Employee Benefits: Which Ones Are Surviving the Weak Economy?

June 30, 2010
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) released a new report showing that 63 percent of HR professionals say the economic recession negatively affected their organization's employee benefit offerings “to some extent,” over the past year.

About one-third (28 percent) said the recession didn't have any effect on their employee benefit packages, with only 9 percent reporting it had a “large” affect on what they were able to keep providing to their employees.

The findings are detailed in the SHRM 2010 Employee Benefits Research Report, released at SHRM’s 62nd Annual Conference and Exposition in San Diego.

Must-haves like family-friendly benefits remain largely unchanged from last year, while several types of housing and relocation benefits took a hit. The report also shows a downward trend, some significant, in several employee benefit categories over the past 5 years, from 2006 to 2010.

The percent of payroll paid on benefits holds steady in 2010 when compared with 2009. On average, 19 percent of an employee’s annual salary was spent on mandatory benefits, 18 percent on voluntary benefits and 11 percent on pay-for-time-not-worked benefits. In 2009, HR professionals reported that 20 percent of payroll costs were spent on mandatory benefits, 19 percent for voluntary benefits and 11 percent for paid leave benefits.

Mandatory benefits typically include unemployment, workers’ compensation and Social Security. Voluntary benefits include medical plans, dental plans, prescription coverage, flexible spending accounts, vision plans and survivor benefits.

“Although the recession has presented challenges in the continued support of some employee benefits, some organizations are finding creative ways to replace the more costly benefits with alternative, less costly, family-friendly benefits,” said Mark Schmit, director of research at SHRM. “These progressive companies will likely fare better in retaining key talent as employment opportunities increase post-recession.”

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Two of the 14 different types of housing and relocation benefits saw significant cuts from 2009 to 2010. In 2009, 36 percent of HR professionals said their company provided “location visit assistance” compared to 20 percent in 2010. Also, the number that provided “rental assistance” dropped from 12 percent in 2009 to 3 percent in 2010. Since 2006, rental assistance benefits fell 19 percent and location visit assistance 20 percent.
  • Business travel benefits cuts were minor from 2009 to 2010, but the changes have been significant over the past 5 years. Only 4 percent of organizations cut benefits that allow employees to keep frequent flier miles, hotel points and make paid long-distance calls home while on business travel. Over 5 years, however, 24 percent of employers cut paid long-distance call benefits, 8 percent reduced travel accident insurance benefits and 8 percent also cut paid dry cleaning business travel benefits.
  • Cuts to retirement savings and financial planning benefits changed little from 2009 to 2010 but did so significantly over 5 years. Among the 15 different types of benefits in this category, the number of organizations offering “individual investment advice” dropped from 48 percent in 2006 to 40 percent in 2010. Even more dropped “retirement planning services” – 52 percent in 2006 to 39 percent in 2010. The “traditional defined benefit pension plan” also is offered by fewer employers with 48 percent offering it in 2006 compared with 27 percent in 2010.
  • Opposite-sex domestic partners continue to be included in family-friendly benefit plans. Family-friendly benefits for domestic partners – same-sex and opposite-sex – are offered by 13 percent of organizations in the 2010 survey. SHRM began tracking the trend in 2008 and the numbers hold steady.
  • Health care and welfare benefits for domestic partners are holding steady. Thirty-seven percent of organizations report offering the benefit to same-sex domestic partners, while 38 percent offer the benefits to opposite-sex domestic partners. The numbers hold steady to 2008 when tracking began.
  • Overall, health care and welfare benefits were a mixed bag of offerings in the 2010 report. While the “rehabilitation assistance” benefit increased from 37 percent in 2009 to 45 percent in 2010, the “long-term health care insurance” benefit dropped from 39 percent to 31 percent during the same time period. “Mental health coverage” benefits continue to increase – from 80 percent in 2009 to 82 percent in 2010, and from 73 percent in 2006.
  • The other benefits category continues to decline in several types of coverage. HR professionals reported fewer companies offering noncash company-wide performance awards and company-purchased tickets to cultural and sporting events and theme parks. Also on the decline are take your child to work day, holiday parties, company picnics and milestone awards.

To see the full survey, visit http://www.shrm.org/surveys.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

DH Pace, national door and dock provider, reduces TRIR and claims with EHS solution

May 29, 2024
Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!