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Press Release

Pandemic accelerates employer voluntary benefit offerings, Willis Towers Watson survey finds

Growth seen in critical illness, identity theft and pet insurance benefits

May 13, 2021

Health and Benefits

ARLINGTON, VA, May 13, 2021 — The pandemic is driving more employers to offer voluntary benefits, with nearly all employers (94%) expecting these employee-pay-all or unsubsidized benefits to hold great importance in their organizations during the next three years, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company.

The Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey found that employer interest in offering voluntary benefits has been burgeoning, with 94% of employers finding voluntary benefits to be important to their employee value proposition and Total Rewards strategy three years from now, compared with just 36% of employers deeming them to be important in 2018.

“Employers view voluntary benefits as a cost-effective way to offer employees a wide range of benefit options that best meet their needs,” said Lydia Jilek, senior director, Voluntary Benefits Solutions, Willis Towers Watson. “The pandemic has given rise to an increase in benefits that protect employees against big hospital bills and loss of income, and provide personal protection.”

Survey identifies top five fastest growing benefits

As employers face a different landscape, they are proactively expanding their voluntary benefits to address new trends and better meet the needs of a diverse workforce, especially those affected by the pandemic.

The top five fastest growing benefits

Voluntary benefit Currently offered Will offer by 2022 or beyond Percentage point change
Identify theft 53% 78% +25%
Hospital indemnity 42% 65% +23%
Pet insurance 47% 69% +22%
Critical illness 57% 76% +19%
Group legal 58% 75% +17%

The survey also found that the following voluntary offerings are among the most widespread benefits, services and perks that employers currently offer or are planning to offer over the next two years:

  • Financial planning/counseling through an existing vendor (93%)
  • Tuition reimbursement programs (88%)
  • Telephonic financial planning/counseling (77%)
  • Onsite fitness center (54%)
  • Backup childcare (48%)
  • Elder care (44%)

“Our research shows that employees are craving more voluntary and flexible benefits,” said Jilek. “Employers are supplementing existing core benefits with more personalized benefits to provide additional ways to support their employees’ overall wellbeing and enhance the perceived value of their benefit offerings — including adding voluntary benefits to the core benefits administration flow.”

About the survey

A total of 446 employers participated in the 2021 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey, which was conducted between February 23 and March 12, 2021. Among those, 238 employers, who employ 3.7 million workers, responded to the voluntary benefits section of the survey.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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