As employers look to keep employees as productive as possible, voluntary products continue to grow in popularity. This includes prepaid legal services, which provide another way for a broker to provide value to a client and help with overall employee wellbeing.
An estimated 122 million Americans are enrolled in some form of a legal plan, according to Hyatt Legal Plans, one of the companies offering this service. However, some brokers worry this is part of a trend of providing too much for their clients, thus hurting the employer overall by potentially confusing employees.
It's no surprise that most people will experience some form of a legal event in their lifetime, whether it's a divorce, dispute with a home contractor, creation of a will, traffic violation, etc. Legal plan provider ARAG estimates that three-out-of-four employees experience a life event every year that requires legal counsel. Those events stress employees out, with 79% of employees in an ARAG independent survey saying they did not know where to turn or how to get started with help during or immediately following the event.
It all comes down to another buzzword in employer circles - wellness. "There is so much stuff when you could use some advice or guidance to work through [a legal] project," says ARAG Vice President Dennis Healy. "With all this noise, people get stressed out and distracted, their health deteriorates [and] ... productivity goes down."
By helping to solve this, a broker can add this product to their overall offerings and add additional value, Healy says. Brokers can show their employer clients that it improves productivity and contributes to the wellness component. "You are fleshing out your benefits, providing more service," Healy explains.
Joseph M. DiBella, executive vice president at Conner Strong & Buckelew, a Marlton, N.J.-based brokerage, says that when he brings legal plans to his clients they are very receptive because it does not cost the employer anything. "Part of our job as a good benefit adviser is to bring new solutions to clients that can help them round out their health and benefit plans," he says.
A bad idea?
While DiBella's clients are asking for the product, Bill Danish, a partner at Seacrest Partners Inc. in Atlanta, says that in the battle for space on enrollment systems and payroll slots, he doesn't have many clients looking at this option.
"Our role [as a broker] is providing solutions-based consultative advice. Within that purview, the difference is we really need to look at - are we selling a product for commission or selling service," he says. "With the rising cost of medical ... are we putting too many things in front of people as [the voluntary vendors] fight for a share of the paycheck?"
Overall, Danish worries that employers are giving their employees too much choice. So much, that they will not purchase what they actually need.
But, DiBella explains that if a new product is properly communicated and planned out, it wouldn't have that confusion or jumbling effect. Healy agrees, saying there are numerous surveys of employees wanting choice, particularly the Gen Y consumer. All of these products, including legal services, provide that choice.
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