Voluntary Benefits: What They Are And Why They Matter

Meeting on voluntary benefits

If you’re looking for a way to overhaul your business, bring in high-performing employees, and keep those employees longer, consider offering voluntary benefits.

The extra perks that supplement your regular wages can make your company a more desirable place to work — for potential, new, and existing team members alike.

In this article, we discuss how to create a voluntary benefits program for businesses of all types and teams of all sizes.

Table Of Contents

What Are Voluntary Benefits?

Stacking coins

Voluntary benefits are any perks provided by an employer that an employee may choose to participate in or opt out of.

Perks may include products, services, and programs such as:

  • Health insurance
  • Vision insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Supplemental disability insurance
  • Gym memberships
  • Financial counseling
  • Student loan repayment programs
  • Employee incentive programs
  • Mortgage protection insurance
  • Pet insurance
  • Travel insurance
  • Car insurance
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Legal counseling
  • Identity theft protection
  • Homeowners’ insurance
  • Home security installation discounts
  • Discounted products of all types and sizes

Voluntary benefits are similar to regular and fringe benefits — and the options you include can be assigned to any of the three categories — but with the added flexibility that team members can accept or decline to take advantage of the offerings.

Why Voluntary Benefits Matter

Employees discussing voluntary benefits

1) Enhance Existing Benefits Program

Voluntary benefits are a great way to improve and enhance any existing programs your business already has in place.

An easy way to maximize the impact of these perks is to find out what your team members need — help paying for uniforms, commute costs, or child care — and then create a benefits program to satisfy that need.

2) Appeal To Employees Of All Ages

One of the many nice things about these types of benefit programs is that they appeal to employees of all ages.

For example, you may choose to offer a program that includes short-term disability insurance and life insurance for the younger generation in addition to supplemental insurance that helps protect against the expenses of critical illness and injury for the older generation.

3) Encourage Financial Well-Being

Unlike most major medical insurance — which is paid to doctors or hospitals — voluntary benefits go directly to your employees.

Team members can use the funds to help pay for deductibles, coinsurance, doctor co-pays, non-covered treatments, and even everyday living expenses.

Allowing for this type of flexibility can help your team members guard against financial hardship brought on by unexpected health and financial issues.

4) Help Your Company Save Money

In most cases, voluntary benefits allow you to pay all, some, or none of the costs associated with the program and save money in the process.

Depending on the program you put in place, the benefits are usually discounted right off the top as a way to get you to enroll.

You can then choose to structure it in such a way that the business pays 100% of the costs, the employees pay 100% of the costs, or you divide the costs between the business and the employee (e.g., 50/50, 60/40, 70/30, etc.).

5) Reduce Activity Into And Out Of 401(k) And 403(b) Accounts

voluntary benefits like 401k

Depending on the type of account they have, withdrawing money from a 401(k) or 403(b) account can expose your employees to a 10% penalty and income tax on the distribution.

A benefits program that provides for emergency expenses, such as dental, vision, or disability, can fill the gap in certain situations and prevent employees from tapping their retirement accounts for the funds they need.

6) Attract New Employees

Faced with the choice between two identical positions — one with higher pay and one with benefits — job seekers will usually choose the one that comes with benefits.

With a strong benefits program in place, your business will be better positioned to attract the top talent that drives your success.

7) Improve Employee Engagement

Keeping your employees engaged while at work can mean the difference between a job done well and a job done poorly.

A benefits program of the type we’ve been discussing in this article goes a long way toward ensuring the long-term engagement of your team.

8) Support Employee Retention

Once you’ve assembled a team of high-performers, you want to keep them in your business for as long as possible.

Voluntary benefits play a big role in supporting this type of employee retention.

How To Set Up A Voluntary Benefits Program

Woman showing how to set up a voluntary benefits program

1) Survey Employees

One of the first steps in setting up a voluntary benefits program is to survey your employees to find out what they need.

Identifying which benefits they would most prefer can help you make the right decision for your team and your business.

2) Contact Your Current Benefits Provider

If you already offer benefits of any kind to your employees, a good first step in setting up a voluntary benefits program is to contact your current provider.

They may have other plans you can offer your team. Or, your existing plan may have added features that you weren’t aware of that you can pass on to your employees.

3) Research New Benefits Providers

If your current benefits provider doesn’t have what you need, take the time to research other companies to see if they would be a better fit.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to do business with only one company. If you run the bulk of your benefits package through Company X, you can always purchase a supplemental package through Company Y.

4) Meet With Management

Before putting any voluntary benefits program in place, be sure to meet with company management.

Doing so ensures that everyone is on the same page and you’ve got the approval you need from those higher up the chain of command.

5) Request Proposals

After you know what your team and your business needs, you’ve researched the options out there, and you’ve received approval from those in charge, request proposals from third-party providers to see which one has the best offering.

In the process, be sure to ask about the providers’ terms of service (the part that directly affects your business) and whether or not the company provides assistance during the rollout of your program.

6) Create A Plan That Is Good For Your Business

In this article, we’ve talked a lot about partnering with a benefits provider, but there are certainly other ways to implement a voluntary benefits program that don’t require putting all your eggs in one basket.

In fact, you can create the plan all on your own if you so choose.

For example, you might contract with Company X to provide travel insurance, but then also partner with local businesses to include discounted products and services in the program.

The bottom line is that, with a bit of effort and time, you can create the perfect plan for your business and your team — you don’t have to rely on a single company to provide it all for you.

7) Roll Out The Voluntary Benefits Plan

Once you’ve got the details of the plan set to your liking, roll it out for all to see. Keep in mind that this usually involves more than just a memo on everyone’s desk or an email in their inbox.

You will likely need to provide print material, web pages, personal guidance, and other resources so that your employees can get the answers they need to make the right decisions.

Transform Your Schedule Into A Benefit

Scheduling app as a voluntary benefit

A voluntary benefits program can take many forms, and the benefits themselves can be anything that adds value to your business and the culture in which your employees work.

To that end, don’t overlook one of the best ways to kick-start your perks program: transform your schedule into a benefit.

Inch can help.

The Inch suite of employee-management tools makes it easy to set up a flexible schedule that your whole team will love.

Depending on how your business operates and what your employees need, you might choose to offer options such as:

Even if you choose to work the standard 9-to-5, you can use the Inch software to transform all your employee-management activities — everything from task management and time tracking to labor cost management and team communication — into voluntary benefits.

Try Inch for free today and find out what your business has been missing and what it won’t be able to do without.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit TryInch.com today.

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