Open Enrollment Brings New Employee Perks (for a Price)

The pandemic and an increasingly diverse workforce have led to more benefits options for workers.

Business people back to work after pandemic sitting at desk with protection guard between them
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When employees sign up for open enrollment this fall, many will see an expanded menu of benefits, ranging from pet insurance to legal services. A survey by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson found that 94% of employers believe that voluntary benefits—which typically aren’t subsidized but are offered to workers at a group rate discount—are important to their employees, up from 36% in 2018.

Lydia Jilek, senior director of voluntary benefits solutions at Willis Towers Watson, says the pandemic and an increasingly diverse workforce have accelerated calls for benefits that meet employees’ differing needs. And faced with a labor shortage, employers are feeling pressure to offer benefits that will attract and retain employees.

Voluntary benefits appeal to employers because “they’re able to give their employees significantly more choice than they may have otherwise had, but there is a limited out-of-pocket cost,” Jilek says.

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Among the fastest-growing voluntary benefits are those that protect workers against criminals seeking to steal their personal information, Jilek says. Driven by a rise in unemployment fraud, 78% of employers surveyed will offer identity theft protection by 2022, up from 53% currently offering the benefit. Other high-growth offerings include pet insurance, legal benefits and critical illness coverage, which provides supplemental health insurance following, for example, a heart attack or cancer diagnosis.

Michael Korsh
Intern, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Korsh is a recent graduate and incoming graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He majored in journalism with a minor in psychology, and his graduate degree will be in the Medill Investigative Lab specialization of the MS in journalism program. He has previously interned for Injustice Watch, the Medill Investigative Lab and Moment Magazine, and he served as the print managing editor of North by Northwestern student newsmagazine. Korsh became a Kiplinger intern through the American Society of Magazine Editors Internship Program.