What Are Voluntary Benefits? A Beginner’s Guide for 2024

Dec 6, 2023 | Employee Benefits

Josh Rust

As Abenity's Marketing Manager, Josh has a keen insight into the latest HR and recruiting trends.

Choosing employee perks is like a jigsaw puzzle. 

Get it right, and your employees are happy. Get it wrong, and you slowly start hearing dissatisfied rumblings—as well as a potential decrease in productivity, happiness, and retention.

As an employer, you want your employees to enjoy their life at your company. You know a happy team is a productive team. 

Yet, you still have a question in your head: “Are my employee perks working?” 

“Are they genuinely improving my team’s experience and work energy?”

“Are they attracting and retaining top talent for me?”

In this guide, we’re going to spice things up. Let’s talk all about voluntary benefits and how they can help you achieve your goals as a company.

What Are Voluntary Benefits? 

Voluntary benefits for employees are the additional perks beyond the essentials like health insurance and retirement plans. They’re the extras that enhance an employee’s benefits package.

Discounted gym memberships, pet insurance, or financial counseling are examples of voluntary benefits that take a package from good to great.

In simple terms, voluntary benefits are customized options for employees. They allow employees to tailor their benefits to fit their needs and lifestyles. 

It’s choice and flexibility.

Now, you might wonder, why “voluntary”? 

The answer is simple. Unlike mandatory benefits, employees decide whether to get these extras. That flexibility allows for a more dynamic HR Strategy.

Voluntary Benefits vs. Traditional Benefits

Besides voluntary benefits for employees, there are also traditional benefits.

In this section, we’ll talk about the difference between the two.

Voluntary Benefits

These are extra perks that employees can choose based on personal preferences, like gym discounts, pet insurance, or commuter benefits. 

The defining feature here is choice. 

With voluntary benefits, you have the flexibility to decide whether you want to opt in and enhance your benefits beyond the basics. 

It’s about customization and tailoring your perks to your unique preferences and lifestyle.

Traditional Benefits

These are the basics, the fundamental components of any standard benefits package, including health insurance and retirement plans. They offer a foundational level of coverage for everyone.

The Crucial Difference

Traditional benefits are the consistent, reliable elements that come standard with your job. 

In contrast, voluntary benefit plans adds a layer of customization. They allow individuals to personalize their benefits package, offering a bit more flexibility.

However, it’s not about choosing one over the other. It’s about finding the balance between the two. 

Now that we’ve clarified the difference, let’s delve further into why this balanced approach is the key to a robust benefits plan.

Why Include Voluntary Benefits in Your Benefits Plan? 

Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of voluntary benefits, you might be thinking if they deserve a spot in your benefits package. 

Let’s delve into five essential reasons why incorporating voluntary benefits can significantly impact your company.

1. They’re tailored to Individual Needs 

Voluntary benefits allow employees to tailor their perks based on their unique needs and preferences. 

A survey by PeopleKeep in 2022 found that 65% of employees value choosing their own benefits, yet only 36% of respondents felt they had a say in their benefits.

So, if you want to be an employer that employees value, you should definitely consider adding voluntary benefit plans

2. Enhanced Employee Satisfaction

Content employees are more likely to be productive. 

A study found that happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy employees.

And voluntary benefits go beyond the basics. This additional care increases job satisfaction and fosters a positive company culture.

3. Attract and Retain Top Talent

In a competitive job market, standing out is crucial. 

According to Indeed, retaining talent in an organization is important because it creates a secure environment and helps reduce turnover rates.

Voluntary benefits act as a magnet and draws top talent to your company. Once on board, these perks play a role in retaining valuable team members—also resulting in reduced turnover.

4. They’re Cost-Effective for Employers

Offering a range of voluntary benefits doesn’t necessarily mean it will be expensive for you. 

Many of these perks are budget-friendly while providing significant value to employees. It’s a win-win that adds to the overall attractiveness of your voluntary benefit plans.

5. Comprehensive Well-Being Support

While traditional benefits cover the basics, voluntary benefits extend the support. 

Whether it’s employee mental health resources, wellness programs, or financial counseling, these add-ons contribute to a holistic approach to employee well-being.

In essence, integrating voluntary benefits into your plan is giving your benefits package an upgrade. 

It addresses the diverse needs of your team while positioning your company as an employer of choice. 

With that being said, let’s explore specific examples of voluntary benefits in action to understand how they can impact your workplace.

7 Examples of Voluntary Benefits 

Example #1: Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is more than just a perk for animal lovers—it’s almost like family care.

This voluntary benefit covers various veterinary expenses like routine check-ups and unexpected medical emergencies. As a result, your employees will have more peace of mind, knowing that their pets are covered.

Example #2: Commuter Benefits

Commuting daily can cost a lot of money. 

And commuter benefits provides tax-free funds for public transportation and parking expenses. This not only supports employees in their daily travels but also reflects your commitment to their overall well-being, both at work and in their daily lives.

Example #3: Financial Counseling

Financial wellness is a fundamental aspect of a thriving workforce. 

Financial counseling services offer personalized guidance, assisting employees in making informed decisions about budgeting, investing, and planning for the future. This voluntary benefit allows your employees to worry less and manage their finances better.

Example #4: Student Loan Assistance

Student loans can significantly burden many employees, especially nowadays, where tuition fees are incredibly high.

Student loan assistance, whether through repayment programs or direct aid, acknowledges and addresses this financial struggle. 

By offering this benefit, you demonstrate that you understand that student loan is hard to pay and actively support their financial well-being.

Example #5: Identity Theft Protection

In our digitally-driven era, protecting personal information is paramount. 

Identity theft protection services offer a layer of security, monitoring and safeguarding against potential threats. Providing this voluntary benefit reinforces your commitment to the security and peace of mind of your employees.

Example #6: Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Mental health is a MUST, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) play a crucial role. 

These confidential counseling and support services provide a safe space for employees to address personal and work-related challenges. 

By promoting mental well-being, EAPs contribute to a supportive workplace culture that values the holistic health of employees.

Example #7: Legal Assistance

Life comes with legal complexities, and legal assistance benefits serve as a valuable resource. 

This voluntary benefit provides employees with access to expert legal advice and assists them in dealing with various legal issues. Offering legal assistance reinforces your commitment to supporting employees through life’s challenges.

These examples highlight the practicality and impact of voluntary benefits. 

Each benefit offers and addresses specific needs, contributing to a benefits package that actively supports and prioritizes the well-being of your workforce. 

But with all the examples here, how can you implement voluntary benefits to your benefits package. That’s what we’ll talk about in the next section.

How to Choose the Right Voluntary Benefits for Your Plan 

Creating an effective voluntary benefits plan demands a strategic approach. 

Let’s break down five detailed steps to guide you through the selection process to ensure your benefits package fits your workforce.

Step #1: Understand Employee Needs and Demographics

Start by delving into the intricacies of your workforce. 

Conduct surveys or casual discussions to grasp the diverse needs and demographics of your employees. Consider factors like age, life stages, and familial situations. 

Younger employees might find student loan assistance appealing, while those in different life stages may prioritize benefits like childcare or retirement planning. 

This step lays the foundation for tailoring your benefits to the specific challenges and aspirations of your team.

Step #2: Assess the Local Landscape

Your workplace is part of a broader community. 

Assess the local landscape to understand the unique offerings and challenges of your area. Consider factors like transportation infrastructure, cultural preferences, and available services. 

For example, commuter benefits might be highly relevant if your office is in a city with extensive public transportation. In contrast, a rural setting may benefit more from wellness programs that cater to outdoor activities. 

Aligning your benefits with the local context ensures both relevance and resonance.

Step #3: Align with Company Culture and Objectives

Your voluntary benefits should align with your company’s culture and bigger objectives. 

If your organization prioritizes work-life balance, consider perks like flexible work arrangements, mental health support, or wellness programs. For companies focused on career development, educational assistance and professional development benefits might be a priority. 

Just be sure that the benefits reflect your company’s culture—to ensure you support your employees while reinforcing your workplace culture.

Step #4: Consider Budget Constraints

Since there are many benefit options, you have to consider your budget. 

Evaluate if you can provide the benefit without financial constraints while considering both direct costs and long-term value. 

Sometimes, seemingly simple benefits, like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), can offer significant impact without straining your financial resources. 

So, always strike a balance between cost and value to ensure your benefits package remains sustainable and impactful.

Step #5: Seek Employee Input and Feedback

Engage your employees in the decision-making process by actively seeking their input and feedback. 

After all, they are the ones who will directly benefit from these offerings. Conduct surveys, host focus groups, or organize town hall meetings to gather insights on their preferences and priorities. 

This collaborative approach ensures that the benefits you choose are well-received and are truly beneficial. 

By making them active participants in the decision-making process, you not only enhance the satisfaction but also create a workplace culture that values the voices of its employees.

By following these five steps, your voluntary benefits plan becomes tailored and meaningful for your employees. 

Implement Voluntary Benefits Today!

The process of designing an effective voluntary benefits plan can be both fulfilling and challenging. 

The true strength of voluntary benefits lies in empowering your employees—which should be one of your goals if you want to be an effective company. 

As you craft your voluntary benefits plan, consider the earlier examples as sources of inspiration. 

Tailor these ideas to fit into your compensation planning to ensure the benefits you choose are truly beneficial and reinforce your company culture.

Don’t settle for standard benefits; strive for a holistic employee experience

To further help you on this journey, explore our Employee Perks Report—a valuable resource offering a side-by-side comparison of savings from industry-leading discount providers. 

Every detail matters in fostering a workplace where employees thrive.

Choose wisely, empower your workforce, and let your benefits plan become a testament to a workplace that values, supports, and uplifts its greatest asset—its people. 

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