In the midst of recent changes to the health care system and the ever-increasing costs of coverage, employer-offered benefits programs have been a hot topic of conversation among employees and businesses alike. For small businesses in particular, the issue of benefits may even cause a divisive rift between companies and their workers.
"There are two different perspectives on benefits," said Matthew Owenby, vice president of human resources at insurance provider Aflac. "A small business's main concern is controlling costs. On the other side, employees are concerned about the types of coverage they have."
Aflac's 2014 WorkForces Report found that 86 percent of small business employees believe the benefits expenses they are responsible for will continue to rise, and these workers aren't prepared to take on any more financial burdens, Owenby said. But as health care costs continue to increase, employers struggle to find a balance between providing the benefits their workers want and staying within the company's budgetary restrictions. [The Top Job Benefits For Retaining Workers]
According to the Aflac report, businesses with three to 99 employees are trying to adapt to this changing environment by adjusting their hiring and compensation practices. In 2013, these companies hired fewer full-time workers than did larger companies: 45 percent of small businesses hired full-time employees, compared with 71 percent of mid-sized and 60 percent of large organizations that did so. Twelve percent of small businesses also switched full-time employees to part-time status last year, and 34 percent gave smaller raises than in years past.
Small employers are also finding ways to cut costs directly on their benefits plans, even if it means a greater potential expense for their workers.
"Businesses of all sizes are going to see higher deductibles for major medical plans," Owenby told Business News Daily. "More than half of the companies surveyed increased employee copayments and share of premiums in 2013, and 6 of 10 employers [are doing] the same in 2014 to limit benefits spending across the board."
Since the Affordable Care Act has made private health care plans more accessible, Owenby noted that voluntary employer benefits programs, which Aflac sells, could help small businesses reduce and manage employee health care costs while providing the level of coverage the workforce is demanding.
"Eighty-five percent of small business employees consider voluntary benefits just a part of the broader benefits offerings, and we're seeing this trend continue," Owenby said. "A good benefits program will make [small businesses] more competitive and productive. It's a smart business decision for attracting and retaining talent."
Originally published on Business News Daily