Interesting Employee Benefits That Weren’t Benefits 40 Years Ago


I got my first ‘real’ job a week after I turned 16. Prior to that, I was earning money under the table by delivering newspapers and doing odd jobs. Becoming a legitimate employee was an interesting experience. Now, some 40 years later, the employment landscape is even more interesting. I am especially intrigued by employee benefits that were not benefits when I started working at 16.

Back then, employee benefits generally consisted of some sort of health insurance plan and a retirement option. If you were lucky, your employer would kick in dental, vision, and term life insurance. Those three were never guaranteed, though.

Today, what used to be the standard benefits of 40 years ago are supported by a wide variety of voluntary benefits – benefits that employers may or may not contribute to. There are some pretty interesting offerings in the voluntary space.

Insure Your Pet with Pet Insurance

Pet insurance isn’t necessarily a new thing. I remember companies beginning to offer it back in the 1980s. But as a voluntary benefit offered as part of an employer’s package, it is relatively new. BenefitMall, a Dallas general agency, says that pet insurance is just now catching on as a voluntary benefit product.

Pet insurance gives subscribers access to reduced cost veterinary care. Some veterinary procedures are even free. Pet insurance also provides discounts on meds, food, toys, pet supplies, and burial services.

Get Help Paying Off Student Loans

Another interesting voluntary benefit that did not exist 40 years ago is student loan repayment assistance. In an attempt to entice younger workers to apply and then stick around, employers are offering to help pay off student loans. They agree to match every dollar put toward debt reduction with a contribution of their own

I can see how this benefit might be helpful in recruitment and retention. Today’s workers are facing pressures my generation did not face when we first entered the workforce. Among them is student debt. Even the most modest education programs can leave students with tens of thousands of dollars in debt at graduation. Any help paying it off is much appreciated.

Get Peace of Mind with Critical Illness Coverage

Pet insurance means little to me because I don’t have a pet. And at my age, I am no longer worried about paying off student loans. But I am intrigued by a third benefit I find extremely interesting: critical illness coverage. It wasn’t a thing when I first started working.

Critical illness coverage is insurance that pays a lump sum when a subscriber is diagnosed with a covered illness or condition. Policies tend to cover things like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. The money can be used for any purpose the beneficiary chooses.

The thing that intrigues me about this benefit is that it supplements health and disability insurance. It is an attractive voluntary benefit mostly because health and disability insurance are woefully inadequate in today’s healthcare environment.

Remote Work and Flexible Scheduling

The final benefit that interests me is actually a combination of two: remote work opportunities and flexible scheduling. Both are non-traditional benefits in the sense that they do not have a monetary value attached to them. Nonetheless, they are important to a younger workforce now dealing with a new normal following pandemic-driven changes.

Employee benefits have certainly evolved over the last 40+ years. Most of what today’s employees have access to did not exist when I first started working. Back then, I was lucky to get health insurance and a retirement plan. Voluntary benefits were non-entity for anyone other than C-suite executives and senior management.

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