Employers who are most likely to provide health care and economic security benefits tend to be larger, in business longer, with more unionized employees, more ethnic diversity in top positions — and they are more profitable than their competitors — according to the 2008 National Study of Employers.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation funded this study researched by The Families and Work Institute (FWI). The Institute, whose slogan is, “When work works,” also recently published the 2008 Guide to Bold New Ideas For Making Work Work.

This survey of 1,100 employers builds on FWI’s 1998 Business Work-Life Study. Thus, the survey examined health insurance trends from 1998 to 2008. The researchers found that the percentage of employers who provide health care coverage for employees is relatively stable, but the portion employees are covering is much greater than it was 10 years ago. Over one-third increased employees’ premium co-pays in the past year for both individual and family health insurance. Only 4% of employers pay 100% of the premiums for families in 2008, versus 13% in 1998. A sign of the new times in the definition of “family” in the workplace: employers are more likely to provide health insurance for unmarried partners of employees — 31% in 2008 vs. 14% in 1998.

Size matters when it comes to providing health insurance: small employers (with 50-99 employees) are less likely (88%) than large employers (99%, defined with at least 1,000 employees) to offer family health insurance coverage. When they offer health insurance, a greater percentage of small employers pay none of the premium. Small employers are also less likely to provide wellness programs.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
While the financial burden that employees covered by health insurance plans at work has grown over 10 years, it is important to recognize the expanding health-focused programs that employers have introduced in the past decade. These include wellness, employee-assistance programs, work-life balance (e.g., flexible working arrangements), alternative health choices, partner benefits, and other creative choices for the diverse workforce. The survey found that more diverse leadership at the top leads to more support for the worker. Here’s a lesson to heed as the workplace continues to benefit from diversity.