Earlier this year, I wrote a blog about a new workplace benefit – student loan debt relief.  Now, it seems employers are again thinking outside the box with respect to employee benefits.  The latest workplace benefits employers are offering include onsite meditation, yoga and other programs that help workers de-stress.  Other unique benefits are cooking classes, standing desks, bringing a pet to work, and free snacks or meals.  All these benefits are in addition to the more traditional benefits of medical and dental insurance, paid vacation, sick time, and retirement accounts.

A recent news article discussed a research study conducted by Glassdoor.com which found 57% of people said benefits and perks were among their top considerations when accepting a job.  Also, four out of five employees indicated they would like additional benefits over a pay raise.

These new and unique job perks are structured to help employees with work/life balance.  A challenge for employers is finding benefits their employees are interested in.  Older workers or working parents are going to be interested in different benefits than  younger millennials.  As long as employers keep all employees in mind when deciding what benefits to offer, I think they will definitely increase employee job satisfaction.

Last Friday, the Minneapolis City Council passed a new ordinance requiring employers who employ six (6) or more employees to provide a maximum of forty-eight (48) hours of paid sick and safe time.  Under the ordinance, employees accrue a minimum of one hour of sick and safe time for every thirty (30) hours worked.  Additionally, employers must permit an employee to carry-over up to eighty (80) hours of accrued but unused sick and safe time to the following calendar year.  Employers with less than six (6) employees are required to provide unpaid sick and safe time.

This ordinance not only affects Minneapolis businesses, but also any business who has employees working within the geographic boundaries of the City for at least eight (80) hours in a calendar year.  For example, my husband works for a large engineering firm in St. Paul, which routinely has projects in Minneapolis, including the new Vikings Stadium currently under construction. According to the new ordinance temporary employees who work with my husband, and are assigned to work on projects in Minneapolis for more than 80 hours will accrue paid sick/safe leave, even though the other temporary employees who do not work in Minneapolis will not accrue paid leave.  This sounds like an administrative headache to track and document.  Additionally, it results in employees not being treated equally.

The ordinance also states that employers who provide an employee handbook to its employees must include in the handbook notices of an employee’s rights and remedies under the ordinance.  If your company is located in Minneapolis or does significant work in Minneapolis, you may need to update your employee handbook.

It is too soon to know the impact this ordinance will have on businesses in Minneapolis or companies who routinely do business in Minneapolis.  The ordinance is scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2017.  Violations during the twelve months following the effective date will be mediated, and employers issued warnings or notices to correct any problems.  After July 1, 2018, monetary penalties and other relief may be imposed for violations.

I agree providing paid time off for sick employees is an important workplace benefit.  However, this is not something that should be dictated by City government.  Businesses should be free to determine employee benefits in line with their business model and the market.  The new ordinance smells like an anti-business move by a local City government.  Paid time off is something Unions typically work to negotiate for their membership.  Isn’t that what union organizing is all about?  

A coalition of Minnesota DFL legislators is proposing a bill that would ensure all employees in Minnesota have paid family and sick leave.  The DFL proposal would establish a state insurance program which would offer employees in Minnesota up to 80% of their pay for up to 12 weeks a year for pregnancy or medical issues.  It would also apply to employees who need leave to care for a sick family member or newborn child.  Under the proposed plan, employers and employees would share the costs for the program.  The program would be mandatory for employers and employees, however, employers who currently have paid family and sick leave policies that match or surpass the proposed state insurance plan would be exempt from the new law.

According to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota almost 136,000 employees would benefit from the program.  It is estimated over $450 million in benefits would be paid out in one year.  The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce although understanding of the program’s goal, objects to the plan because it would take away the flexibility currently available to employers.

Governor Dayton has already proposed a similar program for Minnesota State employees.  California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island all have similar benefits.

This law would be a huge change for Minnesota employers.  For many small employers it could be a financial hardship to require them to contribute to this type of benefit.  I agree with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, it is a great idea in concept, but I’m not sure it is the best idea for Minnesota’s small entrepreneurial businesses.

Student debt relief has recently surfaced as the newest workplace benefit.  Traditional workplace benefits include: health insurance, retirement plans, vacation and sick leave, and paid holiday time.  Now, more companies are looking for new ways to entice and retain millennial employees, and one new trend is for employers to offer financial assistance with school loans. 

The cost of a higher education has been increasing over the years, and coupled with the market crash of 2008, more people took on student debt and stayed in school to ride out the economic downturn.  Given the fact, Minnesotans have the fifth highest school debt load in the nation, financial assistance is a great marketing tool for employers.

Currently, only 3% of companies offer any type of student loan repayment plan, but that number is expected to grow.  Gradifi Inc. is a company that helps employers implement, “Student Loan Payment” (SLP) plans as a workplace benefit for their employees.  The participating employers determine the structure of the SLP, including who is eligible to participate, how long the plan lasts, and the amount of the employer contribution.  Minnesota based, PwC, is a consulting company that will be introducing an SLP plan this spring.  Starting a SLP plan gives employees more freedom to plan and save for other things in life, and avoid being saddled by their student loan debt for years to come.

Employers who add SLP plans as an employee benefit will be highly attractive to new employees.  I previously blogged about the trend in public sector employers willing to think outside the box by offering paid parenting leave beyond the minimums required by law. 

Benefit plans need to change in order to attract the best talent in a competitive business climate.  By taking a few creative steps, employers can create benefit packages that will improve employee satisfaction, retain talented employees, improve the bottom line, and improve the likelihood of future growth and development.  

Photo from: FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Panpote

Millenials are the fastest growing group in today’s workforce, and more millenials are seeking alternative work options to the traditional 9 to 5, Monday – Friday job. Millenials (also known as Generation Y) are those born between 1981 and 2002. They like technology/gadgets, they aren’t particularly willing to work overtime, they are big multi-taskers, and are always connected.

This past weekend Adam Belz wrote an interesting article in the Star Tribune and gave several good examples of millenials “thinking outside the cubicle.” Millenials seem to have less interest in money and more interest in freedom, flexibility and personal time. Joe Kessler, with NOISE a consulting business which helps companies market to millenials, stated two out of five millenials want more vacation time vs. a higher salary. Part of the reason for this change in the work habits of millenials is more of them are putting off marriage and having a family.

Millenials aren’t interested in the same kinds of benefits and salary that baby boomers were after in the workplace. Millenials are here to stay, and businesses need to know how to get the best out of their employees. Businesses should see this change in the workforce as an opportunity to offer unique benefit packages that will entice millenials to work for them.

Food for thought: Instead of a raise a millennial employee might find more value in additional time off work, especially since with all the enhancements with technology a millennial employee can still be connected to work without physically being at the workplace.

 

Baby Josee (2-6-12)An interesting development is on the horizon regarding new benefits for employees in the private sector workforce. Last week both Facebook and Apple announced it will be providing up to $20,000 in benefits to help employees pay for infertility treatments, sperm donors or to freeze their eggs. Facebook has stated, freezing their eggs gives women an option to focus on their career or education first.

Dr. Nicole Noyes with the New York University Fertility Center shared the number of patients freezing eggs was almost 400 in 2014 compared with just 5 in 2005. In addition to Facebook, some big banks are already providing this benefit to female employees. It is predicted that law firms will start doing this as well. Employers see this benefit as a way to attract and retain top female employees.

In the public sector, employers are doing something different to attract and retain good employees. This summer I blogged about my city, Brooklyn Park, offering paid leave for new parents. Well, now other cities are considering this as well. Recently, Mayor Coleman from the City of St. Paul announced he wants to offer four weeks of paid leave for the birthing mother and two weeks for the other parent. This policy is being introduced to the City Council for consideration and could be adopted in 2015. Mayor Coleman stated, “This policy is good for families, and it’s good for bringing the best and brightest to the City of St. Paul.”

Clearly, employers are starting to realize that just offering competitive wages and health insurance is not enough to attract and retain talented employees. It is nice to see employers trying to help employees balance work and families. Hopefully, this is the start of a new trend.