August 10, 2010

Sun Life Study Reveals Key Factors Influencing Employees When Choosing Voluntary Benefits

Likelihood of use and financial protection top the list

Wellesley, MA. — August 10, 2010 — A study released by the Employee Benefits Group division of  Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE:SLF, TSX:SLF) identifies the factors that influence employees when selecting  voluntary workplace benefits and uncovers potentially false perceptions employees have about the likelihood of using benefits and the financial protection they provide.

The annual online study, The Voluntary Benefits: Key Factors Influencing Employee’s Choices Study, conducted by Sun Life’s Employee Benefits Group, reveals the factors that have the greatest impact on whether an individual chooses voluntary benefits through their employers and their preferred methods of learning and enrollment. A full research report featuring a summary of the findings related to all the questions addressed by this research is available online at

In the nationwide study, more than 2,800 employees were asked to distribute 100 points across six options to illustrate what influenced their decision for selecting a particular benefit. Participants rated the “Likelihood of Using in the Near Future” and “Financial Protection Provided” as the most important factors.

In the “Likelihood of Using in the Near Future” category, employees rated disability and life benefits nearly equal, despite the likelihood that suffering a disability during their working years is far greater than death.  When asked about the financial impact that would occur if they needed a particular benefit, employees rated dental nearly as high as disability and life. The study also found that employees value dental and vision benefits over life and disability.

According to Michael Shunney, senior vice president and general manager of Sun Life’s Employee Benefits Group, these findings might provide insight into the declining purchase rates for voluntary life and disability benefits, compared to an increase in voluntary dental purchase rates. 


“The findings suggest that employees might not truly understand the financial protection provided by their life and disability benefits,” said Shunney. “Although concerning, it presents an additional opportunity to both educate and engage employees about the value and need for benefits such as disability and life that provide the most financial protection.”

The study confirmed many findings from last year’s research including the fact that employees value benefits more than cash. It also revealed insight into how employees chose to learn about benefits and the preferred methods of enrollment.

Despite employers offering more ways to learn about benefits over the last year, 82 percent of respondents prefer printed materials. Online/website was a close second at 72 percent, and 44 percent prefer group meetings.

Regardless of their preferred method of learning, the survey revealed most employees do not spend much time reviewing benefit information. However, according to the study, employees who take the time to review benefits are more likely to purchase the benefit than those who did not. Employees spend the most time reviewing medical, dental and vision benefits, according to the study.

“It’s clear that employees value voluntary benefits,” said Shunney. “Carriers and employers need to find new and better approaches to engage employees. If employees are motivated and educated, it will only increase participation and enrollment in their employer-sponsored benefits.”

The study revealed several other findings about what impacts an employee’s decision to enroll in employer-sponsored voluntary benefits. The findings include:

  • How will rising health insurance costs affect benefits decisions?
  • Which benefits do employees value the most?
  • What is the biggest factor in electing a benefit?
  • Does employer funding drive higher benefits election?
  • Who do employees trust most to explain and help select their benefits?


About the Survey
The survey was sponsored by Sun Life Financial and conducted and analyzed by independent research firm JHA, Portland, Maine. It was conducted with 2,800 either primary or shared employee benefit decision makers who worked for companies with 25 or more employees. The survey was conducted online after the 2010 enrollment season, while benefits were still top-of-mind with employees.

About Sun Life Financial

Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of protection and wealth accumulation products and services to individuals and corporate customers. Chartered in 1865, Sun Life Financial and its partners today have operations in key markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China and Bermuda. As of June 30, 2010, the Sun Life Financial group of companies had total assets under management of $407.8 billion. For more information please visit

Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF.



Kimberly Ferri

Sun Life Financial



SLPC 22294 8/10 (Exp. 8/15)