Three in four employers say their top reason for offering voluntary benefits is to expand the benefits options available to their employees, according to a new survey.

Prudential Financial Inc., Newark, N.J., released this finding in the second in a series of research briefs stemming from Prudential’s Sixth Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond. The research was conducted via the Internet during April and May and consisted of three surveys of plan sponsors, plan participants, and broker/consultant audiences.

The study found that 42% of employers offer voluntary benefits to fulfill an employee need. And 30% offer them at their employees’ request. Voluntary benefits are optional programs that are made available at the workplace and are 100% paid for by employees.

Eighty-five percent of employers say they offer one or more voluntary benefits including life insurance (63%), disability insurance (56%), and dental insurance (52%). Ranking lower on their priority list were critical illness insurance (35%) and long-term care insurance (33%).

Employees increasingly view the workplace as an important source for personal insurance and savings products, the survey says.

Half (51%) of workers cited convenience as the most common advantage and driving factor in purchasing voluntary benefits because they pay for them through payroll deduction. This represents a nine-point increase since the study was conducted in 2008. Fifty-two percent say that offering voluntary benefits increases the value of their company’s offerings.