Rising health care costs and concerns for employees’ financial wellness and retirement preparedness are nudging employers to re-evaluate their benefit offerings.

Wellness programs have jumped notably since 2011, when 60% of employers said they offered some type of wellness programs, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2015 Employee Benefits Survey. In 2015, 70% of employers said they offer wellness programs, up from 62% last year.

“Wellness benefits provide employers with a preventative approach that can reduce health care expenses for organizations over the long haul,” says Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs. “Rising health care costs also remained a primary driver for how other benefit costs are allocated, as employers are still evaluating the impact of the Affordable Care Act.”

Wellness programs help employers increase engagement and retention, she noted Monday during SHRM’s annual conference in Las Vegas. “We see organizations tackling wellness on a variety of fronts,” she added.

She noted companies implementing wellness programs targeting chronic conditions would likely see the most bang for their buck in the long run. The SHRM research noted another notable spike over the five-year span, with smoking cessation programs jumping 8% and preventive programs specifically targeting employees with chronic conditions jumping 7%.

“When organizations are smart at strategizing benefits, they look at costs and what benefits employees want,” she says. And while savings won’t be immediate, she says including smart programs will prove effective.

Some of the newer health care and wellness benefits the report noted this year include:

  • Egg freezing for nonmedical reasons (2%).
  • Company provided fitness bands/activity trackers (13%).
  • Company-organized fitness competitions (34%).

And with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on same-sex marriage, Esen says it’ll take some time to see if any unexpected costs come with a potential influx of new spouses.
However, she notes, many employers have been anticipating the court ruling and have already taken steps to address it. According to the report, 62% of organizations extend health care benefits to same-sex spouses already, and 41% offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners.

Financial wellness, too

And although health care has been a consistent headliner, especially in light of recent Supreme Court rulings and looming provisions set to take effect, the idea of financial well-being is also an area of interest benefits managers are continuing to focus on.

According to SHRM, there is a continued shift to defined contribution savings plans and Roth 401(k) savings plans. DC plans continue to be the most offered benefit (90%), followed by Roth 401(k)s (48%), with defined benefit plans and cash balance pension plans taking up the rest, 6% and 8% respectively.

In addition to retirement plan offerings, financial education has also seen some healthy growth, with an 11% spurt in individual/one-on-one investment advice offerings.

“Although these programs do not directly contribute to employees’ retirement savings, they can help employees plan for a financially sound retirement as well as other major life goals,” the report notes.

According to the report, the most common benefits included paid holidays (98%), dental insurance and prescription drug programs (both 96%), and mental health coverage and professional memberships (both at 91%).

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