By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff
While the United States’ stable job market and regulatory environment have kept employee benefits offerings steady, some benefits such as student loan repayment, paternity leave, telecommuting, standing desks and telemedicine are gaining notable upward traction, according to SHRM’s latest Employee Benefits Survey, released June 25, 2019. Companies are also conducting extensive research on their specific employee demographic to find a unique benefits package that resonates with the majority of their employees’ needs and stage of life.
“Finding the right combination of benefits that appeals to a multigenerational workforce can be a challenge,” said Alex Alonso, SHRM-SCP, chief knowledge officer for SHRM. “But if you know a good portion of your workforce are Baby Boomers with aging parents, you might choose to beef up your caregiving benefits and flexible scheduling policies. On the other hand, if you have a young demographic, offering benefits like student loan repayment could be the way to go. Health care costs are eating up a good portion of employer benefits budgets, so employers aren’t choosing to make many new changes. It’s really about incorporating the higher health care costs and doing what you can with the rest of your benefits budget to meet employees’ needs.”
Highlights from the survey include the following:
Family-Friendly and Wellness Benefits:
- Standing desks continue to rise in popularity. Currently, 60 percent of employers offer this benefit, compared to one-quarter just five years ago.
- Company-provided dependent care flexible spending accounts have declined 8 percentage points since last year.
- Onsite lactation/mother’s rooms are offered by 51 percent of employers, up 16 percentage points from 2015.
Leave and Flexible Working Benefits:
- The number of employers offering family leave above the time required by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act increased by 6 percentage points. Additionally, while paid leave for new fathers has gone up only slightly since 2018, it has seen a steady rise over the past five years (up 14 percentage points) and is now within 4 percentage points of paid leave for new mothers, the most common type of paid leave for new parents.
- Telecommuting on a part-time basis is on the rise, now offered by 42 percent of employers. Flexible working benefits continue to rise in popularity, and, as a result, telecommuting of all types is increasing, as are most types of flexible scheduling.
Health Care and Health Services:
- Telemedicine and telehealth increased by 10 percentage points within the past year. Additionally, telemedicine benefits have increased from 23 percent in 2016 to 72 percent this year.
- PPOs continue to be the most popular health insurance option, available in 85 percent of organizations, followed by high-deductible health plans linked to a savings or spending account, available in 59 percent of organizations. Offerings of high-deductible health plans that are not linked with an HSA or HRA decreased by 10 percentage points since last year.
Investment and Retirement Benefits:
- Company-provided student-loan repayment benefits have risen from 4 percent in 2018 to 8 percent in 2019. This category is expected to gain additional traction if pending federal legislation is passed.
- Employer-provided charitable donations are down over the past five years, but more than one-quarter of organizations now provide paid time off for volunteering to meet the demands of workers who value corporate social responsibility.
Programs and Services Benefits:
- The number of companies offering relocation lump-sum payments increased by 6 percentage points over the past year. However, housing and relocation benefits overall, which were once common for many organizations, are now offered by less than one-third of organizations.
- Employees keeping hotel points and frequent flyer miles were both notably lower this year than in 2018. Reimbursement for personal phone calls while on business travel also decreased by 9 percentage points.
Abut the survey. SHRM's annual survey of U.S. employers examines more than 250 benefits that organizations may offer their employees. The survey of 2,763 randomly selected HR professionals was conducted in April of this year.
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