Less than half of U.S. workers willing to pay more for better health care benefits, Willis Towers Watson survey finds

Majority of employees open to paying more for greater retirement benefits, but also want more choice and flexibility

Annandale, Virginia, UNITED STATES

ARLINGTON, Va., May 09, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A majority of U.S. workers are willing to sacrifice more of their paycheck for greater employer-provided retirement benefits, but far fewer are willing to make a similar trade-off for more generous health care benefits, according to the 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ:WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. The survey also found that while a majority say their benefit packages meets their needs, many want more benefit choice and flexibility.

According to the survey of nearly 5,000 U.S. employees, two-thirds of respondents (66%) said they would be willing to pay more each month for larger, more generous retirement benefits, while 61% would give up more pay to have a guaranteed retirement benefit. The same is not true for health care benefits. Only 38% are willing to pay more each month for a more generous health care plan; 46% are willing to pay more to have lower, more predictable costs when using health care services. Employees are even less open to paying for tools and services. Less than a quarter are willing to pay for tools and services that help them live healthier lifestyles (24%) or help improve their finances (19%). 

“While employees continue to feel vulnerable about their long-term financial prospects and say they are willing to pay more for greater retirement security, health care benefits evoke a much different response,” said Steve Nyce, senior economist, Willis Towers Watson. “Employees, who continue to see their health care costs increase annually, are basically saying ‘enough is enough’ as far fewer are willing to pay more each month for more generous health benefits and more predictable costs.” 

Costs aside, the majority of employees are happy with their core benefits — 59% think their retirement plan meets their needs; 66% said their health care plan meets their needs. However, appreciation for noncore and well-being benefits lags. Only 43% said their package offers a wider variety of choice and flexibility that meets their needs, while 27% believe initiatives to help them manage their finances meet their needs.

“Employers need to recognize that employee appreciation of their total benefit package has a positive impact on employee engagement. Our research shows just over half of employees whose benefit package meets their needs are highly engaged in their job compared to just 25% of employees reporting a high level of engagement when they believe their benefit package does not meet their needs,” said Julie Stone, a managing director, Health and Benefits, North America, Willis Towers Watson.

Beyond their core retirement and health care benefits, employees are expressing a strong interest in a broader array of benefits, including more time off. Nearly six in 10 employees (58%) would take more time off in exchange for an equivalent change in pay, while the same number would take a more generous retirement plan for an equal change in pay. Just over half (55%) would accept a more generous health care plan in exchange for an equivalent change in pay. Nearly half (48%) would welcome more financial protection benefits, reflecting a growing interest and need for benefits to help employees address their financial needs. In addition, access to decision support is valued by workers. Nearly nine in 10 employees with benefit choices and access to decision support say their benefit programs meet their needs, which is more than twice that of those without choice.

“We know from our research and work with clients that employees with greater flexibility in their benefit programs and access to decision support value their benefits more. It is time for employers to move beyond a one-size-fits-most approach to benefits, as employees across generations are seeking a wide range of flexibility, choice and decision support,” said Stone.

About the survey

The 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes Survey examines attitudes toward the health and retirement benefits of over 30,000 private sector employees in 22 countries. A total of 4,983 U.S. workers participated in the survey, which was conducted in July and August 2017.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ:WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has over 40,000 employees serving more than 140 countries. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential. Learn more at willistowerswatson.com.

Media contact

Ed Emerman: +1 609 275 5162