Nearly one-third of organizations increased their overall benefits in the last 12 months signaling the need to remain competitive in today’s recruiting environment, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) 2017 Employee Benefits survey report released this week.
Increases in benefits packages were most likely in health (22 percent) and wellness (24 percent) offerings.
“Recruiting difficulty has continued to increase over the last five years, and competition for talent is high,” said Shonna Waters, vice president of research for SHRM. “Most companies are now using benefits as a strategic tool for recruiting and retaining talent in this competitive environment.”
Offering health care to employee spouses and domestic partners is one way that employers are strategically using health care benefits in recruiting. In 2014, 71 percent of companies offered opposite-sex spouses health care coverage, while only 46 percent offered it to same-sex spouses. That gap closed to just 10 percentage points in 2017. Ninety-five percent of employees now offer health care coverage to opposite-sex spouses, while 85 percent offer it to same-sex spouses. Although to control health care costs, 19 percent of employers have restrictions or a surcharge for coverage for opposite-sex spouses, and 16 percent have restrictions for coverage for same-sex spouses.
Additionally, about one-third of companies (34 percent) are offering health care coverage to part-time employees. That compares to 27 percent in 2014.
At the same time, about three of every five organizations (59 percent) have a general wellness program for employees.
The increase in certain flexible work arrangements also indicates that it is an important factor with recruitment and retention. Slightly more than three out of five organizations (62 percent) allowed some type of telecommuting, and 57 percent offered flextime, allowing employees to choose their work hours within limits established by the employer.
The biggest change for flexible working benefits was an increase in telecommuting on an ad-hoc basis (59 percent) over the past five years.
Among other key findings:
- 30 percent of organizations provide paid maternity leave beyond what is covered by short-term disability or state law, an increase from 26 percent in 2016. Fewer—24 percent—offer paternity leave.
- Two-thirds of women (66 percent) use all paid maternity leave, but far fewer male employees used all available paternity leave. Female employees were almost twice as likely as men to use all parental/family leave.
- Standing desks had a greater increase over the past five years than any of the benefits covered by this survey. This benefit grew threefold from 13 percent in 2013 to 44 percent in 2017.
25 percent of organizations offer an onsite fitness center; 25 percent offer offsite fitness center membership subsidy/reimbursement.
- 49 percent of companies allow employees to dress casually every workday.
- On-site lactation rooms (42 percent) increased 8 percentage points compared with 2013.
- More organizations are offering financial advice (49 percent) compared with 2016 (36 percent) as well as five years ago.
- The most common travel perks were allowing employees to keep hotel points (66 percent) and frequent flyer miles (65 percent).
- More companies offer free coffee (80 percent) compared to 72 percent in 2013.
- Seventeen new benefits were added to this year’s report, including a four-day workweek of 32 hours or less (13 percent), paid time off to vote (42 percent), unpaid time off to vote beyond what is required by law (33 percent), cancer insurance (separate from critical illness insurance) (28 percent), and company-paid identity theft protection (9 percent).
The survey of 3,227 randomly selected HR professionals was conducted in January and February. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.