Nine Critical Trends in Benefits

By Betty Liddick

Nov. 11, 2005

Employers will pay an average of $8,046 per worker for health insurance in 2006, an increase of 9.9 percent from 2005 and nearly double the amount paid six years ago, according to a new survey by Hewitt Associates.

    Containing the rising expense will continue to be the top concern for human resource professionals in the next three to five years. That’s the prediction from the Society for Human Resource Management, which asked its panel of experts on benefits and compensation to identify the most significant trends in their area. After health care costs, in order of importance, they are:

    An aging workforce: Older employers may elect to work to keep their medical coverage. Companies may offer phased retirement to keep them on the job.

    Diminished Social Security support: A growing senior population will be eligible for benefits; fewer younger workers will be available to pay for them. At the same time, the shift from company-sponsored pension plans to 401(k)s could mean retirees will have inadequate savings. Employees may demand more training in investment planning.

    Medicare prescription drug benefits: Employers may reduce medical coverage for older retirees.

    Legal challenges: Employees have increasingly sued benefit plan fiduciaries the past two years. “If the class-action lawsuits and governmental investigations against plan fiduciaries are successful in obtaining recoveries for plan participants, this will continue to be a top issue for HR professionals,” the panel said.

    Work/life balance: Flexibility in schedules and workplaces will determine employers of choice.

    Tying compensation to business measures: Translating pay and benefits into business terms could raise human resources’ strategic profile.

    Avoiding identity theft: Protecting private information like Social Security numbers will be critical for human resources. Some companies have added identity theft assistance as a benefit for employees.

    New voluntary benefits: “Companies may need to more actively take their employees’ preferences into account,” the panel says.

Workforce Management, November 7, 2005, p. 54Subscribe Now!

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