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Robust Benefits Still Provide a Competitive Edge

By SHRM Online staff  11/19/2013
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The vast majority of American workers say that the benefits package an employer offers, especially health insurance, is important in their decision to accept or reject a job. Yet a quarter of employees are not satisfied with the offerings, according to a new survey.

The 2013 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and research firm Greenwald and Associates, released in November, reveals that:

    • More than three-quarters of candidates viewed the benefits package that an organization offers as extremely (33 percent) or very (45 percent) important in their decision to accept or reject a job.

    • 31 percent were only somewhat satisfied with the benefits their current employer offers, and 26 percent were not satisfied.

    • 88 percent of workers reported that employer-provided health insurance is extremely or very important, far more than for any other workplace benefit.

    • Employees mentioned lower cost (compared with purchasing benefits on their own) and the choice of whether to purchase insurance as strong advantages of voluntary benefits. However, they were split with respect to their comfort in having their company choose their benefits provider and considered the need to pay the full cost of any voluntary benefits (without employer cost-sharing) a disadvantage.

“Employers that offer a strong employee benefits package should find themselves with a competitive advantage over other companies when it comes to attracting and retaining desirable employees,” notes the survey report, Views on the Value of Voluntary Workplace Benefits, published in the November EBRI Notes.

Benefit Gaps

As the report explains, benefits coverage in the workplace, including health insurance, is far from universal:

    • Three-quarters of employees reported that their employer offers them health insurance.

    • Two-thirds indicated they are offered dental insurance (67 percent) or a defined contribution retirement savings plan (66 percent).

    • A little more than half said they are offered vision insurance (60 percent), life insurance (58 percent) and short-term disability insurance (55 percent).

    • Just under half are offered long-term disability insurance (49 percent) and accidental death and dismemberment insurance (48 percent).

    • 38 percent reported being offered a traditional pension or other defined benefit plan.

    • One-quarter are offered long-term-care insurance.

    • Fewer respondents reported being offered retiree health insurance (22 percent) or other noncore ancillary benefits.

Many Small Businesses Lack Benefits

In an unrelated survey, nearly half (42 percent) of U.S. small business owners with between one to 100 full-time employees do not offer any benefits, and one-third (36 percent) are sharing some benefits costs with their employees, according to The Hartford’s 2013 Small Business Success Study.

A total of 2,000 interviews were completed with small business owners across the U.S. between July 26 and Aug. 12, 2013. All respondents had fewer than 100 full-time employees and had been in business for at least one year.

Among small business owners that do offer benefits, such as life insurance and short-term disability insurance, many are sharing these costs with employees:


Life Insurance*

Short-term Disability Insurance*

Paid for by owner completely



Share the costs with employees



Paid for by employees completely



*Asked only to small business owners who have full-time employees and offer the specific type of insurance cited. Source: The Hartford.

“Voluntary benefits can help small businesses attract and retain talented employees by allowing them to offer competitive benefits packages,” said Donato Monaco, vice president of small business for The Hartford’s group benefits. “Voluntary benefits are no longer only for large companies.”

Related SHRM Articles:

Getting Results from Voluntary Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits, August 2013

Achieving New Goals with Alternative Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits, July 2013

Quick Links:

SHRM Online Benefits Topics & Strategy

SHRM Online Health Care Reform Resource Page

SHRM Online Wellness Programs Resource Page

SHRM Online Retirement Plans Resource Page

SHRM Online Outsourcing Resource Page

SHRM Online Workplace Flexibility Resource Page

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