As supplemental insurance and wellness programs become more important to employee and employer alike, Mary Tavarozzi, Willis Towers Watson national leader, group benefits, discusses with EBA trends in the space.

EBA: What are the latest trends in group employee benefits?

Tavarozzi: Group employee benefits are really focusing on a balanced portfolio. For the last couple of years, it was a lot of focus on medical benefits. It is now a focus on benefits that have income protection, asset protection and provide ease of use for employees in the workplace.

Mary Tavarozzi

EBA: Are people asking for and using voluntary products?

Tavarozzi: Employers are asking for it. Surveys Willis Towers Watson has done show that employer interest in moving forward to implement voluntary benefits has almost doubled in the past two years. It is a full range of benefits from things that have been traditional in the voluntary space world, such as supplemental, life and disability. It also includes non-traditional benefit areas, such as student loan repayment assistance and discount purchase assistance.

EBA: Do employees understand voluntary?

Tavarozzi: Employees will understand voluntary benefits when the employer weaves the voluntary benefit offerings into their core benefit offerings. Taking down the barrier between voluntary benefits and core benefits is key so employees can see how they all fit together as one comprehensive plan.

EBA: What role is wellness playing?

Tavarozzi: Wellness is undergoing an evolution. Wellness programs were initially focused on helping employees identify health risks and identify opportunities to improve health and maintain their health. They are shifting now to be more comprehensive in terms of focusing on emotional health and wellbeing, such as stress reduction. They are also providing tools for employees to have better financial wellness and financial wellbeing.

EBA: Why is financial wellness important?

Tavarozzi: For employers, financial wellbeing for the employee population is important because employees who are stressed over financial issues are not as productive as they can be and often are going to miss time for work or even leave the workforce.

On the employee side, financial wellbeing is important because there are more pressures in two working-parent families and two incomes being needed. Protecting your financial income through things like disability insurance and life insurance is critical, as well as planning for future retirement needs, while still trying to pay off student loans or caring for elderly parents.

EBA: What has been an ah-ha moment in your career?

Tavarozzi: The biggest ah-ha moment in my career was the time period when employers really didn’t provide paid disability leave. When women really started to enter the workforce in large numbers and employers saw their female employees were not coming back to work from a maternity leave because they had been unpaid. It was an ah-ha moment for me and employers that we could design something that would keep employees loyal and come back to work. It is a win-win for an employee from the financial security standpoint and also for the employer who gets a valuable employee back. It became more widespread after that and is a wonderful trend.

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