The deep recession likely made most employees happy to have a job and the pay and benefits that come with one. The turbulence around health reform has undoubtedly affected perspectives on health benefits. The annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends from MetLife provides a window into both employer and employee views on employee benefits. (MetLife Survey) The Study is based on interviews with over 1500 companies of all sizes and over 1300 employees. As the Study notes, the backdrop is a steep recession which lessened values of retirement plans like 401(k)s and heightened employers’ need to maintain productivity and cost controls.
Most employers appear to have retained their benefit programs and most employees continued to participate as they had before the recession. Employers, however, now view cost control as more important than employee retention as a benefit objective, a change from previous years. Employers believe that wellness programs, financial guidance services and other benefits can help improve productivity. Employees continue to be very concerned about their financial situation and are receptive to, even desirous of, assistance from their employer. Employers appear willing to take more actions to encourage employees to prepare for retirement and to otherwise keep their finances in good shape.
Employees are planning to delay retirement because of their financial concerns, but have not cut back on participation in benefit plans because of those concerns. They value benefits, and appear to accept that they will likely be paying more of the cost of those benefits. Workers also have a high interest in wellness programs and believe they will be beneficial. The Study was done before the health act passed, and the changes in workplace health benefits resulting, intentionally or otherwise, from the law, will not be apparent for some time. Many employees are likely to find themselves bearing more of the cost of a lower value health plan, which will likely stir some unhappiness.