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Preserve flex, work/life benefits during tough economy

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

The stormy economy hasn’t dampened employers’ interests in offering work/life benefits to their employees, says a new study.

Even as organizations severely cut contributions to health care, disability programs and pension plans, they continue to offer flexible schedules, child and elder care support, and employee assistance with family and personal problems, according to the 2008 National Study of Employers by New York-based Families and Work Institute (FWI).

Among its other findings, the study identifies several work/life benefits trends among employers. How does your organization stack up?

1. Employers in 2008 are more likely to allow traditional flextime perks, such as optional start and stop times or compressed workweeks, than in 1998 when FWI conducted its last study of employers.

2. Organizations are less likely to allow employees to switch between working full time and part time as their personal situations change. Known as “flexible part-time work,” this benefit ensures that employees don’t lose seniority or status when they work part time.

Employers are significantly less likely to provide full pay during leave for maternity-related disabilities, a change that mirrors cutbacks in employer contributions to health care premiums.

4. Organizations are about as likely to offer child care assistance as they were 10 years ago, even during the recent economic downturn.

5. Three-quarters of employers allow employees with elder care responsibilities to take paid or unpaid leave without jeopardizing their jobs. The older the organization’s decision-makers, the study’s authors say, the more likely they  themselves have experienced elder care issues.

6. Perhaps in response to the extra stress and heavier workloads that occur in a tight economy, more organizations are helping employees resolve personal and family problems through Employee Assistance Programs.

Although employers are less likely to pay full family health insurance premiums now than they were a decade ago, significantly more employers offer health insurance coverage for employees’ unmarried partners.

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