needs. These may include:

  • Discount merchandise
  • Automobile, homeowners or pet insurance
  • Concierge services – anything from help booking holidays, shopping, finding tradesmen or picking up dry cleaning
  • Umbrella insurance – extra liability insurance against claims and lawsuits above and beyond that typically provided by homeowners or automobile insurance

Identity theft protection, critical illness, pet insurance and even student loan repayment programs are likely to see the fastest growth in the next few years.

Highest regards,

 

Stacia

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Benefits: 10 Key Take Aways

Over the last several weeks we went over the no or low-cost ways to make your company a great place to work. We went over many tips on what you can do right as far as offering benefits to your staff to make them want to work with you and your company. 

We talked about:

  • Why you need to look after your employees
  • Good leadership
  • Creating the right environment
  • Challenges, training and development
  • Employee perks
  • Company benefits
  • Choosing the right benefits
  • Communicating benefits correctly
  • Ways to get benefits wrong

In a nutshell, here are 10 most popular takeaways from this series on benefits.

  1. It pays to make your company a great place to work. Although base pay is still vitally important, it is not the only thing talented employees are looking for.
  2. Good leadership is vital. 27% of people who don’t trust their managers, don’t plan to stick around.
  3. Workplace culture starts at the top. To created a culture of communication, collaboration, fun and respect, the boss has to lead by example.
  4. Millennials rank training and progression opportunities as a top reason to stay in their job.
  5. Flexible working is a popular perk and could improve your employees’ productivity.
  6. Voluntary benefits enable you to offer attractive benefits at no or low cost.
  7. The benefits employees want are dependent on their circumstances and their outlook – so flexibility is key.
  8. Company-offered benefits such as accident insurance and hospital indemnity insurance can fill in the gaps in health care coverage.
  9. With paid time off plans and incentives to reduce unscheduled leave, offering paid leave can be a cheaper and more realistic option for small businesses.
  10. By effectively communicating benefits to your employees you help them understand the value of offering, which helps them get the most out of it. Voluntary benefits providers can help with this.

 

Highest regards,

 

 

Stacia

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Ways To Get Benefits Wrong

Unfortunately, choosing which employee benefits to offer isn’t an exact science and there are some common mistakes businesses make, especially when first establishing their benefits package.

Here are four to avoid:

Not choosing exclusive benefits

Things like discounted gym memberships are great sta benefits, as long as they go above and beyond what your team could get if they just walked into a branch themselves. Make sure your benefits are exclusives rather than things employees could easily access or they won’t have the same impact.

Choosing perks nobody wants

Offering benefits and sta perks just so you can say you do is a costly mistake that won’t do anything to boost morale and may even have the opposite e ect. Some bosses just have a knack for choosing “perks” that actually really irritate their sta . For example, one manager had music pumped into the o ice, despite the fact that the sta hated her choice of tunes.

Not consulting staff

Don’t just presume you know best. It’s worth consulting your staff about what benefits they’d like to see offered, or why they haven’t taken up a particular benefit.

Taking benefits away

As we said before, many companies make mistakes when initially setting up their benefits package and may find themselves with low participation as a result. But it’s important to be careful about withdrawing even unpopular benefits, as it gives the impression you are taking things away from sta and may even have a negative impact on morale. If you do want to withdraw a benefit, seek professional advice before you do so, make it clear why you are doing so and highlight anything you are offering in its place.

Consult with The BeneChoice Companies to learn what other employers in your industry segment are offering to that you stay competitive in the marketplace.

Highest regards,

 

Stacia

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Companies Getting Benefits Right

There are some companies who’ve clearly thought about their benefits packages.

They are usually the businesses you’ll see receiving rave reviews from their employees and topping lists of best places to work.

Here are a few businesses — of all sizes, covering a wide variety of industries — that seem to be getting it right when it comes to offering benefits.

Radio Flyer

There’s a reason this toy-wagon maker has been going for almost a century. It attracts and retains employees with a wide range of great benefits like flexible working and generous maternity leave as well as some fun perks like free fitness classes.

Facebook

Facebook’s employee benefits are widely praised, even those they offer interns. They provide interns with a competitive benefits package which includes health care coverage and free housing.

PPR Talent Management

Sta at this recruiting firm benefit from unlimited paid time off, as well as salary continuation up to four weeks for personal sickness, disability, injury or medical leave.

Etsy

Etsy came in 6th on the 2015 Great Places to Work medium company list. Staff enjoy a great mix of quirky and practical benefits — from dog-friendly o ices (their employee directory even has a page dedicated to employees’ dogs!) to paid sabbaticals, blood pressure screening and 100% employer-paid standard medical and dental plans for both employees and their dependents.

Insomniac Games

Following in the footsteps of tech giants like Google and Facebook, this gaming company uses a range of unusual perks to keep its employees happy. On-site massage therapy, free lunches, fitness classes, car washes and dry cleaning services are all offered.

Snagajob

The company benefits are surely one of the reasons why a massive 97% of employees at Snagajob say they feel proud to work there. In addition to three free days of backup childcare a year, workers are matched up to 6% in their 401(k) plans.

 

We’d love to help you create an amazing benefit plan for your staff.

 

Highest regards,

Stacia

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Communicate Your Benefits Effectively

For employees, understanding their benefits can be intimidating. It takes a whole lot of math – probabilities, prices, copays and deductibles — not to mention trying to weigh up the other options outside of what their employer o ers. So what do they really need to know? And how can you help?

 

Make sure staff know the value of their benefits

To get the credit you deserve for sta benefits, you need to communicate effectively about what you’re offering.

 

Not many people could accurately tell you what their health care package costs their employer. Not many know that, on average, their benefits package makes up just under a third of their compensation (31.7%).29 The better employees understand the value of their benefits, the more likely they are to judge their employer as a good place to work.

 

Help people get the most out of their benefits

Most employees don’t feel informed. They don’t feel comfortable making decisions about their benefits. It’s especially a problem for people with lower household incomes. And that means they don’t make the most out of the benefits offered to them.

 

Giving people reading material doesn’t work unless they’re already engaged and enthusiastic. More likely, that email will be deleted, or the booklet will end up forgotten under a pile of paperwork. Combining these methods with more direct benefits communication is usually the most effective option.

 

Keep your staff informed. Do your employees know the value of their benefits?

 

Highest regards,

Stacia

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Colonial Life, The BeneChoice Companies, Stacia Robinson, insurance, education, community, contribution, employer, employee, benefit, benefits, benefit administration, benefit administrator, life, health, accident, long term disability, workers compensation, planning, The BeneChoice Companies, workplace, employees, turnover, benefits, insurance, turnover, Stacia Robinson, Montgomery, AL, Colonial, accidental, voluntary

What Is Your Retirement Plan?

A good retirement plan can be the difference between a comfortable old age and slipping into poverty – yet one in four U.S. working adults has no retirement savings.

 

More and more employees are looking ahead and wondering what their future holds. Less than half of workers are confident they’ll be able to retire when they want.

 

48% of millennials expect their 401(k), 403(b) or IRAs to be their primary source of retirement income.

 

Workplace retirement plans are the major way that people save successfully. Without a workplace retirement plan, fewer than 10% of workers contribute to retirement savings on their own.  It’s not just older workers who care about retirement.

 

90% of millennials and Generation X employees and 87% of baby boomers all believe that a 401(k) plan is an important employee benefit.

Government assistance and tax credits

According to the IRS, small businesses may be able to claim a tax credit for some of the costs of starting a retirement plan if:

  • You had 100 or fewer employees who received at least $5,000 in compensation from you for the preceding year.
  • You had at least one plan participant who was a non-highly compensated employee.
  • In the three tax years before the first year you’re eligible for the credit, your employees weren’t substantially the same employees who received contributions or accrued benefits in another plan sponsored by you, a member of a controlled group that includes you, or a predecessor of either.

 

Take a look at the IRS website or talk with your tax advisor for full details.

Highest regards,

 

Stacia

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Know What Coverage Options Benefit You and Your Team Most

When choosing coverage for your company, there are many factors that you need to keep in mind.

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  • Should your coverage include families?
  • Should your benefits be offered to part-time workers?
  • What demographic works best for you and your team (Millenials, Baby Boomers and Generation X)?

 

It is always important to think about how the benefits you want to offer will fit with factor such as the key objectives of your business, what competitors are offering to their employees, the budget you have to work with (are you going to fully fund these coverages, share the cost with your employees, or make your employees solely responsible to fund them), and the wants of your employees. Most employee demographics today span a wide range of generations.

 

Another important thing to consider is what millenials are looking for in coverage as opposed to Generation X.

 

To explain this further, Millenials have a lot of the same values as the older generation, along with benefits that will help with the balance of work and other aspects of their lives.

 

Some of these coverages include, paid leave, retirement plans and parental leave.

 

On the other side of the spectrum, Generation X looks for an employer who will fill the gaps in regular coverages they already have.

 

They ask themselves about the “what ifs” in life, things that will require immediate attention; not later in life like Millennials. Coverages they look for include, hospital indemnity insurance, life insurance, accidental insurance, and disability insurance.

 

Once you know the coverage options you want to offer, it is important that you consider the legal matters, large mistakes can result in large penalties and greatly affect your ability to offer benefits to your employees.

 

Follow these rules, and you will come up with the perfect package to not only benefit you, but your employees and their families as well.

 

Warm regards,

 

Stacia

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Millennials Want Your Investment

If you were to ask a Millennial what is their number one thing they want in a company? They would tell you a great training and development program.

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Why would this be? Well a Millennial is focusing now just on having a job now but what opportunities will allow them to move upward into leadership roles. Most millennials today are concerned about their contribution to the whole. They do want the skills to make them successful now but they are looking for workplaces that they can be loyal to today and in the future.

 

I opened this with what Millennials want but come to think of it, that is what all generations want. They want to be developed. They want to know that they belong. They want to know that they have something to contribute. They want to know that they have a home in an employer group.

 

When you give employees the space to be innovative it can create a win/win for the employee and the business.

 

Colonial Life did a survey and 78% of all employees report they would stay with their current employer if they knew there was a career path they could follow.

 

  • Have conversations. Development should be discussed annually at every performance evaluation and at every review in between
  • Ask your people what development looks like to them and how they’d like to grow.
  • Let your employees decide what skills to develop.
  • If you can, give them a budget and freedom to choose their own courses – except for underwater basket weaving of course.
  • Tell people what they can work towards – promotions, responsibility, project management
  • Reward people for taking initiative.
  • Ask your team for their suggestions and proposals.

 

Earning their loyalty will not only bring you new and innovative ideas but it will build their trust as well.

 

Highest regards,

 

Stacia

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Create A Great Workspace

In looking at your company, are you creating a great workspace for your team to come to? Most people when asked say “of course” my team and I are.

Now that we have the immediate response out the way, I’ll ask again. Are you really creating a great place to work?

This isn’t about the paint on the walls or the carpet on the floor. Any building can look nice from an aesthetics point of view but what I am referring to is are you creating the right environment from the people point of view.

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The workplace that helps employees thrive is one that is respectful of every. People communicate openly, honestly and they function from a place on integrity. Everyone is just happier and more productive.

HALT. You are thinking that this doesn’t exist. It does. You must create it and get others to buy into it.

A good workplace starts at the top. If you want others to work as a team, you must be the leader that is a team player. Leading by example is the most effective way to transform a work environment.

Have some fun! Sometimes work can just be so serious. What if you chilled out a little bit more. Others might chill as well. Celebrate birthdays, dress up for the holidays, run an occasional competition.

The other thing that must be mentioned is be aware of bullying. 27% of workers have a current or past direct experience with abusive conduct at work. Everyone has something to contribute and people want to know they are valued and that their ideas and thoughts will be valued.

You should watch for bullying and your managers should watch for bullying. Take care of the situations at  hand immediately by following the proper chain of actions that your organization has outlined. If they haven’t outlined them, do this immediately.

Highest regards,

 

Stacia

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