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More Workers Have Life Benefits: Feds

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Midsize U.S. employers may be doing a better job of protecting workers, and workers’ families, against the risk of death.

About 59% of all U.S. civilian workers reported getting life insurance benefits at work in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The percentage of civilian workers with life benefits was up from 58% in 2017, and up from 57% in 2016.

(Related: 4 Useful New Benefits Facts From the DOL)

The coverage rate for civilian workers at employers with 50 to 99 workers improved the most.

About 57% of the workers at those midsize employers were getting life benefits at work in March. The percentage of workers who had life benefits was up from  55% a year earlier, and up from 52% two years earlier,

A full version of the new BLS survey results is available here.  We compared those results with results from one year earlier and from two years earlier.

The life insurance market penetration figures are interesting because Congress and state legislatures have not been doing anything in recent years to impose new life insurance benefits mandates. Any increases in worker access to life insurance benefits reflect factors such as the overall strength of the job market, shifts in the kinds of jobs workers have, and the strength of life insurers’ life insurance benefits sales efforts.

Policy changes have had a big effect on health insurance benefits and leave benefits.

Health Benefits

For civilian workers:

  • The participation rate held steady at 52%.
  • The percentage of employers offering benefits increased to 72%, from 70% a year earlier.

Paid Leave

Policymakers have created a natural experiment in connection with paid leave: They are adopting paid sick leave mandates in many communities. They are not adopting paid vacation or paid holiday leave mandates.

The new BLS survey results suggest that access to paid sick leave may be increasing both because of the mandates and because of the strength of the job market.

Here’s what happened to access to paid leave benefits:

  • Paid sick leave: Rose  to 74% in March, up from 72% a year earlier, and up from 68% two years earlier.
  • Paid vacation days: Rose to 75%, up from 74% a year earlier, and up from 73% two years earlier.

Survey Background

The BLS is part of the U.S. Department of Labor.

The BLS survey reports do not distinguish clearly between employer-paid life insurance benefits and individual life insurance policies purchased through payroll deduction programs at the worksite. The life coverage figures may include some people covered through worksite programs and exclude others.

The BLS reports that come out in the summer are shorter versions of the survey reports that come out in the fall.

The new report includes data on health insurance benefits, life insurance benefits and paid leave, but not on some other benefits often included in the fall survey reports, such as long-term care insurance benefits.

In the past, the BLS has included retirement benefits figures in its summer reports. This year, BLS officials say, they will put the retirement benefits figures in a report that will come out Sept. 21.

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