Most employees try to keep their personal and professional lives separate. But when it comes to legal matters, separation turns out to be much easier said than done.
“The Impact of Legal Matters on Today’s Work Force,” a study from Hyatt Legal Plans, a MetLife company, found that people grappling with ordinary personal legal matters—such as will preparation, traffic tickets, real estate matters, debt problems or family situations like adoption and divorce—bring these issues to the office with them each and every day. And business productivity is being negatively impacted because of it.
According to the study, people with these types of legal issues are spending an average of nearly three hours a week at work dealing with their situation—for as many as six weeks. Many workers even find themselves taking time off to handle their legal matters. Some (almost half of women and more than a third of men) even said dealing with their legal issues negatively impacted their emotional or physical wellbeing. In addition, nearly 30 percent of those surveyed said their legal issues negatively affected relationships with family and friends, and many reported depression, stress, sleep problems and weight issues, all of which contribute to absenteeism.
Group legal plans, as a voluntary benefit, can help restore employees’ focus by providing them with the confidence they need to effectively juggle their competing personal and professional responsibilities. And, as an added bonus to share with clients, the plans have been shown to positively influence employee loyalty, helping employers to retain top-notch talent and control costs.
Legal issues can distract employees from their jobs and create additional stress. Among those workers surveyed who said their work performance suffered as a result of legal troubles, about half also said they also experienced professional repercussions, including, most often, poor reviews by their superiors.
Access to an attorney could go a long way to reducing the distractions that come with legal issues, and group legal plans—which essentially provide an attorney on retainer—are one way to help employees concentrate on their work. In fact, 70 percent of survey respondents said their group legal plans increased their confidence about managing a legal problem. The same number said their employer-provided legal services gave them peace of mind. And a further 61 percent said hiring an attorney through a group legal plan reduced time they spent worrying at the office.
Anxiety, however, is not the only factor hindering productivity; time is also a factor. Employees who hired attorneys on their own spent an average of six weeks handling their legal issues, according to the Hyatt Legal Plans survey. In contrast, those enrolled in group plans resolved their issues in just over four weeks.
Furthermore, for those legal matters that took longer than 10 weeks to resolve, 43 percent of cases came from employees who sought out their own lawyers, while just 22 percent occurred among those on an employer-provided group plan.
When asked if they had taken time off to deal with a legal issue, 50 percent of workers who had hired their own lawyers said they had, compared to just 30 percent of employees who took advantage of their group legal plans. In addition, twice as many employees managing their own legal issues missed as much as one week of work compared to those in group plans.
More than 80 percent of survey respondents who hired their own lawyers admitted to spending around $1000 on just a single legal matter. Depending on their location, most attorneys charge at least $200 per hour. In contrast, comprehensive group legal programs may cost about $200 per year for unlimited, nationwide access to pre-qualified attorneys, along with representation for many key issues. Employees also enjoy the convenience of payroll deductions for payment of premiums. When offered as a voluntary benefit – meaning that employees pay 100 percent of the premium – employers can expand their benefits programs while still controlling their own costs.
When workers were asked why they enrolled in a group legal plan, some of the most common responses were “affordability” and “value.” Even 42 percent of people in the study who were satisfied serving as their own attorney said they would be interested in enrolling in a group legal plan if given the option.
Voluntary Benefits Improving Loyalty
Not surprisingly, employees’ financial challenges have increased the value they place on their benefits. According to a different study, MetLife’s 9th Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study, 41 percent of U.S. workers said that based on the events of the past 12 months they place an even greater value on the benefits they receive from their employer and 61 percent found voluntary benefits a valuable way to meet their personal needs. Clients may be surprised to learn that more than half (52 percent) of employees are interested in seeing a wider array of voluntary benefit options from their employer. They appear willing to pay more to get more.
Strategic benefits, like group legal plans, can give workers the convenience and peace of mind they need to focus on their jobs, while providing employers a cost-effective, tangible means of demonstrating a commitment to their workers’ wellbeing.
Bill Brooks is CEO of Hyatt Legal Plans, a MetLife company. Hyatt Legal Plans is the largest provider of group legal plans in the country, serving more than two million group legal plan members and dependents through a nationwide network of 5,300 law firms. For more information on Hyatt Legal Plans and to obtain a complimentary white paper about the impact of legal issues on workplace productivity, please visit www.legalplans.com. Group legal plans provided by Hyatt Legal Plans, Inc., Cleveland, OH. In certain states, plans are provided through insurance coverage underwritten by Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company and Affiliates, Warwick, RI.