Employee benefits success is all about communication. A third of compensation costs go towards employee benefits and some employees would forgo a raise for better work-life balance or better healthcare benefits, but almost half of employees don’t even understand the benefits their employer already offers.
Benefits account for more than 30 percent of total employee compensation, but that doesn’t mean employees use them. Nearly half don’t understand all the benefits their organization offers, according to a report from Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).
Even though they don’t have a good grasp on their current benefits, more than 40 percent of employees would forgo a raise in favor of work-life balance benefits and almost 20 percent would accept lower pay for better healthcare coverage.
More than 80 percent of employees have paid vacation time and over 70 percent have paid sick leave. Less than half of organizations offer paid maternity leave and only a quarter offer paid paternity leave. Recently large organizations have overhauled their benefits for parents, like Pinterest, whose benefits now include four months off for mothers or fathers, one-on-one classes with a parenting coach and online classes if children have learning or developmental disabilities. In the next few years, organizations offering maternity leave are likely to increase and there’s a chance companies that offer paternity leave might see a significant spike too.
Benefits that were nonexistent in 2013 (at least in terms of EBRI’s report) like health savings accounts and accident insurance are now offered by more than 15 percent of organizations. Student loan assistance is a trend EBRI started measuring this year and almost 15 percent of employees said their employer provides student loan debt relief/repayment assistance. The IRS recently ruled that a company could contribute to an employee’s 401(k) based on student loan payments, so employees can pay down their student loan debt and save for retirement at the same time with employer contributions. Employers are also helping employees continue their education as more companies partner with institutions to offer employees free college tuition.
Most employees predict weakening benefits offerings in the next three years, but everything I’ve seen in benefits trends this year points to stronger benefits offerings on the horizon. However, recently companies like Walgreens have started to slash benefits in order to raise overall wages. It’s a concerning trend to keep an eye on in the years to come.