Voluntary Benefits: What They Are and Who They’re For

August 31, 2020

Voluntary benefits are a great way to let employees customize their benefits package. Learn about the different types of top benefits.

voluntary benefits cover

Which Voluntary Benefits To Offer Employees

While the term “voluntary benefits” may seem self-explanatory, it’s a bit more complicated than that. When an employer offers a benefits package, you expect the usual; health, dental, vision, etc. However, there are many more niche benefits employers can offer to their employees that create a more-rounded and complete package for their lifestyle.

A group of people raising their hands - voluntary benefits are those that employees can choose to opt into.

What Makes Benefits Voluntary?

Voluntary benefits are offered separately from other benefits and are usually paid for mostly or completely by the employee. These additional coverage options are more like shopping a la carte. If an employee needs additional options, they can add it. If they don’t, they don’t have to.

This is an ideal option for both employers and employees. In short, neither party has to pay for additional coverage they don’t need.

Advantages of Voluntary Benefits

Put simply, voluntary benefits allow a level of personalization that regular benefits plans just don’t have. This in turn increases employee satisfaction overall. In fact, 85% of mid – large-sized companies say they began offering voluntary benefits to better fit their employees’ needs and lifestyles.

Although you’re catering to employees, don’t overdo it. Having too large of a menu of options could just overwhelm your employees and actually decrease the likeliness of employee enrollment. Take a look across your employee demographics and if you’re able to, draw some conclusions about the benefits packages they’re most likely to use. You can also have a core group of additional options employees can vote on based on how likely they are to enroll.

Different Types of Voluntary Benefits

Most insurance companies will already have a set list of voluntary benefits. They’ll usually have a lot more to offer than what you need and as we mentioned before, you don’t want to overwhelm your employees with too many options. So, your job is to select the ones that will best fit your employees’ needs.

There are four different categories that these benefits can fall into, which include: health, security, personal, and wealth accumulation. When people think of “benefits,” they’ll usually think of health benefits first – dental, vision, etc. Security benefits can include things like survivor and identity theft protection. Along the more “personalized” side – personal benefits – which can include things like pet insurance. Finally, we come to wealth accumulation benefits, which includes protection for your income and assets.

We’ll take a look at three of these categories, the most popular options, and why your employees would appreciate the options.

Additional Health Benefits

As we mentioned, health benefits are a common offering among employers. However, there’s a whole group of benefits you might not even be aware of if you stick to the standard medical, vision, and dental.

A female rock climber hanging off the edge of a boulder.

Accident Insurance

An accident insurance plan is exactly what it sounds like. It covers unexpected accidents and will help offset medical expenses. Depending on the policy, policyholders can receive help with the costs of care, surgery, transportation, and follow-up care. There are some activities and hobbies that are considered higher-risk than others.

For example, if you have a group of employees that are all snow-sport and outdoor enthusiasts, this may be a great voluntary benefit to offer. Snowboarding, rock climbing, white water rafting, and other outdoor activities can definitely result in accidental injuries. On the other hand, if you overhear most of your employees discussing their upcoming book club meetings or wine tasting weekends- these employees are less likely to want or need accident insurance.

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Critical Illness Insurance

Which illnesses are and are not covered can vary, but overall, critical illness coverage provides a lump-sum to a covered employee diagnosed with a critical illness. The sum can also be divided up into payments to cover regular income if an employee is undergoing a major surgery due to the covered critical illness. Either way, the sums are usually paid directly to the employee to use as needed. Typically, “critical illness” includes heart attack, stroke, coronary artery bypass surgery, and major organ transplants among others, but can vary depending upon the policy.

Keep in mind that you can’t meddle into your employee’s health or family medical history, but this is an overall good voluntary benefit for all employees. This is especially true if you have a high-deductible health insurance plan. After all, the costs from one medical emergency are enough to put 40% of Americans below the poverty line. So this benefit can cover the gap between policies.

Cancer Insurance

Cancer is never expected. It’s life-changing and can financially ruin families with the cost of care. That’s where cancer insurance comes in. Unfortunately, like most insurance policies, there are certain types of cancer that are not covered. However, for covered cancers, this type of insurance is similar to critical illness insurance. Policyholders receive a lump directly after a diagnosis to cover their treatment costs.

cancer ribbons arranged in a circle. Cancer insurance is another example of voluntary benefits.

Alike critical illness insurance, cancer insurance is a good voluntary benefit for all employees. As we already mentioned, cancer can financially ruin a family. And it doesn’t discriminate based on age.


Voluntary benefits in the security category are also more well-known than some others. These benefits keep your family and assets safe, which is especially important in today’s technological world.

Identity Theft Protection

With the increase in technology, comes the natural increase in identity theft. Criminals are getting crafty and danger lurks around every cyber corner. Depending on the severity, it can up to 1,2000 hours to correct identity theft issues. This is why identity theft protection is such a great benefit for employees.

A blacked-out figure holding a credit card in front of a computer - representing identity theft.

With this being said, it’s important to note that identity theft protection doesn’t cover any losses associated with theft. Rather, the protection monitors employee’s information, flagging any suspicious behavior. This way, those covered can stop the theft as it’s happening, rather than spending hours repairing the damage. It also covers the costs associated with repairing the employee’s credit score if any damage has been done.

This is a perk that all employees can use. Nowadays, everyone online shops, use online accounts and bill pays, so anyone can be a victim of identity theft. No matter the demographics of your employees, this is a benefit worth offering.

Life Insurance

Life insurance is another popular voluntary benefit. If an employee dies, the life insurance policy is paid out to surviving family members to cover expenses. The size of the policy depends on the assets of the insured individual. Most life insurance policies will also allow employees to cover their spouse and children.

A life insurance policy is another option that many employees appreciate and will use. In fact, 97% of employees that are offered a life insurance policy participate in the benefit. So rest assured, this is one voluntary benefit most employees will greatly appreciate.

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Now let’s take a look at lifestyle and personal benefits. While these aren’t typically as sought out as health benefits, they’re still very useful for your employees. Some employees may just be unaware of these offerings and therefore don’t know to ask about them.

Financial Counseling

Financial counseling is a voluntary benefit that all employees can use. After all, everyone, regardless of age, has to ensure their finances are on track. While this benefit was usually thought to help those nearing retirement, there are plenty of other areas that financial planning comes in handy.

As we already mentioned, many think this benefit is most useful to those about to retire. While others can benefit, it is a good idea to have financial counseling available if you have a large number of employees approaching retirement. However, because financial counseling can include advice on credit card debt, investments, taxes, and more, don’t be surprised if all of your employees want a piece of this benefit.

a cost sheet with change and a calculator, and a caliper closing around some change.  financial counseling is another important voluntary benefit.

Legal Insurance

If an employee has a custody arrangement or is looking at an upcoming divorce, legal insurance is a great benefit for them. It’s no secret that attorneys and legal fees are extremely expensive. Legal insurance grants access to attorneys and legal advice, without the stress of searching and sifting through reviews and costs. Usually, legal insurance covers a wide variety of instances from criminal defense to domestic issues. This is a pretty niche benefit, but it will appeal to some employees depending on their situations.

A dog wearing a pink cast on its leg and neck.

Pet Insurance

Pets are quickly becoming important family members – especially in younger generations. Just like you’d rush your family member to the hospital, so too do people seek out emergency veterinary care. Rather than choose between their furry friends and their savings accounts, people are looking instead to pet insurance.

Pet insurance can help pet owners cover the costs of emergency or regular veterinary care. If you’re aware of the number of pet owners in your office, this is an easy choice to make. Luckily, if you’re unsure, this is one of the few instances when you can ask about your employees’ personal lives.

Voluntary Benefits for The Win

Now that you know the wide variety of voluntary benefits available, you’ll be better equipped to chose which ones to offer your employees. These benefits are also a great way to attract new talent, without costing you a dime. No matter which items you decide to add, all employees will likely appreciate the opportunity to customize their benefits packages.

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