Pandemic Accelerates Employer Voluntary Benefit Offerings

The pandemic is driving more employers to offer voluntary benefits, with nearly all employers (94%) expecting these employee-pay-all or unsubsidized benefits to hold great importance in their organizations during the next three years, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson, a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company.

Source: Willis Towers Watson | Published on May 17, 2021


The Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey found that employer interest in offering voluntary benefits has been burgeoning, with 94% of employers finding voluntary benefits to be important to their employee value proposition and Total Rewards strategy three years from now, compared with just 36% of employers deeming them to be important in 2018.

“Employers view voluntary benefits as a cost-effective way to offer employees a wide range of benefit options that best meet their needs,” said Lydia Jilek, senior director, Voluntary Benefits Solutions, Willis Towers Watson. “The pandemic has given rise to an increase in benefits that protect employees against big hospital bills and loss of income and provide personal protection.”

Survey identifies top five fastest growing benefits

As employers face a different landscape, they are proactively expanding their voluntary benefits to address new trends and better meet the needs of a diverse workforce, especially those affected by the pandemic.

The top five fastest growing benefits

Voluntary benefit

Currently offered

Will offer by 2022 or beyond

Percentage point change

Identify theft




Hospital indemnity




Pet insurance




Critical illness




Group legal




The survey also found that the following voluntary offerings are among the most widespread benefits, services and perks that employers currently offer or are planning to offer over the next two years:currently offer or are planning to offer over the next two years:

  • Financial planning/counseling through an existing vendor (93%)
  • Tuition reimbursement programs (88%)
  • Telephonic financial planning/counseling (77%)
  • Onsite fitness center (54%)
  • Backup childcare (48%)
  • Elder care (44%)

“Our research shows that employees are craving more voluntary and flexible benefits,” said Jilek. “Employers are supplementing existing core benefits with more personalized benefits to provide additional ways to support their employees’ overall wellbeing and enhance the perceived value of their benefit offerings — including adding voluntary benefits to the core benefits administration flow.”

About the survey

A total of 446 employers participated in the 2021 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey, which was conducted between February 23 and March 12, 2021. Among those, 238 employers, who employ 3.7 million workers, responded to the voluntary benefits section of the survey.