Voluntary benefits may seem like a nice-to-have option, but more employees than ever before are beginning to see them as an integral part of any benefits package. Employees like getting their insurance benefits at work, whether their employer is paying for them or not.

Voluntary benefits are paid for 100 percent by the employee through a payroll deduction. The benefits are offered in addition to shared benefits for which the employer and the employee contribute toward the premium.

Traditional voluntary benefits include life insurance, vision, dental, disability, cancer and critical illness insurance, and accident insurance.

Voluntary benefits are on the rise

Voluntary benefit participation rates rose by 567 percent in the Midwest, 208 percent in the South, 138 percent in the West and 59 percent in the Northeast, compared with the 2016 benefit year, according to the State of Employee Benefits 2017 Regional Edition.

The report is compiled from enrollment data from 504 large employers with more than 1,000 full-time employees on the Benefitfocus benefits management platform.

Voluntary benefits are becoming increasingly important to employees because they allow them to tailor their benefits packages to better fit their needs.

When considering whether or not to enroll in voluntary benefits, employees often look at: the employer-paid core medical offerings, the cost of coverage, and the list of benefits available for purchase on a voluntary basis.

Voluntary benefits in 2016 rose 7 percent to $7.63 billion, according to Eastbridge Consulting, a voluntary market tracking firm.

Attractive for both employees and employers

When offered voluntary benefits, employees are more likely to be confident in their financial future, which in turn keeps them happy and engaged at work.

Employers can also see the incentive to offer voluntary benefits because not only are they not responsible for contributing  to premiums and voluntary coverage, but by offering voluntary benefits they look more attractive to potential employees.

When considering voluntary benefits, employers should consider where the potential financial gaps are as well as what is likely to appeal to their employees.

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