HR News Update

Employers Holding Steady on Benefits,

Despite Economy

The latest edition of an annual study of employee benefits offerings reveals some revealing and surprising trends. "There has been surprising stability in many of the practices, policies, and programs of U.S. employers over the past 10 years," according to Families and Work Institute president and founder Ellen Galinsky in announcing the recently released 10th edition of the Institute's "National Study of Employers (NSE)."

"The Families and Work Institute confirms that in the face of economic volatility, companies have generally held steady or reduced benefits that carry hard costs," says Galinsky. "Yet in certain areas, including domestic partner benefits and access to information on support service, we are seeing an expansion of benefits. We find it particularly interesting that having an employee base composed of a greater percentage of women, or the presence of women and minorities in senior positions, is correlated with a more flexible workplace."

Here are some specific findings from the 2008 NSE:

Flexibility. Seventy-nine percent of employers now allow some percentage of employees to periodically change their arrival and departure times (up from 68 percent in 1998). Forty-seven percent of employers allow at least some employees to move from full-time to part-time work and back again while remaining in the same position or level (down from 57 percent in 1998).

Childbirth care giving leaves. The maximum length of leave offered to new parents and new adoptive parents remains the same as in 1998. However fewer employers provide full pay during maternity-related disability (now 16 percent as opposed to 27 percent in 1998).

Elder care. Thirty-nine percent of employers now provide access to information regarding services for elderly family members (up from 23 percent in 1998).

Employee assistance programs. Sixty-five percent of employers provide some level of employee assistance programs with internal or external providers (up from 56 percent in 1998).

Employee wellness programming. Sixty percent of employers provide wellness services and programs (up from 56 percent in 1998).

Employee benefits. Only 4 percent of employers pay all of the premiums for family members' health benefits (down from 13 percent in 1998). Thirty-five percent of employers have increased employees' premium co-pays for their individual and family premiums over the past year. Twenty-nine percent of employers offer defined pension plans in 2008 (down from 48 percent in 1998). Eighty-one percent of employers make contributions to employees' retirement plans (down from 91 percent in 1998).

The NSE study also drew the following conclusions about the types of organizations that are likely to be most generous in their benefits offerings: "In sum, nonprofits offer more programs, policies, and benefits than for-profits do, making them an interesting choice for employees who want both meaningful work and employer support in managing their work and personal lives. Furthermore, employers with more diversity in top positions and among those who report directly to these top positions provide more support [for employees]. When these initiatives cost money (care giving leaves, child and elder care assistance, and health and economic security), employers that are larger are more likely to provide a high level of support."


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