Threat Management

ID theft protection for employees can boost productivity, worker loyalty

Unlimited vacation, 401K-matching and… identity compromise protections? A new survey-based research report asserts that anti-ID theft services offered as a workplace benefit can be attractive to both employees and employers.

Employers win, the report states, because workers protected by ID compromise services are less likely to waste work hours attempting to remediate a distracting and stressful personal data breach. Such offerings also present a strategic human resources advantage that can help with recruitment, employee loyalty and retention.

Jointly conducted by the non-profit Identity Theft Research Center (ITRC) and ID theft solution provider Aura Identity Guard, the survey took into account the responses of 1,505 employers who identified themselves as key organizational decision-makers, as well as 1,520 employees who have previously experienced an ID compromise.

The decision to restrict the employee survey pool to individuals who have been victimized in the past does introduce the potential for bias, because those affected by ID theft would logically see more value in being protected from such attacks than individuals who were never impacted. Nevertheless, the respondents overwhelmingly agreed that ID compromise services are an appreciated workplace perk.

Among employees with access to such benefits, 93.6 percent said they felt they were able to respond more quickly in the event an ID compromise than if they didn’t have these services, and 91.02 percent said the services helped them resolve their ID compromises issue faster.

Meanwhile, 82.5 percent of surveyed bosses agreed that such services provide value to their staff members. But in helping their employees, they are also helping their own businesses – because an employee suffering from an ID theft can easily result in a “decline in productivity to workplace apathy,” the report warns.

Indeed, as part of a separate survey whose fully results will be released in October, the ITRC found that 24.6 percent of polled identity compromise victims experienced issues with their employers as a result of a personal identity compromise and that 27.3 present reported difficulties with their boss or coworkers. And a previous ITRC report published in 2017 found that employees can spent anywhere from 12.5-25 working days resolving an identity theft attack.

“For an employee with an annual salary of $50,000, this can translate to between $2,404 and $4,808 worth of work – and the numbers only go up as salaries get higher,” said Gerry Baldwin, general manager of employee benefits at Aura Identity Guard. “Furthermore, when you consider that one-third of Americans are victims of identity theft, the cost of the time it takes for employees of a company to deal with identity theft can result in opportunity costs of millions of dollars annually for a single company.”

That’s why employers are counting on their ID compromise benefits to save time and headaches for all parties involved. To that end, 91.19 percent of surveyed employees and 25.15 of polled employers recognized that having an identity compromise solution lowered the amount of time off needed to resolve an ID crisis, and both employers (61.6 percent) and employees (88.62 percent) agreed that the identity compromise solution allowed workers to remain more engaged during work hours. 

Additionally, the report noted that more effective, efficient problem resolution “translated into a reduction in stress – 92.11 percent of employees and 24.98 percent of employers identified it as an aid in lessening the negative impact.”

That’s important, because stress and distractions can lead to workplace errors, perhaps resulting in an even bigger security compromise affecting the business itself.

But there is another advantage: 92.29 percent of employees said that the ID compromise solution actually helped to heighten their own security awareness within the workplace, and 90.45 said they became more invested in their company’s security as a result of lessons learned from their own ID compromise solution.

Additionally, ID theft protections as a benefit also can improve a company’s standing in the eyes of the employee, the report claims. Of the employees polled in the survey, 91.19 percent said that having access to an identity compromise solution left them with a positive impression of their employers, and 41.13 of employers also acknowledged their employees’ appreciation.

“There are countless studies that inform us that employees who feel supported by their employers during times of personal upheaval are more productive and more resilient,” said Eva Velasquez, CEO and president of the ITRC. “While these are often focused on other life issues, such as divorce, death of loved one or other personal challenges, they are applicable to this life event  – an identity compromise.”

Positive feelings toward the workplace naturally can improve retention, but ID theft protections can also be used for recruitment as part of an alluring benefits package.

For the moment, such offerings are still not especially common. According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ (IFEBP) 2018 Employee Benefits Survey, 10 percent of 400 polled employers said that they offered identity theft protection insurance as an employer-paid benefit, while another 18 percent offered it as an employee-paid voluntary benefit.

“Our 2020 Employee Benefit Survey is still in the field. Early responses indicate a bit of an uptick; about 20 percent of employers are offering this protection as a voluntary benefit, and another 20 percent as employer-paid,” said Julie Stich, vice president of content at the IFEBP.

The demand for it among the workforce appears to be there. A 2019 survey of 1,512 U.S. working adults conducted by supplemental insurance coverage provider Unum found that identity theft protection comprised the 11th most popular non-insurance benefit among U.S. workers (11 percent), and a year earlier a study by benefits administration and cloud-based HR services provider Alight Solutions reportedly showed that 50 percent of workers want help getting access to these services, although only 24 percent of employers think they should provide them.

“What we’re hearing from employers is that demand is spurred by personal online theft experience – [an] employee’s own or a loved one’s – or news reports of a major breach,” said Stich. “Like many employee benefits, such as disability insurance or retirement benefits, it’s something that is not always on the forefront of employees’ minds until it is needed. But with the cumulative increase of ID theft over the past few years, we are seeing an uptick in interest.” 

According to the ITRC study, an 82.36 percent majority of employees whose companies do not currently offer ID theft services agreed that they would be beneficial to them, with 67.28 percent saying they would use them if the employer were willing to pick up the cost.

“If a company wishes to offer cyber wellness solutions as employer-paid options, the cost to the employer can vary, based on the number of employees using the solution and the type of plan offered,” said Baldwin. For context, the cost of Aura Identity Guard ranges anywhere “from a couple of dollars per employee for a lower-tier plan to a little more than $6 per employee for our Ultimate Plan,” he added.

But it doesn’t necessarily need to cost anything at all. According to survey, half of employees – 50.15 percent – said they would be willing to pay for an identity compromise solution as a voluntary benefit.

Of the employers participating in the ITRC study who confirmed that they did offer ID compromise protections, 55.6 percent said they offered an employer-funded benefit, 17.6 percent said they included it as a voluntary benefit paid by the employees, and 55.2 percent said they give referrals to free resources including non-profits or government agencies.

“We are seeing employers getting more creative with their benefit offerings as a way to attract and retain key staff, and identity theft protection can be a valued benefit option,” said Stich. “For one, it’s a benefit that is asked for and appreciated; it provides a sense of security and peace of mind. Aside from building loyalty, this protection can also help with employee productivity and well-being.” 

“Your benefits and compensation package are key tools in attracting and retaining the best employees for your organization," Stich continued. "ID theft protection can be a distinguishing tool that helps your organization stand out from the rest, and it can be a comfort to current employees.  Of course, should your organization’s personnel data be the unfortunate victim of a hack, consider it a must-have."

Bradley Barth

As director of community content at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for SC Media online conferences and events, as well as video/multimedia projects. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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