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Voluntary benefits can help part-timers

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Part-time workers who have no benefits in the workplace could become more financially secure if their employers provided voluntary benefits, according “Part-Time Nation,” a report on the latest findings from Guardian Life Insurance Co.’s annual workplace benefits study. 

The Society for Human Resource Management reports the new study details how the lack of employee benefits for part-time workers makes their financial situations more precarious. 

Just 25 percent of part-timers, it says, have an employer-sponsored medical plan, compared to 80 percent of full-time workers. In addition, while 69 percent of full-timers have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, only 32 percent of part-timers do. Meanwhile, fewer than 20 percent of part-timers have dental, disability or life insurance benefits at work, compared to more than half of full-timers. 

But employers anticipating an increase in part-time and long-term contract workers, says the report, can come out better in the competition for talent if instead of ignoring part-timers, they provide their entire workforce with employer-sponsored benefit options, including access to employee-paid voluntary benefits. 

In the report, Peggy Maher, senior vice president and head of Guardian’s direct-to-consumer business in New York City, says “While pursuing a passion and achieving greater work/life balance are major advantages of alternative work arrangements, the lack of important insurance and retirement benefits can negatively impact financial security for [part-time workers] and their families.” 

Employers offering voluntary benefits can provide a menu of benefits from which workers can select — and pay for via payroll deductions. The employee usually pays the whole cost, while the benefits provider handles administration and educational materials. But employers can distinguish themselves by paying part — or even all — of the cost of some voluntary benefits, like pet insurance, that can be niche offerings appealing to a subset of workers. 

And according to Peter Marcia, CEO of YouDecide, a Richmond, VA-based web-based benefits platform provider, even if part-timers don’t have access to a full suite of benefits, “voluntary benefits can allow part-time workers to take advantage of special pricing and underwriting concessions offered to other employees.” Marcia says, “Examples can include auto and home insurance, employee purchase program, identity theft, or worksite programs such as critical illness and accident insurance.” 

And those benefits “may be especially important to part-time employees to help cover out-of-pocket costs if they have a high deductible health care plan,” Marcia adds, urging employers to “[c]ommunicate to part-time employees directly by outlining programs they are eligible for.”

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