Bundling Benefits | Arkansas Business News

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The job market has become much more competitive, leading employers to think of creative ways to attract workers.

Other than a living wage, a sound company is expected to offer a package of perks and benefits that attract the best talent. Prospective employees today desire a range of things designed to protect them financially or stress reducing perks like flexible work schedules or paid time off.

As older workers decide to retire rather than return to work and new generations enter a diverse workforce, priorities will change and a company must be creative with its benefits.

Time Factor Trends

Glenda Caton, a human resources consultant at Caton Consultants in North Little Rock, said benefits plans should include paid time off accrual based upon length of service, paid mental health days, paid holidays, paid parental leave, health and wellness options and bereavement leave.

Most companies offer at least four weeks of paid time off, with employees using accrued time if they need more.

“While there are many laws protecting the right of a mother to be off of work to physically have a baby,” Caton said, “there are very few that allow the father and/or partner to take time off to emotionally and physically support the new addition to the family and all that is involved with getting acquainted with a new child in the home. In Arkansas, there is no law requiring paid leave for parents, so a company offering this benefit will attract talent that finds this leave valuable.”

Unlimited bereavement leave reflects the changing definition of “family” and gives employers a chance to show they value their employees as individuals.

“We are seeing that family units do not always look like they used to and an employee can have a closer lifelong relationship with a childhood friend than they have with their own blood relatives,” Caton said. “It is also important to include ‘domestic partners’ in your policies. Again, family unit structures look a little different for each family. When an employer removes the outdated definition of ‘family’ and allows each person the freedom to identify their personal relationships, both the employee and employer win.”

While still important, Caton said trends show health

insurance options may matter less to today’s employees.

“This could be due to the cost of premiums versus wages, the age of the workforce and the many other health care options available at a more economical price,” Caton said.

Awareness of employee mental health is “huge right now,” Caton says, especially with the stresses of the pandemic. Blue Cross Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare include versions of an employee assistance program (EAP) for mental health without the additional cost.

Revised Plans

Pre-pandemic, flexible schedules and paid or unlimited time off were already trending with younger employees who value free time or have young families. The pandemic and remote work continue to have an impact on what employees are looking for in a benefits package today.

Janell Morton, director of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at Southern Arkansas University, said apps are becoming more important, and the new flexibility should include more virtual or online access to benefits and benefit solutions.

“It is important that the businesses support their employees so that those employees get the most out of their benefits,” she said. “This includes guidance for installing and using virtual platforms.”

Other trending benefits include paid volunteer days, paid pet insurance, paid mental health sessions, one work-from-home day a week, four-day work weeks, paid birthdays off, paid roadside assistance programs, monthly housekeeping stipends for employees working from home and attendance bonuses.

“It is imperative that a company surveys their workforce to find out what is important to their employees,” Caton said. “There are no cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all benefits packages.”

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