What Is an Employee Benefits Consultant and What Do They Do?Back
As many employers and businesses are aware, employee benefits packages are very important considerations for candidates when they are being scouted by recruiters. Finding the best team members many times means offering a comprehensive package; however, it can be time-consuming and difficult to decide on the best plans, and then implement them, when it is not within the expertise or scope of a company’s current human resources (HR) department.
That is why many businesses rely on independent employee benefits consultants to guide them through the process of choosing competitive benefit packages that are cost-effective for all concerned. They will also navigate employers and employees through the layered and complicated task of implementing such plans to reduce complications or errors. Some of these advisors work on their own, while others may be a part of a larger firm.
These independent contractors advise employers and other sponsors of insurance plans, so they can research and choose the best plans for both the company and its employees. This usually includes presenting all suitable vendors and the benefits they offer, as well as the varying costs, to the employer. Once a plan is selected, a benefits consultant dispenses the chosen packages and manages the benefits going forward.
Employee benefits consultants have a vast array of knowledge on all types of perks and benefits, many of which are offered to workers everyday by most companies, including health insurance and life insurance, 401ks and other retirement options. However, sometimes consultants specialize in only one particular benefit type, in which case they provide insight and advice on selecting, purchasing and administering one specific product.
Benefits consultants are also aware of federal and state laws that regulate group health insurance and retirement plans, and how to correctly report all benefits packages to the IRS. Having someone on board that understands the tax implications of particular types of benefits is always a plus since he or she may be able to maximize your business’s deductions. Of course, in the end, a credible CPA is always the best resource when it comes to tax planning. In addition, benefits consultants keep track of compliance, annual renewals and other required materials and documents. Because they are well-versed in the laws and regulations, they can also adjust any paperwork accordingly, if and when laws or regulations change.
These professionals usually work with advanced tools and technology that are used to streamline the often-overwhelming process of picking a benefits package and implementing it for client companies. These tools simplify matters and reduce the amount of paperwork necessary to move forward with an insurance vendor. Access to such software is necessary for storing the massive amount of information needed, and it ultimately saves businesses money and time.
All that said, most importantly, benefits consultants use their training and experience to put together competitive and comprehensive benefits packages that allow their clients to attract and retain employees for the long term. Also, offering specific perks that align with the values of both the business and prospective candidates is a key part of their position. For example, an employee benefits consultant may suggest other wellness incentives, as a means to attract future talent.
Benefits consultants operate independently from benefit providers and insurance carriers. This is to ensure that such contractors base their recommendations on the best interests of their clients, at all times and without motivation to push a specific carrier. That means they are never beholden to any one insurance company and will diligently search for one that is the best fit for the employer or plan sponsor.
What Do Employee Benefits Consultants Do?
As stated above, having a professional benefits consultant working with your team means that your organization will be offered assistance with both choosing and administering the best options in benefits packages for everyone involved, saving your business and employees both time and money. Typically, a benefits consultant offers three distinct services to help your business, as outlined below.
Select the Best Plans for An Employer
Basically, this is determining which benefits packages plan sponsors or employers should provide for employees. Usually, their work starts by seeking information about what comparable employers in the immediate area are offering to their workers. Employee surveys can be quite helpful to learn what employees value in a plan. Other functions that a benefits consultant performs prior to choosing benefit plans usually include:
- Meeting with company leaders to ascertain the business’s needs in accordance with growth projections, budget and the number of employees
- Learning about the business’s culture and getting an understanding of its philosophy regarding employee benefits
- Asking employees about their roles within the company and recording their job descriptions
- Researching which plans, including health insurance, retirement packages, life insurance and general wellness options are best suited to the employer or plan sponsor
- Supplying expert advice about the strengths and weaknesses in the benefits marketplace between different vendors
- Researching nontraditional plan options and pay structures to calculate savings
- Gathering quotes from providers of benefits packages, including group health insurers, wellness programs, retirement plans and 401ks, student loan repayment programs and other perks
- Presenting the options to the business owners, along with the quotes and a detailed cost analysis
Administer Packages for Employees
While a commitment to a specific benefits package has been made by the employer or plan sponsor, a well-trained benefits consultant will look for ways to improve the plan as time goes on. One way is to provide guidance for lowering the costs of health insurance plans and other benefits staples to keep packages affordable for the employer. A consultant will also offer plan renewal estimates each year or simply propose to change different portions of the package altogether. Other tasks that a benefits consultant typically performs as part of implementing benefit packages may include:
- Helping plan sponsors to contract with vendors offering various plans
- Letting all parties concerned know exactly what to expect with regard to services, costs and quantifiable goods or services
- Providing online access to all the benefits options for employees to peruse
- Answering all employee questions and other ad-hoc inquiries by addressing complicated matters in a way that is simple to understand
- Enrolling employees in their chosen plans and implementing their packages accordingly
- Drafting benefit enrollment procedures for all new employees that are interested
Provide Ongoing Assistance
Lastly, a benefits consultant is responsible for offering assistance and guidance all year round, and not just when it is time for renewal. Listed below are items that a proper benefits consultant will take responsibility for on a day-to-day basis:
- Managing everyday projects and tasks that are a part of employee benefits programs
- Negotiating on the behalf of the employers or plan sponsors
- Providing any support as needed
In conclusion, working with an employee benefits consultant or firm is certainly worth consideration. Unlike agents and brokers, an employee benefits consultant has a broader spectrum of resources, along with an in-depth knowledge of group benefits and insurance packages, as well as experience analyzing human resource data with high-tech tools. Most consultants have worked with insurance providers and apply that training to client companies of all sizes. They can leverage their contacts to provide the best value and service for business owners and their employees.
When it comes to employee benefits consultants, you’ll find none better than the team at Fringe Benefits Analysts. Our experienced, qualified team provide consulting services to client large and small. Please contact us today—we’d love the learn more about how we can help you navigate the complex, and often overwhelming, world of employee benefits. With offices in Layton, Farmington, Salt Lake City and St. George, Utah, you’re sure to find the help you need.
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