What’s trending now?
Businesses are rethinking benefits for employees. In line with the drive to improve health, wellness and productivity, there’s an increase in companies creating perks to assist employees trying to find a balance between work and home life.
Why is it important?
Businesses try to retain employees while competing for dynamic, new talent. Employment consultants agree that high staff turnover pushes up costs while affecting productivity and worker morale negatively.
‘When a PWC employee chooses not to return to work after welcoming a new child, it costs the company around $120,000.’ PWC Diversity Strategy Leader, Jenifer Allyn.
The Harvard Business Review reports that companies who support policies and programmes designed for working parents, have higher employee retention. A survey conducted by Zenefits of 600 American SMEs found that 68% of employees believe that ‘work perks’ are as important as medical cover and life insurance.
Some organisations are tackling this by providing parental leave for both parents. Netflix offers one year of paid leave to new parents, making it arguably one of the most progressive companies in the US. In a bid to win top talent, Microsoft offers two weeks of paid leave before a mother’s due date. Meanwhile, Japanese pharmaceutical company MSD offers flexible parental leave which allows fathers to work from home or show up at work for only a certain number of days.
Locally, MTN provides mothers with a generous six months of paid leave, but it reportedly hasn’t extended this to fathers yet.
What is the butterfly effect?
Companies such as PWC are developing offerings that entice new parents to return to work. The company has established a mom mentor programme. The initiative pairs new moms with other working mothers in the company, to provide them with someone to confide in on the challenges of balancing work and a new baby. BP has a return programme in partnership with The Mom Project. The initiative encourages employees to work on a project basis for four- to six-month periods.
Responding to widespread calls for diversity, Estee Lauder gives its employees in the US twenty weeks paid leave when they give birth, adopt or become foster parents. This is regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Employees who conceive a child themselves get an additional six to eight weeks of paid leave.
‘The company realises that no family looks the same, which is why we want to give employees multiple benefit options if they choose to have a child.’ Estee Lauder Executive Director of Global Benefits
There are businesses providing financial assistance for family planning in innovative ways. Microsoft has increase its in vitro fertilisation benefit from $15 000 to $50 000 per employee. IBM provides reimbursement of up to $20 000 for adoption or surrogacy. US home improvement firm Lowes offers a first-adoption benefit which covers expenses up to $5000 to help with legal or agency costs.
The development of family-centric company benefits goes beyond assisting new parents.
In future, people are expected to live and work longer, so employers will be faced with more employees juggling work and caregiver roles.
John Hopkins University in the US has developed a Senior Care programme for employees looking after an elderly family member. Accounting firm Deloitte has done something similar, instituting a 16-week leave policy to enable staff to care for elderly family members.
In 2018 Starbucks introduced a caregiver benefit for its 180 000 US workers. Each of them is afforded ten subsidised back-up care days every year for times when arrangements for child or adult care fall through. Facebook employees are eligible for six weeks of fully paid leave to care for any sick family member.
In Italy, the Prada Group has introduced a welfare initiative which offers 1 500 euros at year end to each of its 4000 employees. This can be used to help with nursery school or gym fees or unexpected medical costs.
Many companies are collaborating with organisations that assist employees who have family members with learning or developmental challenges. Rethink Benefits is a digital platform that designs programmes to assist company employees with an autistic loved one. Volvo is one of its first clients. Meanwhile Pinterest has introduced several human-centric benefits. Among other innovations, the company will cover the cost of online classes for employees’ children with learning challenges or development disabilities.
USA, Japan and Italy
By Khumo Theko
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