June 28, 2011

Sun Life Financial Releases Voluntary Benefits Survey: Tips to Inspire Employees to Review Benefits Options, Increase Participation, and Understand Disability Risk

Wellesley, MA. — June 28, 2011 — A national survey on voluntary benefits released by the Employee Benefits Group division of the U.S. Business Group of Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE:SLF, TSX:SLF) concludes that employers can raise the level of informed participation in voluntary benefits by providing live assistance to explain benefits options, and delivering a clear message on the risks of suffering a disability.

Surveying 3,000 employed adults, “Voluntary Benefits: What is Controlling Employees’ Choices?” represents the third annual study by Sun Life’s Employee Benefits Group Division. The study’s key findings include:

  • The majority of respondents said they spent no time reviewing their benefits options. The only exception was medical insurance, for which at least a quarter of respondents reviewed their benefits options for thirty minutes or more.
  • Benefits participation rises when employees receive live assistance to learn about benefits options, and online or print assistance to enroll.
  • Employees incorrectly believed that they had the same chance of needing life insurance as needing short-term disability and long-term disability insurance. Yet statistically, men are twice as likely to suffer a disability as to die during their working years, while women are three times as likely.[1]
  • Employees misunderstand how different types of benefits provide different levels of financial protection, ranking dental coverage as protective as both short-term disability and long-term disability. However, a household’s financial loss from disability, or worse, from the death of a breadwinner, generally far exceeds the costs of a dental procedure.
  • Employers can thus raise the level of informed participation in voluntary benefits by providing live assistance programs that help employees fully understand their benefits options, while conveying the risks and costs of suffering a disability.

“Designing crystal clear communications that help people grasp both their health risks and their benefits options is a win-win for plan administrators and employees,” says Michael E. Shunney, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Sun Life’s Employee Benefits Group. “And plan administrators wear many hats, only outstanding communications can help them work at peak efficiency.”

“These results reveal three steps plan administrators can take to raise informed plan participation,” adds Shunney. “First, put all verbal and written benefits communications into plain language, without the technical industry jargon. Sun Life’s personal enrollment kit provides a great example, since it recently won a ClearMark plain language award.”

“Second, use the right communications medium at different stages in the enrollment decision making process -- offer the personal touch of live assistance to help people learn about benefits, but provide the independence of online or print forms to let them enroll.”

“Finally, devise powerful ways that resonate with employees about a sobering theme – that over the course of a working life, we all stand a far greater chance of becoming disabled than of dying. As a founding member of the Council for Disability Awareness, Sun Life is committed to educating the American public about the growing risk and financial impact of disability.”

For the full report, go to

About the Survey
Sponsored by Sun Life Financial, the survey polled employees who either made or shared family benefits decisions, and worked for companies with 25 or more employees.  An independent research firm, Gen Re, of Portland, Maine administered and analyzed the online survey just after the 2010 enrollment season, when benefits were still fresh in the minds of employees.

About the U.S. Employee Benefits Group Division of Sun Life Financial

The Employee Benefits Group division (EBG) of the U.S. Business Group of Sun Life Financial offers Group Life, Disability, Dental, and Medical Stop-Loss insurance through 170 group insurance sales  representatives in 34 major U.S. cities. As of December 31, 2010, EBG had approximately 35,000 policyholders and more than $2 billion of business in-force, covering approximately 12 million lives. For more information about Sun Life Financial’s Employee Benefits Group products, visit the EBG section of

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 March 31, 2011, the Sun Life Financial group of companies had total assets under management of U.S. $484 billion.

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

Media contact:
Tim Stone
Sun Life Financial
781- 416-2185

SLPC 23429 appvd 6/11, exp 6/16

[1] The Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education, The Council for Disability Awareness.