Feds like their perks, fueling recruitment, retention

Federal employees continue to rate their benefits highly, as revealed in the most recent Federal Employee Benefits Survey.

Feds continue to rate their benefits highly, as revealed in the most recent Federal Employee Benefits Survey.

The 2019 FEBS Report shows that the cliché of feds loving their bennies -- and even choosing and sticking with their federal jobs because of the many benefits and perks -- remains the reality for the majority of those surveyed. 

The survey takes a comprehensive snapshot of feds’ attitudes toward federal health insurance, life insurance, supplemental savings plans and the two main retirement programs -- the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) and the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) -- among other benefits.  The latest survey was administered online last October and November, and more than 9,800 feds participated.

Many feds continue to perceive their benefits as a key reason they obtained and continue to stay with their federal job, the survey found.

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) was rated as being either an “extremely important” or “important” benefit to 96% of feds, and 95% said the same of FERS or CSRS. Good health benefits plans for current and retired employees also ranked above 90% among those surveyed.

The survey’s results suggest that federal employee health benefits “may play a key role in recruiting and retaining Federal employees,” the report stated. “In 2019, 70% of participants indicated that the availability of health insurance through FEHB influenced their decision to take a job with the Federal Government to a ‘great’ or ‘moderate’ extent.” Indeed, only 20% of respondents judged FEHB to be of no importance in their decision to get a job with the government. An even higher portion of feds -- fully 79% -- said the availability of FEHB actually played a role in their decision to stick with their federal job.

The quality of the many federal benefits also continued to be ranked highly, with vast majority of feds, similarly to past years, reported making use of the most common federal employee savings and retirement programs—for example, 98% participate in the TSP and 93% in FERS. About 81% reported participating in FEHB plans, and 80% in Federal Employee Group Life Insurance (FEGLI).

Just as in years past, these programs continue to be rated highly by participants. Fully 88% of TSP participants felt the funds handling their federal retirement investments as either an excellent or good value. For health insurance -- the FEHB -- 74% rated the program as delivering good or excellent value. And for the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, FLTCIP, slightly fewer feds -- 67% -- gave that an excellent or good value rating.

In fact, FLTCIP is the only one of the major benefits’ ratings that -- according to the judgment of survey takers -- had changed by more than 5% from the previous year’s survey: 6% more feds considered it as a good or excellent value.

The survey also goes into certain related topics at a more granular level. It breaks out three generations of current feds -- Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials -- and aggregates their responses, which shows some interesting differences in results by age and financial attainment levels. It also provides ongoing information about specific unhealthy habits -- for example, tobacco use (11% of feds had used tobacco recently, barely half as much as the general population); about their use of flexible health spending accounts (much higher at 29%); about their having an “understanding” of their retirement benefits (slightly under half, at 46%); and so on.

What are the takeaways from the survey this year? That TSP, FERS and FEHB are still important to attracting and keeping feds -- and, of course, they remain the most highly subscribed benefit programs. That federal employee benefits remain crucial to existing feds -- and to recruiting and retaining new ones -- with 70% of feds rating 7 of 10 major benefit programs as being either important or extremely important to them. About 80% of feds who use the programs rated them “great” or “moderate” in meeting their needs.

As to what was showing dynamic change by the fall of 2019, more feds were availing themselves of dental and eye care benefits. These benefits exhibited the greatest growth in enrollment over the previous two years. The report also found that use of telehealth services had remained low through last fall, but likely that has risen dramatically with the pandemic for feds, as it has for the wider population of insured Americans. Look for that change in the next FEBS.

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