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Wellness Programs Top Employee Benefits Priorities, SHRM Survey Finds

 
More employers are offering benefits that encourage employees to improve their health in 2012, according to a report released today by the Society for Human Resource Management at its 2012 Annual Conference and Exposition in Atlanta.

Over the past five years, benefits that reward employees for improving their SHRM 2012 Employee Benefits Surveyhealth have increased – part of a broad push to reduce costs and better educate workers about their health benefits. The percentage of employers offering health and lifestyle coaching rose from 33 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2012, and rewards or bonuses for completing a health and wellness program increased from 23 percent in 2008 to 35 percent in 2012.

“Employers recognize that providing employees with the opportunity to improve their health can increase morale, confidence and productivity,” said Mark J. Schmit, vice president of research at SHRM. “Organizations continue to look for ways to manage costs as the economy slowly improves. Benefits that encourage healthier behavior are a cost effective way to keep up employee morale, while healthier employees also help decrease healthcare costs to employers and employees.”

SHRM’s 2012 Employee Benefits Survey is sponsored by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance, which provides disability, life and supplemental accident and health insurance for employees and their families through the workplace. It is based on a survey of 550 randomly selected HR professionals.

HR professionals continue to report that financial pressures are negatively affecting employee benefit offerings. In response to those pressures, many employers have shifted to benefits that place primary responsibility and control to employees, through voluntary benefits programs and changes in retirement offerings. For example, more employers offer defined-contribution retirement-savings plans (92 percent) than defined-benefit pension plans (21 percent) in 2012.

“By shifting primary responsibility in controlling certain healthcare and financial benefits, employers are recognizing a shift in workplace culture,” Schmit said. “The new plans allow employees have more control over how they save for retirement and manage their health, while reducing costs for employers. These plans are also more flexible, and thus more attractive, to employees who will likely not spend an entire career with one organization.”

Employer spending on benefits remained stable this year with organizations spending, on average, 19 percent of an employee’s annual salary on voluntary benefits, 18 percent on mandatory benefits and 10 percent on pay for time employees did not work.

Among other findings:
  • The five most common benefits in 2012 are paid holidays (97 percent); prescription drug program     coverage (97 percent); dental insurance (96 percent); defined-contribution retirement savings plans (92 percent); and mail-order     prescription programs (91 percent).
  • A third of employers (35 percent) offer health care coverage to same-sex domestic partners, and 32 percent offer it to opposite-sex domestic partners.     Fifteen percent provide domestic partner benefits, not including health care coverage, for opposite-sex partners, and the same percent offer the benefit to same-sex partners.
  • Health care premium discounts for healthier behavior are on the rise. Health care premiums discounts for getting annual health risk assessments rose from 11 percent in 2008 to 21 percent in 2012, while discounts for not using tobacco products increased to 20 percent this year from 8 percent in 2008.
  • Six percent of organizations offer pet health insurance, 5 percent allow pets at     work, 1 percent pay for pet care expenses while an employee is  traveling for business, and 1 percent have a “Take Your Pet to Work” day.
Download the full report at http://www.shrm.org/surveys.

Winston Benefits is a HR solutions company that helps businesses automate and streamline their employee benefit programs. Custom designed and developed client specific solutions help enrich their total compensation and rewards programs while optimizing processes such as benefit communications, enrollment and administration.

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