Voluntary benefits 101

A starter guide for busy employers who want practical information about voluntary benefits without the jargon.

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Voluntary benefits in a nutshell

Voluntary benefits help pay for out-of-pocket expenses that major medical and other insurance don't cover. Also called supplemental benefits, voluntary benefits are used to meet a diverse range of needs. Examples include paying for out-of-pocket medical expenses, household bills and travel expenses, as well as replacing missed wages. Many employees like that benefits such as disability, accident and hospital are paid directly to them, so they can use them where they are needed.

The beauty of voluntary benefits is they can be customized for the specific needs of a business and their employees, catering to certain vocations, stages of life, location and lifestyles.

Payment options for voluntary benefits include:

  • 100% employee-paid
  • Partially funded by both employee and employer
  • wheel chair icon
    Disability
  • leaf icon
    Life
  • crutches icon
    Accident
  • bed icon
    Hospital indemnity
  • heart monitor icon
    Critical illness
  • ribbon icon
    Cancer
  • tooth brush icon
    Dental
  • glasses icon
    Vision

How businesses and employees benefit

Adding voluntary benefits to your compensation package supports your business and employees.
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Advantages to the business

  • Enrich benefits package without adding to your bottom line
  • Help control rising health insurance premiums
  • Attract and retain skilled talent

Advantages to employees

  • Valuable coverage at affordable rates
  • Flexible benefit options to fit workers' needs
  • Fill in gaps in major medical coverage
  • Confidence the benefits have been vetted

Busting the myths — Why small businesses don't offer voluntary benefits

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Myth 1: Affordability

Voluntary benefits can be partially funded or even fully funded by the employee. This means businesses have complete control of how much they spend and what options they choose to add.

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Myth 2: Not enough employees to qualify

Depending on the benefits carrier and type of coverage, most businesses with fewer than 10 employees can qualify for many types of voluntary benefits. And some carriers don't have any minimum staffing requirements at all.

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Myth 3: Administering a voluntary benefits plan is costly and time-consuming 

Many voluntary benefits can be paid with pre-tax income which can save employers and their workers money. Additionally, some carriers can provide technology, tools and educational services that can simplify benefits administration, so small business owners have more time to focus on running their business.

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Myth 4: Employees don't value them

While most employers believe employees value take-home pay over benefits, employees actually value non-medical insurance benefits and voluntary benefits more than employers realize.

Frequently asked questions

Got a question about voluntary benefits? Here are some FAQs from businesses and HR professionals.

Who can get voluntary benefits?

Administration and costs

Health care and voluntary benefits

Filing a claim, getting paid

Voluntary benefits 101

Strengthen your business with our quick start guide on voluntary benefits without the jargon or complicated details. And build a well-rounded benefits package that will help attract and retain skilled workers.