People rely on their employer-sponsored benefits plans for services they might not otherwise have access to. For example, 62% of Canadians with life insurance have a policy through their employer. Among those, more than half rely only on this coverage (PolicyMe, 2021).

But sometimes people would like the freedom to choose more flexible options – that’s where optional benefits can help.

Sponsors typically build a benefits plan based on the average employee, but everyone’s needs are unique. A single plan design can’t take individual needs into account. In a recent Buck survey, 91% of respondents said they see voluntary or optional benefits as an important part of their financial well-being strategy.

Some optional benefits stay with the member even if they leave their job or if the plan terminates. Using Canada Life as an example, its Portable Benefits program includes optional life, critical illness and accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) products.

“It’s important to offer well-rounded support to members,” says Michael Henderson, vice-president, Freedom ExperienceTM, Group Customer with Canada Life. “Our Portable Benefits product is especially popular with smaller plans, with 95% of sales coming from groups of fewer than 1,000 members, and 74% with fewer than 200. That tells us people need flexibility and want more than what their standard plan design offers.” ​

No extra work for sponsors

People buy optional benefits from the insurance company, so the sponsor doesn’t need to do any administration. Employers simply let their members know the options exist, and how they can get them.

And sometimes that’s easier than you think. Insurers can have a prepared marketing campaign ready, including posts on the member site and information in enrolment guides. And some insurers even offer dedicated experts to help members make the most of their benefits and find options that best suit them.

Advantages for advisors

Encouraging sponsors to offer optional benefits can be good for advisors, too. For one, it demonstrates an advisor’s commitment to the well-being of members, and they get recognition for it.

“We’ve partnered with over 800 advisors and recognized them since Portable Benefits launched in 2021,” says Henderson.

Optional benefits can help fill the gaps in your plan and create space for long-term thinking for both members and sponsors. When you meet your members’ needs you can keep them focused on other things besides worry. And that’s good for everyone.

This article is brought to you by Canada Life, sponsor of Benefits Alliance’s “Take 5 for Wellness” newsletter.