Magazine article HRMagazine

Are Benefits the New Wages?

Magazine article HRMagazine

Are Benefits the New Wages?

Article excerpt

Take a look at any of today's headlines, and you will find HR issues that affect our employees, our organizations and the entire profession. The minimum wage debate continues to rage at the state, local and federal levels. The clash between new and traditional employment models is becoming sharper and more politicized (think: Uber vs. the taxi industry). And landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions on health care and marriage also have implications for us and the way we do our jobs.

One recent Bloomberg headline, in particular, caught my eye: "Benefits Are the New Salary." The article, based in part on SHRM's 2015 Employee Benefits survey report, reported our finding that 35 percent of organizations have increased the number of benefits they provide to workers over last year. Spot bonuses, more-generous leave policies, special employee programs such as shopping discounts, and a smorgasbord of other wellness benefits-from gym memberships to health and lifestyle coaching-are on the rise.

What has not been on an upward trajectory is workers' pay. Government data show that employee earnings have been stagnant for the past five years. This has policymakers and economists worried, as higher pay is needed for a full U.S. economic recovery. We also see workers expressing their concern, as turnover continues to rise sharply and nonunionized employees call for a higher minimum wage.

Should HR professionals and employers be just as concerned that benefits are increasing while wages remain flat? Is it an either/or proposition? …

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