Economy is down but benefits remain stable

Despite recent challenges to the economy, employers are managing to maintain a balance in employee benefits, according to the 2008 Employee Benefits Survey released today by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) at its 60th Annual Conference.

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

Benefits that declined in 2008, such as health screening programs; stock options; paid family, adoption, paternity leave; and legal assistance, were balanced by benefits that have increased in popularity this year. They include allowing personal use of company-provided cell phones and communication devices, on-site vaccinations, fitness center membership reimbursement or subsidy, and Roth 401(k) savings plans.

The Employee Benefits Survey, published annually by SHRM since 1996, gathers information on the types of benefits that employers are offering in 10 benefits categories. This year's survey, which documents 257 different benefits, reflects responses by 996 randomly selected members of SHRM.

Key findings in this year's survey are below:

 

  • As the modern definition of family changes, organizations are adjusting their benefits: 36 percent offer health care coverage for both same-sex partners and for dependent grandchildren. In addition, 30 percent offer health care benefits for foster children, and 15 percent give paid adoption leave.

     

  • Organizations recognize the importance of work/life balance. For instance, 62 percent pay for long-distance calls home during business travel; 37 percent offer a compressed work week; 24 percent offer such benefits as postal services, legal assistance, and food services or a subsidized cafeteria; and 5 percent offer concierge service.

     

  • Organizations are helping employees improve their health. For example, 72 percent offer wellness resources and information; 40 percent offer smoking cessation programs; 31 percent offer weight-loss programs; and 21 percent offer bariatric procedure coverage.

    Human resource professionals report that benefits costs to employers average 39 percent of payroll. Of those costs, 21 percent are attributed to mandatory benefits, and 18 percent to employee-selected benefits.

    Colonial Life is the exclusive sponsor of the Society for Human Resource Management's 2008 Employee Benefits Survey.

    You can read more information about SHRM surveys.

     

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