Plan sponsors can raise the level of participation in voluntary benefits by providing live assistance to explain options to their employees, according to a recent survey.

“Voluntary Benefits: What is Controlling Employees’ Choices?” released by the employee benefits group division of Sun Life Financial Inc. surveyed 3,000 employees and found an overwhelming number report spending no time reviewing their benefits options — although a quarter of respondents reviewed medical insurance options for 30 minutes or more.

Participation rates not only increase when employees receive live assistance to learn about the benefit, but also through online or print assistance during the enrollment process as well.

“Designing crystal clear communications that help people grasp both their health risks and their benefits options is a win-win for plan administrators and employees,” says Michael E. Shunney, senior vice president and general manager of Sun Life’s employee benefits group. “And plan administrators wear many hats; only outstanding communications can help them work at peak efficiency.”

Other survey results include:

  • In addition to providing live assistance programs, employers must also make employees aware of the risks and costs of suffering a disability, as they underestimate their need for short- and long- term disability options by incorrectly assuming they will be just as likely to need life insurance during their working years.
  • Plan participants rank dental coverage equally as protective as both short- and long-term disability. This represents a failure in communication as the financial loss from disability or from the death of a breadwinner is in no way close to the costs of a dental procedure.

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