Is the Need for Employee Benefits Hiding Behind Your Workplace Perks?

“After all, giving each employee a $500 annual allowance for massages is exponentially less expensive than extended parental leave.” – J. Maureen Henderson, Founder of Secret Agent Research

There’s nothing wrong with a little foosball after the free lunch you just gave your employees. That might appeal to the younger Millennials working in your office, but what about the rest of your employees? They have young families and geriatric parents to take care of. Without a benefits plan that account for the “happenings” life brings along, you risk losing valuable employees. The perks you offer your workforce shouldn’t replace benefits, Don’t let your workplace perks mask the need for employee benefits… real benefits.

Band-aids can’t fix a broken leg

Although perks can be fodder for candidate attraction, they are not in fact, good solutions for poor retention rates. Perks don’t help to prevent employees from missing days at work, but true benefits, even fringe benefits do. Take on-campus childcare, for example. Although the cost of the childcare is ultimately shifted onto you as the employer, it prevents employees who wouldn’t otherwise have access to such facilities from missing crucial days at work. Likewise, offering paid time off, gives your employees the chance to reenergize and reinvigorate their work. You can’t fix a poor employee infrastructure with perks, but you can solve – and even prevent them – with benefits.

What do these employee benefits say?

Some of the most popular perks for this year include: game rooms, regular massages, meditation rooms, company trips, pet services, high-end gyms and that’s only a short list. Unfortunately, these perks often entice employees to stay 10-12 hours per day, regardless of how productive they are – in fact, you’ll likely see a significant dip in productivity. Chloe Della Costa, Writer for The Cheat Sheet, said:

“The idea is, if you can eat a free dinner, get a haircut, work out, take care of your pets, play games, and have your car washed, all without leaving the office, you might as well stay and continue working.

All of these perks – the idea that if you’re here you might as well work – is a recipe for burnout, and leaves you with the poor retention rate.

There are minimum requirements

These perks might sound wonderful to quality candidates you’re trying to attract, but it doesn’t bode as well for your company legally. You can’t simply ignore the ACA without the legal ramifications and even the best perks won’t cover that. These are the 10 categories your healthcare plan needs to cover for your employees (assuming you have 50 employees or more):

  • Ambulatory patient services
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services including behavioral health treatment
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventative and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services including oral and vision care

There’s a solution…

These perks say a lot about the culture of your company, your values, and how you treat employees. So although it’s a poor decision to let workplace perks eclipse employee benefits, you can intermingle them for a unique package. For example, the average maternity leave is only about 7 weeks, and although there are no U.S. mandates about the amount of time new families should get with the arrival of their bundle of joy, you can still offer a “perked” benefit package. Johnson & Johnson now offers 15-17 weeks of paid maternity leave, and Facebook even gives new parents reimbursement for daycare and adoption fees. So while you want to keep your company perks that reflect your internal values, you don’t have to forsake traditional benefits.

While even the best foosball game you’ve ever played is a great way to destress after a busy day, perks like this can’t replace benefits. Simply put, life happens. Your team needs more than just perks, they need employee benefits.

Bio: Tim Olson

Tim Olson, CEBS, CMFC and Managing Partner of the Olson Group, has been working with Nebraska employers for over 33 years and has been in the employee benefits industry since 1980. Presently, Tim works with employers assisting them with self-funded and fully insured medical and dental programs, consumer-driven health strategies, term life, long term disability insurance, section 125 flexible benefit programs, voluntary benefits, retirement programs, and executive compensation plans.  Tim currently works with more than 200 employers participating in 500 employee benefit plans, and covering more than 30,000 employees throughout Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas. You can read more about Tim and his insight on employee benefits needs on The Olson Group Blog.

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