Employee Benefits Survey Summary: Trends You Need to Know

A faux newspaper front page headline says "Trends in Benefits"

Employee benefits packages have changed drastically in the past 25 years. Factors such as delayed retirements, increased longevity, and the changing faces of employees and dependents have altered the expectations American employees have for benefits programs. In a market where some employers offer on-site auto-detailing services, how can you keep up with what's what in the world of employee benefits?

We've analyzed many results of an employee benefits survey to find the top trends for 2014:

Healthcare: Figuring out healthcare costs

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has dramatically changed the healthcare landscape and the benefits firms provide to workers. In fact, companies are still trying to figure out how this legislation will impact their insurance offerings. The healthcare environment is so complicated that a 2014 National Small Business Association survey reported that a majority of small businesses have limited to no understanding of how the ACA will impact them. All the same, the survey found that 70 percent of small businesses (defined as those with fewer than 500 employees) provide health insurance, up slightly from 66 percent in 2009.

Perhaps the most eye-opening statistics came from the latest Kaiser Family Foundation employee benefits survey, which reports that annual healthcare premium for family coverage has increased 80 percent over the past decade. The portion of those premiums that workers contribute has grown 89 percent over the same period. Deductibles also are rising. More than half (58 percent) of covered workers at small businesses (3-199 employees) have deductibles of $1,000 or more.

The good news is that there are advantages for workers as employers try to get a handle on rising healthcare costs. One benefit is the expansion of wellness programs, which are offered through the workplace and are intended to promote fitness and help employees improve their health. According to the Kaiser survey, 67 percent of employers believe that wellness programs effectively control costs, and 77 percent offer at least one wellness program to their staff. A small percentage even offers financial incentives for employees to participate in or complete wellness activities.

Retirement: Banking on the golden years

According to the 2013/2014 Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, U.S. workers are rethinking their long-term investment strategies and their projected financial security. This employee benefits survey shows that retirement security ranks high among workers' concerns, with 62 percent of respondents saying they would sacrifice some pay for a guaranteed retirement benefit.

Most employees save for retirement through their employer's plan. Last year, 74 percent said their employer's retirement program was their primary means of saving for their golden years, up 18 percent from only three years ago. Towers Watson attributes this, at least partially, to the growing uncertainty about the solvency of Social Security.

Family assistance: A portrait of new benefits

Today's employee benefits reflect the changes in family life in recent years. Some companies help employees who are caring for children or aging parents by contracting with care providers or helping to pay for outside care.

Extending benefits to common-law, same-sex and domestic partners has become more common at thousands of companies across the United States. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate Equality Index 2014 shows that 67 percent of FORTUNE 500® businesses offer domestic-partner benefits, an increase of 7 percent over the past two years.

Because of constant changes in the workplace, employee benefits can trend as much and as often as topics in a Twitter feed. It's vital to stay on top of changes with healthcare, retirement and family assistance offerings by reviewing employee benefits survey research so you can have the full picture of what your employer is providing you.