Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Municipal Government Benefits Practices and Personnel Outcomes: Results from a National Survey

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Municipal Government Benefits Practices and Personnel Outcomes: Results from a National Survey

Article excerpt

Employee benefits are an essential and costly component of the compensation and human resources management system. This research effort surveyed 358 municipal governments on their employee benefits practices. The survey results clearly indicate that municipal governments are very competitive in terms of traditional benefits (health, pensions, dental coverage, etc.) as all 10 types, except for short-term disability, are provided by a majority of the responding municipalities and exceed private sector rates. Municipal governments lag behind the private sector in the deployment of key family-friendly benefits such as childcare, elder care, flexi-place, flex-time and job sharing.

The goal of this research effort is to inventory the prevalence of specific categories of family-friendly employee benefits utilizing a national sample of municipal governments. From the 1980s to the present, there has been a dramatic proliferation in the type and cost of benefits across all sectors. Private sector organizations and the federal government are providing a complex array of family-friendly benefits and programs designed to restore balance between work, family and personal time. (1) Many organizations are pursuing work-life balance for purely utilitarian motives such as cost reduction and productivity increases. (2) Others are guided by a normative orientation that centers on conceptions of quality of work life, gender equity, employee justice, promotion of civic capital, family life quality and child welfare. (3)

Municipal government benefits packages are typically oriented toward core employee safety needs by emphasizing health, pension, vacation and paid time-off benefits. (4) The traditional benefits package, however, insufficiently addresses the full spectrum of needs associated with a more diverse workforce. (5) The absence of a competitive family-friendly benefits package presents serious strategic human resources management challenges.

For many municipal governments, a limited financial capacity places them in an analogous situation to that of a small business that lacks the capital, expertise and economies of scale to develop and administer family-friendly benefits. Uncompetitive municipal government benefits practices depreciate municipal government staffing effectiveness. (6) In addition to the staffing difficulties, the absence of flexible family-friendly benefits can increase employee stress and associated negative attitudinal and behavioral outcomes. (7)

There is no theoretical or empirical evidence that changes in family structure or job skill requirements are differentially affecting public versus private employees. What does vary between sectors and levels of government is job design and work demands that attenuate or accentuate the importance of specific benefit practices. (8)

Municipal Government Benefits Literature

The literature manifests an absence of research on the prevalence and effectiveness of municipal government family-friendly benefits policies and practices. This weakness in the literature reflects a systematic dearth of study related to sector and level of government group differences. Most of the national benefits surveys aggregate results between public, private and nonprofit organizations or focus on private employers exclusively, potentially masking significant sector-related differences in employee characteristics and benefits needs.

A review of the benefits literature accentuates the absence of recent municipal data. The U.S. Department of Labor conducted national state and local government benefits surveys in 1994 and 1998 with both surveys targeting mostly traditional benefits. These surveys combined state and local government employers together and failed to provide data on the percentage of municipal governments providing specific benefit types. (9) The other recent national survey of municipal government benefits practices was conducted by the International City Management Association in 1994. …

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