The part-time workforce in America is expanding, prompting employers to consider voluntary benefit packages as a recruitment and retention tool not only for full-time staff, but their variable hour employees, as well.

Factors such as a struggling economy and the Affordable Care Act’s looming employer mandate have prompted some employers to hire part-time workers in lieu of full-time ones. The total number of Americans working part-time has grown to about 28 million, or 20% of the working population, according to employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s up from 17% in 2007 (just before the recession).  

“More and more, businesses are relying on part-time workers. But those same employers need strong benefit reward strategies if they want to attract and retain the right employees,” says Joe Murgo, executive director of Aetna Voluntary Plans.

Benefit advisers can suggest voluntary benefit options as a way to help their employer clients with a significant number of part-time workers better position themselves in the market.

See related: Reframing the conversation around voluntary benefits

Since part-time employees are subject to the ACA’s individual mandate, but not required in most cases to be covered under the employer mandate, many part-time employees will receive health care coverage through the public exchanges. Yet, while the public exchanges offer a variety of health coverage choices, they don’t offer employees extra coverage such as adult dental and vision plans, term life, and supplemental income protection.

As employers work toward reducing costs, while remaining competitive in the marketplace, voluntary products such as those not offered on the public exchanges, “will play a larger role in what benefits companies offer their workers,” says Murgo.

Exchange add-ons

Additionally, while many part-time workers may qualify for significant premium subsidies through the public exchanges, they may not be able to afford the high out-of-pocket costs incurred with some of the plans offered.

Benefit advisers can work with their employer clients to build a voluntary benefits package that helps their part-time employees better endure these out-of-pocket costs.

Benefits such as dental and vision plans can offer part-time workers additional health coverage not available to them on the exchange, while life and short-term disability plans can offer extra financial security for unexpected events.

Employers can also offer part-time employees income protection options not available on public exchanges (such as hospital indemnity and broader coverage fixed indemnity), “which help make public exchange minimum essential coverage plans more affordable,” a new white paper from Aetna suggests.

“Plans like these have no deductibles, copays or coinsurance. And because they pay first-dollar fixed-cash benefits, with no deductibles or waiting periods they help make public exchange plans with high deductibles more affordable. These benefits help individuals “buy down” their metallic plan’s high deductibles and coinsurance,” the paper adds. 

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