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Employee Benefits Shift in Era of Cost Pressures
 

By Stephen Miller, CEBS  6/17/2013

Employers are continuing to make gradual shifts to their benefits plans as they confront legislative changes, escalating costs, slashed HR budgets and an uneven economy, according to the findings in SHRM’s 2013 Employee Benefits survey report, released on June 14. The report was sponsored by Colonial Life.

The survey of randomly selected SHRM members was fielded in February 2013. Noteworthy benefits trends highlighted in the survey report include:

• Preventive health and wellness. Over the last five years, the number of organizations providing wellness-related initiatives that offer incentives to employees has increased (see chart below). 

Health and Wellness Incentives Show Sizable Increase

Respondents Offering in 2009

Respondents Offering in 2013

Health and lifestyle coaching

33%

48%

Rewards or bonuses for completing certain health and wellness programs

23

43

Onsite fitness classes

12

21

Health care premium discount for getting an annual health risk assessment

10

21

Health care premium discount for participating in a wellness program

8

17

Source: 2013 Employee Benefits survey report.

Retirement savings and planning. Employer-sponsored retirement plans continue to shift toward 401(k)-type defined contribution plans, with more organizations offering Roth 401(k) options. There was also an increase in the number of organizations offering one-on-one investment advice and specific retirement preparation advice.

Financial benefits and compensation. Employee referral bonuses have gained in popularity over the past year.

Leave. Paid-time-off plans, which combine traditional vacation time, sick leave and personal days into one comprehensive plan, continue to gain in popularity. At the same time, the following benefits have become less prevalent: floating holidays, paid personal days, paid vacation leave donation programs and paid sick leave donation programs.

Flexible working benefits. Flextime has remained stable in recent years.

Housing and relocation benefits. Temporary relocation benefits continue to decline in popularity.

Family-Friendly Benefits Expand

Onsite lactation/mother’s rooms and domestic partner benefits for same-sex partners (other than health care) continue to gain in popularity, the survey found.

Regarding child care benefits, 71 percent of employers offer dependent care flexible spending accounts, 26 percent allow employees to bring their children to work in a child care emergency, and 12 percent offer a child care referral service.

“With a majority of single-parent families having a parent in the workforce and 59 percent of two-parent families with both parents employed, child care benefits are an important recruiting and job satisfaction driver for working parents,” said Evren Esen, manager of SHRM’s Survey Research Center.

Steps to Take

The report includes a number of recommended action steps, including the following:

  • Create a strategy to comply with health care reform. HR professionals play an important role in designing organizations’ strategies for complying with the numerous requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including plan design and cost factors, employee notifications, government reporting, and other aspects of this enormously complex legislation.

  • Promote workplace flexibility initiatives. These low-cost initiatives can lead to increased employee job satisfaction, reduced turnover and lower insurance costs. Policies should support employees in balancing their work, family and personal obligations and, at the same time, should provide certainty, predictability and stability to employers.

  • Improve employee benefits communication. A disconnect exists between the dollar amount organizations spend on benefits and employees’ perceptions of the value of their benefits package. Total compensation statements, benefits workshops, employee meetings and social networking tools are examples of communication methods that organizations can use to help ensure that their benefits programs are valued, understood and used by employees.

  • Ask for feedback. The majority of surveyed HR professionals reported that their organizations review their benefits programs at least once a year. “An organization’s benefits program should be reviewed and assessed not only to monitor associated costs and value but also to evaluate the competitiveness of the program,” advised Alexander Alonso, SHRM’s vice president for research. “HR professionals can use benchmarking tools, benefits needs assessments and employee surveys to help their organizations customize their benefits programs to meet their needs and to remain competitive.” 

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. 

Related SHRM Articles:

SHRM Research Spotlights Health Care Reform Strategies, Costs, SHRM Online Benefits, June 2013 

Quick Links:

SHRM Online Benefits page

SHRM Online Health Care Reform Resource Page

SHRM Online Retirement Plans Resource Page

SHRM Online Outsourcing Resource Page

SHRM Online Workplace Flexibility Resource Page

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