The unemployment rate in South Dakota is well below the national average which means that there are often more jobs available than there are quality applicants to fill them. Attracting and maintaining quality employees in this kind of market can be more difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. One of the best ways to ensure you are able to find candidates with the talents you want is to offer more voluntary benefits.

What are voluntary benefits?
Voluntary benefits are offered through an employer, but paid partially or solely by workers through payroll deductions. They are offered in addition to group health insurance to give a wider menu of options to employees. Voluntary benefit packages can include any number of options, including:
• Disability Insurance
• Life Insurance
• Vision
• Dental
• Critical Illness
• Short/Long Term Disability
These benefits are offered to employees in a group and the employees can decide if they want to take them or waive the coverage.

Important aspects of voluntary benefits:

Minimum Participation
• Employers cannot enroll in or offer group benefits without meeting this requirement.
• Some carriers require that a certain number of people partake in the benefit. This number varies depending on the group size and the carrier. For example, if a group has nine employees, a carrier may require that at least two of them are enrolled.

Portability
• Many voluntary benefits can be portable, meaning that employees can take them with them if they were to leave the group.
• For example, an employee may leave employment but may want to keep their life insurance. The employee can choose to make the policy an individual one and keep paying premiums to hold on to it.

No Underwriting
• Many benefits when purchased individually can require a great deal of underwriting in order to get approval. Providing these group benefits that are voluntary to employees is a great way to avoid that process.
• Employers may find that they want additional life insurance to what they already have, or are ready to purchase their first plans now but are at an older age and may have had a health issue or two. By offering life insurance as a benefit to the whole group, the employer can purchase a plan without going through underwriting just as the employees can up to the guarantee issue amount.

Administration
• Employers are not required to contribute to premiums in anyway. However, the employer will withhold the premium amount from the enrolled employees’ paychecks and then submit it to the carrier.
• The employer is responsible for making sure the premium is paid.

Which benefits are popular right now?
Vision, dental and group life insurance are the most popular voluntary benefits right now. Vision and dental are the two that employees value the most because they are used regularly, especially if they have families with children.

Life insurance may only be used when a claim is filed, but it is still of great value to employees, especially those who may not qualify for an individual plan due to their health. With group life insurance employees are guaranteed issue up to a certain dollar amount. They do not have to go through any underwriting processes to sign up for what the group provides. There are often opportunities to increase the benefit with life insurance and in those cases employees may have to go through underwriting and could see a benefit as high as $200,000 with some carriers.

Hospital indemnity and critical illness insurance are the other two benefits that employees appreciate having. With so many health plans going to higher deductibles, benefits such as these offer relief if there are ever any major illnesses. These often pay out in large lump sums to cover expensive medical conditions such as cancer, which puts employees’ minds at ease knowing that if they were to suffer a major illness, their family finances may not suffer as greatly as they could.

Why offer voluntary benefits?
There are several reasons to offer voluntary benefits to your employees.
1. Employee Satisfaction- By offering a larger menu of benefits you are more likely to both recruit and retain better quality employees. As employees face higher deductibles with their major medical plans voluntary benefits are welcome compliments to their health plans.
2. Benefits to the employer- Group rates are often more competitive than individual rates. Often, employers find that benefits they would like to purchase for themselves are less expensive if offered to the group. Since employers are not required to contribute towards premiums it can save quite a bit of money.

If you are interested in learning more about how voluntary benefits can help your business give us a call at 1-800-669-3959 or 605-331-2100 and we can connect you to an agent in your area who can help you.