Benefit Obligations versus Benefit Expectations

Compensation counts. As any non-profit struggling to recruit volunteers will tell you, people like to be paid for their hard work. When it comes to employee retention, though, there’s much more to the equation.

yoga as an HR benefit

The legal requirements for benefits and compensation packages vary by jurisdiction.

In most developed countries, you’re required to allow time off for childbirth, elections, jury duty, and military service. There are often strict laws mandating time off for employees who can’t perform their duties due to temporary disability or illness. And employers are generally expected to pay minimum wages, as well as a portion of payroll taxes, employment insurance, national pension programs, and workers’ compensation funds.

For many job candidates though, simply getting the minimum legally-obligated benefits package isn’t enough. Intense recruiting competition and organized labour movements force employers to offer much more comprehensive options; Only a few employers categories are able to avoid the expense (notably illegal workers and low-skill service positions).

Paid vacations, professional training, housing allotments, pension plans, life insurance, health insurance, dental insurance, and public transit passes are some of only a few options available to you. Deciding which are minimum expectations, unnecessary luxuries, or valuable perks can be a difficult challenge.

yoga as an HR benefit

Optional yoga lessons can be a fun and affordable job perk.
Flickr/Wayne Sutton

Evaluate the offerings of businesses in your industry, in your area, and of your size, to help overcome that challenge. The National Federation of Independent Business occasionally conducts comprehensive polls of American small business owners, which can be an informative starting point. Some findings: 

  • 91% pay more than the minimum wage
  • 75% offer paid vacations
  • 61% offer health insurance
  • 54% offer free or discounted goods
  • 52% pay bonuses or share profits
  • 39% reimburse for job-related education
  • 30% have a pension plan
  • 24% offer dental insurance
  • 12% offer a cafeteria plan
  • Only 6% use the “proper procedure” for determining who is eligible for overtime pay (many avoid the hassle by paying everyone)

What can you afford?

Employee retention shouldn’t come at the expense of profit—the two should go hand-in-hand. Your benefits program doesn’t have an endless supply of money. As with all expenditures, it’s important to think about what will get you the best value for your money.

Discounted purchases are probably a viable and appreciated benefit in restaurants, but not in real estate. Paying way more than the minimum wage might be easy in Wyoming (where it’s $5.15/hour), but more challenging in Washington (where it’s $8.67/hour).

Having trouble deciding between a pension plan and a cafeteria plan? Ask your employees! Since your goal is to keep them happy and productive, it makes sense to see what they would like the most.

Engaged workers are better workers.

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Sources: NFIB National Small Business Poll. (2003). “Compensating Employees.” Vol. 3, Issue 2. 1–20.; Kasewurm, G.A. (2006). “Employee benefit plans requires a balancing act.” The Hearing Journal 59(12). 53.

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