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Ease pain of health benefits cuts with less costly perks

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

Quell employee grumbling about their increasing health care premiums and deductibles by offering other popular benefits that cost the company less.

Organizations may be shifting more of health care costs to employees, but they’re filling the gaps with perks such as telework and training for nonjob-related skills, says the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) 2008 Employee Benefits Survey.

Employers also are piling on intangibles, such as allowing workers to bring their children to work during a breakdown in child care arrangements, says SHRM President Susan Meisinger.

Here are three benefits trends that might work for your organization:

1. The new family. Expand your organization’s definition of family to include same-sex partners and dependent grandchildren. Thirty-six percent of employers in the SHRM survey offer health care coverage for both of those groups. Plus, 30% offer health care benefits for foster children, and 15% give paid adoption leave.

2. Family first. More than 60% of organizations reimburse employees for long-distance calls to home during business travel. Thirty-seven percent offer a compressed workweek; 24% offer benefits like postal services, legal assistance or a subsidized cafeteria; and 5% offer concierge services.

3. Health watch. As organizations place more financial responsibility for health care on employees, they’re also helping them stay healthy: 72% have wellness programs, 40% offer help with smoking cessation and 31% encourage employees to participate in weight-loss groups. (Twenty-one percent even pay for gastric bypass or other weight-loss surgeries, the survey says.)

The cost: Employers say benefits account for an average of 39% of their payroll—including 21% for mandatory benefits and 18% for employee-selected perks.

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