SHRM’s 2019 Survey Reveals Most Popular Employee Benefits

Employers continue to place a lot of value in the employee benefits they offer their workforce, according the SHRM 2019 Employee Benefits Survey. SHRM conducts the survey annually to gather information on the types of benefits employers are offering their employees and to report on trends.

SHRM conducted the survey in April 2019 and asked participants whether they had increased, decreased or sustained benefits offerings over the last year in the following major categories:

  • Health;
  • Wellness;
  • Leave;
  • Flexibility;
  • Career;
  • Retirement; and
  • Other benefits.

The SHRM survey report also discussed potential reasons behind some of the trends shaping the current benefits landscape, citing:

Increase in Benefits Offerings

The survey revealed that employers were more likely to increase, rather than, decrease, their benefits offerings. In fact, no more than 3% of organizations reported benefits decreases in any category. The biggest increases (20%) to benefits were in the health and wellness benefits categories.

The SHRM survey report also noted increases in the following areas:

  • Student loan repayment (4% increase);
  • Standing desks (7% increase); and
  • Part-time telecommuting (5% increase).

Health Benefits

A majority of surveyed organizations (70%) reported that they maintained their health care benefits at existing levels this year. Although 85% of employers said they offer Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) insurance plans, 59% said they have at least one High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) option. Additionally:

  • 68% of employers said they offer health care flexible spending accounts; and
  • 56% offer health savings accounts (which must be offered along with a HDHP).

The surveyed organizations also reported offering various types of supplemental insurance, including:

  • Accidental death and dismemberment insurance (83%);
  • Long-term disability (71%);
  • Short-term disability (61%); and
  • Accident insurance (27%).

Leave and Flexible Working

It’s no surprise that the SHRM survey revealed that leave benefits and flexible working arrangements remain popular workforce benefits. Almost all organizations provide paid vacation (98%) and sick leave (95%) to at least some of their employees. However, 62% of employers provide vacation and sick leave through a paid time off (PTO) bank that covers both options.

Only about 20% of employers reported offering paid or unpaid leave to meet the needs of caregiving employees in addition to what is mandated by federal and state Family and Medical Leave Act requirements.

Paid leave for new parents hasn’t changed much since 2018, according to the survey, with:

  • 34% of employers offering paid maternity leave; and
  • 30% offering paternity leave.

Although unlimited vacation has been a hot topic in HR over the last few years, only 6% of the surveyed organizations reported offering it. So, while the idea may sound amazing from an employee’s perspective, it’s best not to count on it anytime soon.

Finally, flexible working has continued to become more popular, with organizations offering:

  • Ad hoc telecommuting (69%), up 13% since 2015;
  • Full-time telecommuting (27%); and
  • Flextime during core business hours (57%).

Retirement and Investment Benefits

Almost all the surveyed employers said they offer some kind of retirement plan, with 93% offering traditional 401(k) plans. Additionally, 74% of the survey participants reported having some type of employer 401(k) match contribution program in place.

Many employers also reported offering services designed to help employees with financial decisions, including:

  • Retirement investment advice (57%);
  • Nonretirement financial advice (36%); and
  • Credit counseling services (18%).

Tuition assistance was also pretty common in organizations, with 56% of employers saying they offer it for employees pursuing degrees. And while many of the surveyed employers did not offer student loan repayment assistance, the number of organizations offering it has doubled since 2018 and is up to 8%.

Finally, 26% of organizations reported offering paid time off for volunteer work.

Wellness and Family-Friendly Benefits

A majority of employers (67%) have not changed their wellness and family-friendly benefits in the last year, according the survey. Around 58% of organizations offer wellness programs, and examples of the types of services these programs offer include:

  • Programs focused on particular health conditions (24%);
  • Health screening (31%);
  • Quiet rooms (21%);
  • Fitness activities (30%); and
  • Standing desks (60%).

Other family-friendly benefits employers indicated they offer include:

  • Elder care benefits (10%)
  • Lactation rooms (51%);
  • Lactation support services (13%); and
  • On-ramping programs for parents returning to work (12%).

Do the SHRM survey results reflect your organization’s benefits offerings? Let us know by leaving a comment below.


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