Employee benefits stable in ’08 despite slump

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in Employee Benefits Program,FMLA Guidelines,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Although a poor economy is roiling employers nationwide, they’re managing to maintain employee benefits, according to a survey released Sunday by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Even so, employers are looking for ways to cut costs where they can—for example, substituting low- or no-cost benefits for expensive insurance coverage. Benefits will cost employers 39% of payroll in 2008, about the same as last year.

“Rising health care costs, combined with the state of the economy, are causing more employers to adjust health care and financial benefits,” said SHRM President and CEO Susan R. Meisinger. “But in return, employers are offering other valuable but less costly benefits, such as telecommuting, cross-training for nonjob-related skills development and allowing employees to bring in their children to the office in an emergency.”

SHRM surveyed 996 randomly selected members to find out what’s hot and what’s not in the world of employee benefits.

First the “nots.” Among the benefits that declined in 2008:

  • Health screening programs
  • Stock options
  • Paid family leave
  • Legal assistance

Balancing out those cutbacks were increases in:

  • Company-provided cell phones
  • On-site vaccinations
  • Fitness center memberships
  • Roth 401(k) savings plans

Other key findings from the survey:

  • As the modern definition of family changes, organizations are adjusting their benefits. Thirty-six percent offer health care coverage for both same-sex partners and dependent grandchildren. In addition, 30% offer health care benefits for foster children, and 15% give paid adoption leave.

  • Organizations continue to recognize the value of work/life balance. Thirty-seven percent offer a compressed workweek. A quarter make it easy for employees to mail letters and packages, get legal assistance or shop for groceries or take-home meals. Five percent have a concierge service.

  • Employers are helping employees stay healthy. For example, 72% offer wellness resources, while 40% offer smoking cessation programs. Thirty-one percent sponsor weight-loss programs.

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