Non-medical employee benefits have been hit or miss for the last three decades. A small number of companies with deeper pockets have been more than happy to offer benefits above and beyond health insurance in order to recruit and retain. Smaller companies, not so much. But have we reached a point at which employers no longer have a choice? Perhaps.
Health insurance is standard fare. It was a routine benefit long before the Affordable Care Act became law. Now it is nearly universal among employers whose workers earn more than minimum wage. As for non-medical benefits, they are not as widespread. But a seismic shift in the labor force since the COVID pandemic may be on the verge of changing things.
Still Not the Norm
Dallas-based BenefitMall, a general agency representing more than 100 carriers to thousands of benefits brokers nationwide, explains that non-med or voluntary benefits still aren’t the norm for the majority of American employers. BenefitMall is encouraging brokers to start pushing non-med benefits as a way to recruit and retain workers.
Non-med benefits are those benefits above and beyond health insurance. They include things like mental health benefits and life insurance. As voluntary benefits, employers can offer them at a very reasonable expense to both them and their workers.
The state of non-medical benefits in the U.S. is pretty bleak. Based on recent data, here are the percentages of American workers who don’t have access to key non-med options:
Dental and vision: 49%
Life insurance: 67%
Disability insurance: 79%
Mental health benefits: 83%
Surprisingly, 39% of American workers still don’t have medical insurance. It is a safe bet that most of them are hourly workers in industries that tend to pay minimum wage. Nonetheless, there is no expectation of non-med benefits when employees do not even have health insurance.
Millions of Unfilled Jobs
The previous statistics are pretty impressive even when viewed in isolation. But they become more so when you look at them in light of the fact that there are still millions of unfilled jobs in America. In fact, there are more available jobs than there are unemployed workers. That says something important.
It says that employers are having to compete for workers at every level. Those willing to compete more aggressively are also more likely to win the day. But they cannot afford to make the mistake of believing that the only way to compete is by offering a higher salary.
Higher salaries are definitely a plus at a time when inflation is killing household budgets. People need more money just to cover the basics. But if we have learned anything from the Great Resignation, it is that salary isn’t everything. American workers want and need more.
Life Is Uncertain
COVID and its subsequent fallout have made it abundantly clear that life is uncertain even in the midst of prosperity. A person’s fortunes can turn overnight. If it’s not a health issue, it could be company downsizing, the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, etc. COVID made that reality all too real for millions of people.
In light of the stark lessons COVID taught, workers are desperate for support that goes above and beyond health insurance. They are asking for a range of non-medical benefits that touch everything from mental health to personal financial management.
With so many companies struggling to find workers, we may have reached a point at which non-med benefits are no longer an option. They need to be on the table if employers want to fill open positions and keep workers around for the long term.