What Are Voluntary Benefits?

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Voluntary benefits are optional perks that are typically employee-funded and paid for with payroll deductions. These supplemental benefits can include specialized health and life insurance options, as well as perks like gym memberships, concierge services, and pet insurance.

Key Takeaways

  • Voluntary benefits can include dental, vision critical care insurance, short- and long-term disability insurance, financial planning, and tuition assistance. 
  • Voluntary benefits are optional employee programs and perks that are typically paid for through payroll deductions.
  • To find employers that offer the benefits you want, read company reviews, follow news about top employers, and ask your professional network.

How Voluntary Benefits Work

Voluntary benefits are supplemental employee benefits that offer additional health care, financial planning, wellness, and other perks.

If your company offers these perks, you can opt in and pay for them using payroll deductions. Although these benefits are often employee-funded, meaning that your employer doesn’t necessarily pay part of the cost, they can be cheaper than alternatives purchased on the open market. That’s because employers can often negotiate lower prices than individual consumers. 

These supplemental benefit options are popular with employees and employers alike. Aon, a professional services firm that administers voluntary benefits programs, reported a 41% increase in the number of clients offering these benefits between 2021 and 2022. The company said that employee registration increased in more than half the benefits categories offered. 

  • Alternate names: supplemental benefits, voluntary group insurance

Examples of Voluntary Benefits

According to Aon, popular voluntary benefits include critical illness insurance, accident insurance, hospital indemnity, permanent life insurance, and student loan assistance. 

If your employer offers voluntary benefits, you’ll most likely pay the cost yourself through payroll deductions. Less commonly, your employer may choose to pay part of the cost. Again, you’ll usually pay less for voluntary benefits than you would if you paid for them out of pocket, regardless of whether your employer chips in.

Depending on the type of benefit offered, you may be able to pay your contribution pre-tax, which offers significant cost savings.

For example, common pre-tax benefits include:

  • Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
  • Dental insurance
  • Vision insurance
  • Cancer insurance
  • Accident insurance


You’ll need to pay for many types of voluntary benefits on a post-tax basis. For example, if your employer offers a voluntary benefit for pet insurance, you won’t be able to pay for that pre-tax. 

Types of Voluntary Benefits

Employers can offer just about any kind of benefit they wish, provided that they adhere to labor and tax laws. Some of the more popular voluntary benefits are as follows.

Supplementary Health Insurance 

Employers can choose to offer voluntary benefits that cover more than their traditional health insurance programs. These may include:

  • HSAs/FSAs
  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Fertility coverage
  • Critical illness
  • Cancer
  • Emergency hospital transportation
  • Hospital indemnity

Financial and Security Benefits  

Financial benefits can help you manage your short- or long-term financial health. You’ll find these benefits under this umbrella:

  • Life insurance
  • Disability insurance (including short-term, long-term, and supplemental policies)
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Financial planning
  • Tax preparation or planning
  • Student loan repayment
  • College tuition reimbursement
  • ID theft
  • Legal services

Family and Work-Life Balance Benefits

Other benefits focus on helping you care for your loved one or manage your responsibilities outside of work: 

  • Adoption assistance
  • Child care
  • Eldercare
  • Pet insurance
  • Gym memberships
  • Concierge services

How To Find Companies That Offer Voluntary Benefits

Want to work for a company that offers some of these benefits? Tailor your job search to target employers that provide the perks you want. 

Check Best Employer Lists

Pay attention to best employer lists and other news stories about companies that offer competitive benefits and perks. Especially when the job market is tight, employers want to be known for offering benefits that distinguish them from their competitors. Their marketing teams will make sure you know that they’re offering cutting-edge perks. 


Search Google for "best employers" or "best companies to work for" to find leading employers that may offer voluntary benefits packages.

Read Employer Reviews

Research companies on Glassdoor, where you’ll find employee reviews of thousands of companies, as well as information about typical compensation and benefits at those organizations. 


Keep a list of target employers that offer the benefits you want. Follow these employers on social media and set up job alerts for openings at these organizations. 

Use Your Network

Career networking isn’t just a way to find job opportunities—it’s also a good method of finding out more about the perks of working at an organization. Listen to your colleagues, contacts, family, and friends when they talk about their jobs. Do they have any standout benefits that they particularly enjoy? If so, consider adding their employers to the list of employers you’d like to work for.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are employers required to offer benefits to employees?

There are some benefits that are mandated by federal or state law, such as workers’ compensation insurance, disability benefits, unemployment insurance, and family and medical leave. Other benefits, including health and life insurance, dental insurance, vision care, retirement plans, and paid time off, are offered at the discretion of the employer or may be covered under an employment agreement.

What are mandatory benefits?

Mandatory benefits are employee benefits that organizations are required to offer by federal, state, or local law. These benefits, depending on your location, may include workers’ compensation and disability insurance, unemployment compensation, and sick leave.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Columbia University. "Human Resources: Voluntary Benefits."

  2. Aon. "Voluntary Benefit Offerings In U.S. Rise 41% During COVID-19 Pandemic, Aon Reports." 

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Employee Benefits Survey, Employee Benefits: Questions and Answers."

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