Advisors to small business owners, and employees of small businesses, have their work cut out for them. According to Limra research, just 47% of small businesses in the U.S. offer benefits to employees. It defined small business as those with fewer than 100 employees. When that is put side-by-side with Census data that shows that 98% of businesses in the U.S. fall into this size category, over half of all U.S. businesses do not offer benefits.

The idea of small businesses not offering benefits is not new, but the numbers are getting worse. According to Limra, that 47% is the lowest level the group has found in two decades of research.

While life insurance is a product frequently offered by small businesses, according to Limra, other offerings like disability or accident insurance are less common, which leaves those employees potentially exposed to a variety of financial risks.

"The recession has had an impact on smaller employers’ ability to offer benefits, particularly those with fewer than 10 employees,” said Kim Landry, research analyst and Limra, in a press release. “The weak economy caused a lot of small firms to close, while the new firms cropping up to replace them are less likely to offer benefits. Many small businesses are also hesitant to add new benefits until the economy improves."

Among those small businesses that do offer insurance benefits to their employees, medical and prescription drug plans are by far the most popular, and tend to be the first benefits that companies bring on board. "These benefits provide an opportunity for small business owners to obtain coverage not only for their employees, but also for themselves and their families," noted Landry. "We also found dental and vision coverage to be common offerings among small businesses, as these products tend to be very popular with employees."