U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Employee Benefits in Small Private Industry Establishments, 1996
EB NR 06/15/98 Employee Benefits in Small Private Establishments, 1996
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FOR RELEASE: 10:00 A.M. EDT Monday, June 15, 1998
Employee Benefits in Small Private Industry Establishments, 1996
Time-off for recreation and other purposes was the most
frequently available employee benefit for full-time employees in
small private industry establishments in 1996, according to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor. Medical
benefits, retirement plans, and life insurance were often
available, but less prevalent. Other benefits, such as employee
assistance and wellness programs, common in other sectors of the
economy, were comparatively rare in small establishments.
Generally, the incidence of employee benefit plans in small
establishments had not changed noticeably since the 1994 survey.
These and other findings are available from the fourth
Employee Benefits Survey of small establishments in private
industry. The 1996 survey covered 39.8 million full-time and
14.1 million part-time employees in private establishments with
fewer than 100 workers. These workers represented just over one-
half of all employees in the private nonagricultural sector. The
EBS estimates the incidence of 33 employee benefits and the
prevalence of detailed plan features in half of them.
Paid time off was the most frequently provided benefit for
full-time employees in small private establishments in 1996.
(See table 1.) Four-fifths of full-time employees received paid
vacations and holidays. One-half received paid sick leave, and
more than one-fourth received another form of short-term
disability protection (for example, sickness and accident
insurance) in addition to, or in lieu of, paid sick leave. Three-
fifths received paid leave for jury duty, one-half received paid
funeral leave, and one-fifth were eligible for military leave.
Except for sick leave, for which the definition changed after
1994, these rates of leave incidence are similar to those
recorded in 1994. (See table 2.)
The length of paid vacations, the time available for sick
leave, and the number of paid holidays in 1996 were all similar
to 1994. On average, vacations varied substantially by length of
service. For example, in 1996, employees received about 8 days
after completing one year of service, but almost 16 days after 25
years. (See table 5.) To a lesser degree, paid sick leave also
reflected length of service. In 1996, the average days of sick
leave were 8 days after one year of service and about 11 days
after 25 years. On average, small private employers granted 7.6
paid holidays in 1996.
As mentioned, the definition of paid sick leave changed
between 1994 and 1996. In 1994, the definition of paid sick
leave included plans that defined allowable days on a "per
disability" basis, in addition to plans that specified a number
of days available each year. In 1996, the "per disability" plans
are excluded from sick leave, but are included under "short-term
disability" plans along with participants in sickness and
accident insurance plans. For additional details, see the
About 2 out of 3 full-time employees (64 percent)
participated in employer-sponsored medical benefit plans. More
often than not, employees had to contribute to the cost of their
medical benefits, and those benefits were contained in a managed
care health plan.
Employee contribution requirements for medical plan coverage
changed little from 1994 to 1996. In both years, 52 percent of
participants were required to contribute towards the cost of
single coverage, on average $41 in 1994 compared with $43 in
1996. (See tables 6 and 7.) Likewise, 75 percent of
participants had to contribute for family coverage in both years;
however, the average monthly cost rose from $160 to $182 over the
Nontraditional, or "managed care," plans continue to make
enrollment gains among participants in employer-sponsored medical
plans. In 1996, 27 percent of all full-time employees
participated in health maintenance organization plans (HMOs),
where care is managed and benefits are pre-paid. In 1994, 19
percent of participants were in these plans while 14 percent
subscribed in 1990 and 1992. Also, in 1996, 35 percent of full-
time employees participated in preferred provider health plans
(PPOs), in which participants are provided medical services at a
higher level of reimbursement if they receive care from a network
of service providers rather than choose their own providers. In
1994, 24 percent of participants were in these plans compared
with 18 percent in 1992, and 13 percent in 1990. The remaining
36 percent of full-time employees participated in traditional fee-
for-service plans, down from 55 percent in 1994, 68 percent in
1992, and 74 percent in 1990.
Participants in plans other than HMOs (traditional fee-for-
service and PPO plans) have a greater choice of service
providers, but bear a substantive share of the costs of services
directly. Annual deductibles, the amount the participant pays
each year before the plan reimburses any covered expenses,
averaged $306 for individuals and $744 for families. (See table
8.) After the annual deductible is satisfied, plans pay the
lion's share, but not the total, of covered expenses. Seventy-
seven percent of participants in traditional fee-for service
plans had 80 percent of covered services paid by the plan. (See
table 9.) Although more generous than fee-for-service plans if a
network provider is used, most PPO plans still require some
coinsurance from participants. For example, thirty-nine percent
of PPO plan participants were in plans that paid 80 percent of
covered services, 30 percent were in plans that paid 90 percent,
and 22 percent of PPO plan participants were in plans that paid
100 percent of covered services. Generally, the amount of
participant coinsurance in non-HMO plans was capped each year,
with the cost of covered services above the cap paid by the plan.
In 1996, these maximum out-of-pocket thresholds averaged just
over $1,500 for individuals and just under $3,200 for families.
Plans typically had maximum amounts they would pay, generally
over the participant's lifetime. Medical expenses above these
lifetime maximums were not covered by the plan. For 58 percent
of participants in 1996, the lifetime maximum was $1 million or
more; the overall average was $1.4 million.
In March 1996, employer costs for the health plans of all
employees in small private establishments averaged 74 cents an
hour worked. Health plans include dental and vision care plans,
in addition to medical plans. These employer costs are estimated
in the BLS Employer Costs for Employee Compensation program.
Forty-six percent of full-time employees participated in one
or more employer-sponsored retirement plans in 1996, compared
with 42 percent in 1994. (See tables 1 and 2.) Retirement plans
are typically classified in two broad categories - defined
benefit or defined contribution plans. In the first, the earned
benefit at retirement is specified, and the employer bears the
investment risk over the years to fund the benefit. In defined
contribution plans, the employer's current cost (contribution) is
specified, and the benefit at retirement is unknown in advance.
Fifteen percent of all full-time workers were enrolled in defined
benefit plans in 1996, the same as in 1994. On the other hand,
38 percent of all full-time workers were enrolled in defined
contribution plans. Some participants were enrolled in both
forms of retirement plans.
Some types of defined contribution plans were more prevalent
than others. Participation in savings and thrift plans was
highest at 23 percent of full-time employees, followed by
deferred profit sharing plans at 12 percent and money purchase
pension plans at 4 percent. Participation in savings and thrift
plans was higher in 1996 than in 1994, while participation in
other types of defined contribution plans was not noticeably
different from two years earlier.
In savings and thrift plans, participants are required to
contribute, and their contributions are matched by employers, at
least in part. Participants were limited to a maximum amount
they could contribute, with 15 percent of earnings being the most
common limit. (See table 10.) Plans also limited the employee
contribution that would be matched by employer contributions. In
plans with specified employer matching rates, for example, 49
percent of participants had an employer match on their
contributions of up to 5 percent of earnings. Another 38 percent
of participants were in plans with matches on more than 5 percent
and up to 6 percent of earnings, and the small remainder were in
plans with matches more than 6 percent of earnings. The most
common rate of employer match (applicable to 36 percent of
participants) was 50 cents for each dollar contributed by the
employee. Thirty-one percent of participants were in plans with
lower match rates, and 33 percent were in plans with higher (such
as a 100-percent match).
Roughly 3 out of 10 full-time employees deferred a portion
of their current earnings by contributing to a retirement plan.
This tax deferral arrangement is enabled under Section 401(k) of
the Internal Revenue Code.
The retirement benefit earned by participants in defined
benefit plans typically reflected their earnings, as well as
their age and length of service at retirement. Almost 2 out of 3
participants accrued a benefit based on some measure of their
earnings, either for their career or for specified years of their
career. (See table 11.) Most of the remaining participants were
covered by plans that paid a fixed dollar amount for each year of
service. Almost all participants (94 percent) had to attain a
minimum age to receive a normal retirement benefit, typically in
combination with a minimum length of service. For 3 out of 4
participants, the minimum age was 62 or 65. The required minimum
length of service for a normal retirement benefit varied by the
age at retirement. For example, it was common to require up to
30 years service before age 62, 5 or 10 years at age 62, and no
service requirement or 5 years at age 65 and older. Voluntary
early retirement, with a reduced benefit, was available for about
9 out of 10 participants. Early retirees can avoid the normal
minimum age and service requirements by taking a reduced benefit.
In March 1996, employer costs for the retirement benefits of
all employees in small private establishments averaged 34 cents
an hour worked. These costs were divided rather evenly between
defined benefit and defined contribution plans - at 16 and 18
cents an hour, respectively.
Thirty-four percent of participants in life insurance plans
had their insurance protection defined as a multiple of their
earnings; for virtually all of the remainder, the insurance
protection was a stated amount in dollars (usually thousands).
On average, insurance for full-time employees amounted to 1.4
times earnings if a multiple of earnings and just over $16,000 if
a stated amount.
Two other benefits were fairly common to full-time employees
in small private establishments--nonproduction bonus plans and
plans providing assistance for job-related educational expenses
covered about 2 in 5 employees. (See table 3.)
Part-time employees were less likely to be covered by most
benefit programs. The most common benefits could be prorated to
time worked - for example, paid leave. Thirty percent of part-
time employees received a paid vacation; 24 percent received paid
holidays. Part-time employees had a far smaller chance of
participating in benefits that had substantial per capita costs -
for example, health insurance; only 6 percent of part-time
employees participated in their employer-sponsored medical plans
(See tables 2 and 4.)
The incidence of major benefits varied somewhat by the
occupational group of full-time employees. For most major
benefits (paid leave, retirement, and insurance), the incidence
was lower for blue-collar and service occupations than for
professional and technical or clerical and sales occupations.
Professional and technical occupations had somewhat higher rates
of participation in medical benefits than clerical and sales
There were further differences between occupational groups
in the types of plans available for them, or chosen by them,
within general benefit areas. Among participants in retirement
plans, for example, blue-collar employees were somewhat less
likely to participate in defined contribution retirement plans.
About 9 out of 10 professional and technical and clerical and
sales participants were in defined contribution plans, compared
with 3 out of 4 blue-collar and service participants. Blue-
collar and service occupations were somewhat more likely to
participate in traditional fee-for-service health plans than the
other two occupational groups. Two out of 5 blue-collar and
service participants chose the traditional plan, compared with 3
out of 10 professional and technical participants and 1 out of 3
clerical and sales participants.
Small establishments that were wholly independently owned
employed 76 percent of the full-time employees in the 1996 survey
of small private establishments. Generally, the overall pattern
of benefit incidence in the survey is a reflection of these
independent small establishments.
The Employee Benefits Survey estimates are one product of
the National Compensation Survey, an integrated program of
compensation surveys conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The integrated program products also include: estimates of
occupational wage rates for major metropolitan areas; indices of
current compensation costs and estimates of the rates of change
in them, for the nation and broad economic regions; and estimates
of the average employer costs (in dollars) for employee
compensation and its major components.
The establishment sample from which the EBS data are
collected is periodically updated. Prior to 1997, new
establishments in selected industries were added to the sample
each year, while older establishments were removed. In addition,
a group of newly opened establishments in all industries was
included in the EBS sample to ensure representation of new
businesses. In 1997, a new sample replacement program was
implemented. An explanation of sampling and estimation
procedures will be provided in the forthcoming bulletin, Employee
Benefits in Small Private Establishments, 1996.
Benefits data are available for full-time and part-time
employees. Benefits are further classified by three broad
occupational groups: professional, technical, and related
employees; clerical and sales employees; and blue-collar and
service employees. Definitions of these occupation groups are
found in the tables in the end of this release.
As mentioned, unfunded plans that defined a number of
allowable days for each illness were classified as short-term
disability plans in 1996; prior to 1995, they had been classified
as sick leave. These plans covered 3 percent of full-time
employees in 1996. Also prior to 1995, the EBS provided a
summary estimate of employees covered by sick leave or short-term
disability benefit. (Some employees are covered by both.) This
estimate is not available for years after 1994.
Availability of EBS data
More detailed data from the 1996 survey will appear in a
bulletin, Employee Benefits in Small Private Establishments,
1996, currently in production. This bulletin will be published
in the late summer of 1998. However, the survey tabulations will
be posted on the BLS Internet site about a month earlier, and
complete tabular results will be available in July 1998 on
written request. For details on acquiring survey results from
the Internet site or on written request, call 202-606-6222.
Benefits data for employees in small private establishments
also have been published in bulletins for 1990, 1992, and 1994.
Benefits data for employees in medium and large private
establishments have been published since 1979. Under the current
EBS program, data for these employees have been published in
bulletins for 1991, 1993, and 1995. A survey for 1997 is being
Benefits data for employees in state and local governments
have been published in bulletins for 1987, 1990, 1992, and 1994.
A survey of benefits in state and local governments is being
conducted for 1998.
Data from sequential years have been combined to produce
estimates of benefit incidence for the civilian economy (private
industry and state and local governments). These estimates have
been produced for 1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94, and 1994-
95. They have appeared in a variety of published media. For
example, see Ann C. Foster, "Employee Benefits in the United
States, 1994-95," Compensation and Working Conditions, Spring
1998, pp. 56-61. Estimates including the 1996 data will be
prepared this summer and appear in a subsequent issue of
Compensation and Working Conditions.
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