World at Work: Legal Insurance Is A Hidden Gem in Voluntary Benefits
Today’s employers, both big and small, are made up of an increasingly diverse workforce that includes a wide swath of ages, cultural backgrounds and lifestyles.
The expectations of this eclectic array of employees reinforces the fact that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the voluntary benefits that organizations offer. In fact, according to a 2018 Willis Towers Watson survey, 75% of organizations particularly like voluntary benefits for their ability to provide personalized options to staff, allowing for tailoring to different generational or income brackets.
Offering an array of voluntary benefits that speak to peoples’ personal and family needs rather than merely filling a slot has become an increasingly popular recruitment and retention strategy. Instead of boxing them as voluntary benefits, consider them “valuable benefits” that take a holistic approach to employee well-being, such as financial planning, retirement planning, college savings plans and legal insurance plans.
A Closer Look at Legal Insurance
Legal insurance benefit plans are gaining popularity, as they offer multiple services that provide value to employees at all life stages. According to a recent DirectPath and Gartner report, employers offering legal services and assistance programs grew to 46% in 2019, up from 37% in 2018. This could be due to the simple fact that legal insurance is designed to make it affordable for employees to get the legal help they need when they need professional legal guidance.
A typical legal insurance plan design should strike a familiar chord with employers. It works much like a medical plan where you select a doctor from a local network to visit for either preventative care or when you have a medical issue.
Similarly, with a small monthly premium (generally ranging from $15 to around $20), employees have access to a network of attorneys who practice in dozens of areas of law. When working with an attorney in the network, their fees are paid in full for most covered matters.
With a legal insurance plan, employees can get connected to a network attorney over the phone or schedule an in-office visit for professional legal counsel to address their issues. The attorney may offer services such as:
- Document creation and review.
- Writing letters or making phone calls on their behalf.
- Representing them in court proceedings.
In addition to the more common legal matters, this type of plan may cover trusts, wills, divorce, etc.; legal insurance plans may also provide assistance with other issues like identity protection, financial counseling, immigration assistance, tax services and caregiving support.
Notably, these ancillary services speak to the legal needs that arise from the many facets of an employee’s life. Take caregiving, for example. Approximately 40 million Americans provide some type of basic caregiving support, such as help with eating, bathing, meal preparation and medical/nursing tasks. And, according to one AARP study, one in four of them is part of the Millennial generation, making this an added stressor to more and more employees throughout the nation’s workforce. Those in a caregiver role face a number of legal issues, such as estate planning, creating a power of attorney or handling elder law issues that involve questions regarding Social Security or long-term care.
With most legal insurance plans, employees also have access to helpful online resources, ranging from educational articles that empower employees to learn more about their legal issues, to “do-it-yourself” documents that facilitate creating legal documents, agreements and contracts on their own.
Understanding the Value
While the benefit offers several services, it can be a challenge getting employees to understand what legal insurance is. For example, after introducing the nuts and bolts of it, the common refrain from employees goes a little like this: “A legal plan? Sounds like a good idea, but I’ll never need it.”
That’s where the disconnect often lies. Many situations employees encounter in everyday life may not start out as a legal issue, but can ultimately wind up with costly, time-consuming and overwhelming legal implications they were not prepared to handle. With three out of four Americans experiencing a legal issue each year, according to a study by Russell Research and ARAG, chances are it will happen — the question is when and why. Legal insurance has the versatility to address several different facets of employees’ lives, including their financial well-being, consumer protection issues, debt management and a host of family matters.
Speaking of the impact on employees’ lives, more and more employers are recognizing the growing need to provide benefits that bolster employees’ mental health in addition to their physical well-being. And their sense of urgency is well-founded. It is estimated that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity each year. Plus, when it comes to health concerns, 71% of adults experience at least one symptom of stress, such as headaches or feeling overwhelmed or anxious. A legal insurance plan is shown to effectively address the looming burden of legal and financial issues that can plague employees while at work. In fact, 90% of ARAG plan members feel that having legal insurance reduces their stress, according to a 2016 ARAG plan member satisfaction survey.
Dealing with Life’s Unexpected Matters
At times, a legal insurance benefit can be life-changing for people as they navigate legal issues from situations involving home purchases, marriage, divorce, adoption and more.
When an employee faces a legal issue, the attorney fees can add up quickly, considering the average hourly rate for an attorney in the United States is $368 per hour, according to “The Survey of Law Firm Economics: 2018 Edition.” With a legal insurance plan, they could save thousands of dollars in attorney fees on covered legal matters.
Not only does legal insurance save employees money, it also decreases their stress, knowing they’ve got someone on their side who can help them address those legal issues. In fact, according to an ARAG survey, 90% of their legal plan members feel having a legal insurance plan reduces their overall stress.
The Benefit for Employers
When you add it all up, legal insurance can provide those sought-after benefits that employees are looking for to get the help they need. The ARAG survey also found that more than 90% of plan members state they are more likely to consult with an attorney as situations arise compared to those that didn’t have legal insurance.
But does legal insurance give employers any kind of benefits edge as they assess their annual open-enrollment lineup? The answer is a resounding “yes,” primarily because it readily addresses the legal and financial well-being of employees, two aspects that have become increasingly important in meeting the growing demand from employees for help improving their overall wellness.
As open enrollment season rolls around, don’t overlook legal insurance as the “hidden gem” that could readily and easily round out your benefits lineup. Whether it’s just a quick question to an attorney or a more serious legal matter that unexpectedly pops up, legal insurance is answering employees’ calls for an easier, faster and more affordable way to resolve their everyday legal issues.
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(Dennis Healy is a member of the ARAG executive team)