Are small business workers getting the short end of the benefits stick?

Survey: Employees at very small firms rate their benefits poorly

May 06, 2015 —  COLUMBIA, S.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Employees at very small companies don’t have good benefits packages — and they’re not happy about it.

The just-released 2014 U.S. Worker Survey, conducted online in December 2014 by Harris Poll for Colonial Life and Unum, shows employees at very small companies — those with less than 10 employees — are much less likely to have benefits than other workers.

Only 44 percent of employees at very small companies have benefits at work, compared with 82 percent of all employees.

Falling Short

Very small businesses are falling short on their benefits even compared to slightly larger firms with 10-99 employees: 75 percent of those workers are offered benefits. Nearly all (96 percent) of employees at larger companies with 1,000 or more workers have benefits.

The survey of more than 1,500 U.S. workers says employees at the smallest companies (less than 10 employees) rate their benefits package and benefits understanding significantly lower than employees at large companies (1,000 or more employees). They’re also significantly less likely to say they value the benefits their employer provides:

  • Benefits package
    Only 25 percent of employees at very small companies who are offered benefits* rate their benefits as excellent or very good, compared with 58 percent of employees at large companies.
  • Benefits understanding
    Less than two-thirds (62 percent) of employees at very small companies who are offered benefits* report a good understanding of their benefits, well below the 80 percent reported by workers at large firms.
  • Value of benefits
    Just over half (55 percent) of very small business workers who are offered benefits* agree they highly value the insurance benefits provided by their employer, compared to 70 percent at large firms.

“It might be easy to assume smaller employers can’t afford to offer rich benefits programs and provide comprehensive education and enrollment support, but that’s not the case at all,” said Gil Youmans, director of small market solutions for Colonial Life.

“Small employers can gain access to most of the same benefits and support services as larger employers at no cost to their business. One way to do this is by partnering with a voluntary benefits provider that offers benefits education and enrollment support at no additional direct cost as part of its services.”

Attracting & Keeping Talent

“It might be easy to assume smaller employers can’t afford to offer rich benefits programs and provide comprehensive education and enrollment support, but that’s not the case at all”

Beefing up the benefits program can help put smaller employers on a level playing field with larger companies when it comes to attracting and keeping top talent, Youmans says. In fact, most employees expect benefits at work, the survey shows. A strong majority of employees — 67 percent — prefer to purchase insurance coverage through their employer.

Small employers can learn more about benefits solutions available to them at a free webinar sponsored by Colonial Life and the Small Business Administration as part of National Small Business Week. The webinar is Wednesday, May 6 at 4 p.m. Eastern time. Participation is free but advance registration is required.

The 2014 U.S. Worker Survey compiled the opinions of more than 1,500 workers on a variety of workplace, benefits and financial topics. It is conducted annually by an independent national research firm for Colonial Life and Unum. *Base size n=69


This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Colonial Life and Unum from December 11-16, 2014 among 3,009 adults ages 18 and older, 1,517 of whom are identified as working adults that are full-time, part-time, or self-employed, 176 who work in a business with fewer than 10 employees, 305 in a business with 10-99 employees, and 522 in a business with 1000 or more employees. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For more information about the survey results, contact Jessica Kane at

About Colonial Life
Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company is a market leader in providing financial protection benefits through the workplace, including disability, life, accident, dental, cancer, critical illness and hospital confinement indemnity insurance. The company’s benefit services and education, innovative enrollment technology and personal service support more than 80,000 businesses and organizations, representing more than 3 million of America’s workers and their families. For more information visit or connect with the company at, and