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Voluntary Benefit Questions

Administration and cost

How much administration is incurred by offering voluntary benefits?
If you find a good carrier, very little. Many offer administrative services such as online billing and payments at little or no cost.

Can employees add coverage throughout the year, or is this limited to an annual enrollment window?
This decision is partly up to the employer. For benefits paid on a pre-tax basis, changes are only allowed annually. Otherwise, an employer can decide how often they would like to make benefits available.

Can employees take their benefits with them if they leave the company?
Many carriers offer voluntary benefits that are portable, meaning employees can take the coverage with them if they change jobs or retire – as long as the premiums continue to be paid.

How much do voluntary benefits cost?
Voluntary benefits range in cost. This can vary based on the type of product, the age of the applicant, their use of tobacco and other factors. Voluntary benefits are designed to be affordable for a wide range of incomes.

What are the tax implications of voluntary benefits?
Some voluntary benefits can be deducted from paychecks before tax – offering savings for employees – whereas others must be paid for after. Your accountant will be best suited to talk to you about the tax savings and implications in offering voluntary benefits.

Health care and voluntary benefits

How do voluntary benefits tie in to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?
Most voluntary products are considered “excepted benefits” under the current ACA regulations, so are not impacted. A voluntary carrier experienced in benefits communication and education can help educate your employees on their health options – including how this varies by state – and review their individual situation to identify any gaps they may want to fill with voluntary benefits.

Is health insurance available as a voluntary benefit?
No. Health insurance is not a part of voluntary benefits. However, supplemental health benefits can help alleviate some of the out-of-pocket costs that major medical plans may not cover.

Can voluntary benefits be offered if health insurance is not?
Yes. They can and often are. However, it’s important that your employees understand the coverage is limited and is not health insurance.

Does an existing cafeteria plan need to be modified to allow for additional voluntary benefit plan options?
It depends if voluntary benefits will be paid for with pre-tax or post-tax dollars. If paid via post-tax dollars, the plan would normally not need to be modified. If premium is paid pre-tax, the plan would need to be modified.

Highest regards,

 

Stacia

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Why Small Businesses Don’t Offer Voluntary Benefits

Busting the myths of voluntary benefits

Many small business owners are just plain unaware that they are able to offer their staff this kind of benefit, thinking they are just for the bigger players. The vast majority of smaller companies may have never had a conversation with anyone about employee benefits. All these points have led to the creation and perpetuation of a number of widely-held beliefs that are untrue.

What myths have you heard? We’ll share what we have heard most commonly.

Myth Affordability

Small businesses believe they can’t afford to pay for voluntary benefits, even if they see the positives in offering them.

Truth – Voluntary employee benefits can be partially-funded or even fully-funded by the employee. It means that the company has complete control on how much they decide to spend and what options they choose to add.

Myth Not enough employees to qualify.

Truth – While it does depend on the carrier and the product, many voluntary benefits are available to businesses with single-figure numbers of staff, and some have no minimum requirements.

Myth Administering a voluntary benefits plan is costly and complex.

Truth – Certain benefits provide tax advantages and are tax-deductible. Some can be paid for through payroll deduction. Many qualified carriers will be pleased to help with education of employees and can provide easy enrollment and administration, usually at no direct cost – allowing the employer to get on with running their business.

Myth Employees don’t value it.

Truth – This misperception often stems from employers themselves. While most employers believe employees value take-home pay over benefits, employees actually value non-medical insurance benefits and voluntary benefits almost twice as much as employers believe.2

1 “Small Businesses Face Operational, Regulatory Challenges.” Gallup Economy, 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
2 “Small Business, Big Benefits: Sharpening the competitive edge with voluntary benefits.” Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company, May 2014.

Highest regards,

 

Stacia

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How businesses and employees benefit from voluntary benefits

Benefits to the business

No or low cost

Employers can offer voluntary benefits at no direct cost (i.e. 100% employee-paid), leaving them with just the cost of administration.

A way to control rising health care costs

With the cost of health care on the rise, employers are starting to shy away from providing top end, ‘cover all’ primary health care benefits. Instead, they are choosing less expensive coverage and offering workers a wider range of voluntary health benefits to help fill the gaps.

Attracting and keeping top talent

Employers, especially small businesses where key members of staff can be crucial to the success of the company, are looking for effective ways to retain their staff and recruit the best talent. In fact, according to Gallup economy, employee hiring and retention remains among the top five most important challenges facing business owners1.

Voluntary benefit plans help smaller businesses compete with larger competitors by enabling the provision of a variety of benefits to help them stand out in the war for talent. They can also be a useful tool in employee retention: a benefits package that an employee has chosen and that’s tailored to their changing needs is difficult to give up.

Help with telling your staff – at no direct cost

There’s no point offering benefits if your employees don’t know about them. Communicating employee benefits can be tricky, but with voluntary benefits, some carriers will gladly help with communicating the benefit offerings to employees, either by using tried and trusted support tools, visiting the business for group meetings, or even meeting one-on-one with each employee to help review their own personal needs and best matches for benefits. These meetings may include details about what the benefit provides, a Q&A session and helping both the employer and employee with the actual enrollment process — usually at no direct cost to the employer.

 

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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Companies Are 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.

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, communicate

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 o er interns. They provide interns with a competitive benefits package which includes health care coverage and free housing.

 

PPR Talent Management
Staff 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. Sta 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.

 

Follow their lead!

 

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, communicate

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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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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Do You Offer Paid Parental Leave?

Parental leave has been a hot topic in the United States in recent years with the federal government starting to offer paid parental leave and San Francisco becoming the first U.S. city to mandate full paid parental leave in Spring 2016.

 

However, only a minority of America’s workers have dedicated paid parental leave according to the the Paid Family and Medical Leave Fact Sheet produced by the United States Department of Labor.

 

Most have to patch together different types of paid leave if they want any time to recover from childbirth and bond with their children. It means that even if they do come back to work, they’ll be struggling to manage parenthood without any sick leave or vacation time remaining, which isn’t healthy for them or your company.

 

While offering paid parental leave may not be right for every business – and small businesses in particular understandably have concerns over the cost implications – it is worth weighing the pros and cons carefully.

 

If you make paid maternity available, it’s more likely that a mother will come back to her job after the birth of her child, according to the Office of Management and Budget of the US Government, saving you recruitment and training costs down that line. In addition, if moms are returning to work soon after their child is born due  to financial pressures, there is a risk that they’ll be distracted and less productive. Offering some paid leave could help ensure that whey they do return, they are fit for work and at their most productive.

 

And it’s not just for mothers.

 

All parents benefit from time off to bond with their child. It can lead to better health for the child, a better family life, reduced stress and increased happiness and productivity.

 

Highest regards,

Stacia

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