Employee Benefits

Employee benefits are indirect means of compensating workers; employees receive these benefits above and beyond their regular salaries or wages. Unlike wages alone, benefits foster economic security and stability by insuring beneficiaries against uncertain events such as unemployment, illness, and injury. Furthermore, some benefit programs serve to protect the income and welfare of families. A common distinction between direct forms of employee compensation, such as wages, and indirect compensation, or benefits, is that the former creates an employee's standard of living, whereas the latter protects that standard of living.

These compensations are given at the entire or partial expense of the employer. Benefit packages usually make up between 30 and 40 percent of an employee's total compensation for employment, which makes them an important aspect of the terms of employment. While some employee benefits are required by law, many employers offer additional benefits in order to attract and retain quality workers and maintain morale. Some types of benefits are also used as incentives to encourage increased worker productivity.

The range of employee benefits includes educational, employee incentive, family, government, health, lifestyle, recreational, retirement, savings, and transportation benefits. While some benefits—such as government sanctioned ones—are mandatory, others are supplementary or optional at the discretion of employers. The availability of these supplementary benefits—health insurance and pension coverage in particular—is dependent on a number of factors, but most importantly on the size of a company, according to Benefits Quarterly. Toward the end of the 20th century, employee benefits evolved from definedbenefit programs to contribution-defined programs where employers relinquished some of the responsibility to employees. With defined-benefit programs, employers determine pensions by using standard formulas based on employees' salaries and years of service to figure the monthly amount employees receive. Contribution-defined programs, on the other hand, use similar formulas based on salaries and years of service, but they vary, depending how much money employees contribute to their retirement funds.

BACKGROUND Rudimentary employee benefit programs were brought over from Europe and implemented in the colonies. In fact, one of the first recorded benefit programs in American history was the Plymouth Colony settlers' military retirement program, which was established in 1636. Subsequent benefit programs of note included: Gallatin Glassworks' profit sharing plan (1797); American Express Co.'s private employer pension plan (1875); Montgomery Ward's group health, life, and accident insurance program (1910); federal tax incentives to employers sponsoring pension plans (1921); and Baylor University Hospital's group hospitalization program (1929).

Despite the implementation of several different types of benefit programs in both the government and private sectors, employee benefits before the 1930s were negligible by current standards. The Great Depression, however, provided an impetus for the formation of more advanced and substantial social mechanisms that could provide economic stability. Of import were the retirement provisions of the Social Security program enacted at the federal level in 1935. Tax-favored status for compensation received by employees during sickness or injury was added in 1939. After World War II, federal government initiatives caused a variety of benefits to become more popular with private-sector employers. For example, healthinsurance premiums were made tax deductible to employers and became nontaxable to employees. As a result, health insurance and other benefits became extremely cost-effective forms of compensation in comparison to wages and salaries. Furthermore, tax-favored benefits became a popular bargaining tool for unions seeking to improve their total pay package. As living standards increased, moreover, people in industrialized nations began to view health insurance and other benefits as necessities, and even entitlements or individual rights. Largely as a result of government policies, employee benefits in the public and private sectors exploded during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. TYPES OF BENEFITS Employee benefits are any kind of compensation provided in a form other than direct wages and paid for in whole or in part by an employer, even those provided by a third party. Third-party benefits include those offered by the government, which disburses Social Security benefits that have been paid for by employers.

Benefits fall into ten principal categories based on their function: educational, employee incentive, family, government, health, lifestyle, recreational, retirement, savings, and transportation benefits (examples provided below). While some benefits are mandatory—those required by federal or state legislation—the majority are supplementary. With supplementary benefits, employers choose whether or not to offer them. Mandatory benefits provide economic security old for employees who lack income or as a other result of unemployment, age, disability, poor health, factors.

Supplementary benefits not only serve as safety nets for employees, but also as incentives to attract employees and to encourage employee loyalty.

Based on the book Employee Benefits: Plain and Simple, the major benefits included in each category are listed below:

Educational Benefits (Supplementary)
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Training/Continuing Education Tuition Reimbursement Personal Development Scholarships Anniversary Programs Bonuses Direct Deposit Parking Food Services Profit Sharing Discount Program Severance Pay

Employee Incentive Benefits (Supplementary)
o o o o o o o o

Family Benefits
o o o o o

Child Care (Supplementary) Family/Maternity Leave (Mandatory) Flextime (Supplementary) Accident Insurance for Children and Spouse (Supplementary) Home Purchasing Assistance (Supplementary) Social Security Medicare/Medicaid Supplemental Security Income Unemployment Insurance Workers' Compensation Medical Coverage Dental Coverage Vision Coverage Physical Examinations Sick Days Health Club Memberships Fitness Center Bereavement Leave Dependent Life Insurance Life Insurance Paid Holidays Reimbursement Accounts Vacation Athletic Teams Country Club Membership

Government Benefits (Mandatory)
o o o o o

Health Benefits (Supplementary)
o o o o o o o

Lifestyle Benefits (Supplementary)
o o o o o o

Recreational Benefits (Supplementary)
o o

o o •

Entertainment Bonuses: Theater or Sports Tickets Social Functions Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) Pension Programs Retirement Advice Salary Deferral Stock Options Thrift Savings Bonds Car Allowance Carpooling Company Car Mass Transit Passes Moving Expenses Relocation Assistance and Subsidies

Retirement (Supplementary)
o o o o

Savings (Supplementary)
o o o

Transportation (Supplementary)
o o o o o o

THE PRIMARY ROLE OF BENEFITS Benefits are an important means of meeting employees' needs and wants. Employers frequently use optional or supplementary benefits as incentives to promote employee longevity, by attracting and keeping good workers. However, the primary role of employee benefits is to provide various types of income protection to groups of workers lacking income. Such income protection offers individual security and societal economic stability. Five principal types of income protection delivered by benefits are: (1) disability income replacement, (2) medical expense reimbursement, (3) retirement income replacement, (4)

involuntary unemployment income replacement, and (5) replacement income for survivors. Different mandatory and voluntary elements of each of these categories are often combined to deliver a benefit package to a group of workers that complements the resources and goals of the organization supplying the benefits. TRADITIONAL TYPES OF EMPLOYEE BENEFITS Because of continually rising health care costs, one of the most desirable types of benefits for employees to have is a health insurance plan. These plans can be set up to cover the individual worker and, in many cases, the worker's family as well; they may or may not include such options as dental, eye, hospital, and other types of health care. Health insurance plans may be provided at no cost to employees, or they may be made available at a more desirable rate than employees could get on their own. The health insurance aspect of a benefit package is often the major deciding factor in whether a person accepts a position with a company. The degree of health insurance is often more important to a potential employee than the salary level; especially when children are an issue. Most benefit plans also include a certain number of paid sick days, personal days, and/or vacation days. Many companies are finding ways of increasing the flexibility of employee benefits. PTO (Personal Time Off) for e.g. allows employees to take days off— to care for a sick child, observe a religious holiday, or go on vacation—without having to explain why. The PTO benefit helps employees because their time is more flexible, and it helps employers by maintaining morale and reducing unanticipated absenteeism. Life insurance and retirement options are another type of benefit many companies offer their employees. These types of benefits often encourage employees to remain with the same company because they do not want to cash in their life insurance or retirement plans. This tends to make employees more

loyal to the company because their future is invested with the company. It also gives the employee a feeling of power by having some control over planning for retirement. EXPANDED TYPES OF EMPLOYEE BENEFITS While health care, paid time off, and retirement plans are the most common types of benefits employees receive, some companies offer even more types of benefits to help attract and retain employees as well as increase employee morale and improve job performance. One example of this type of benefit is tuition reimbursement, which allows employees to further their education while working. Motivating employees to better themselves at the employer's expense, helps the company keep knowledgeable employees. Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP’S): A company established benefits plan in which employees acquire stock, often at below-market prices as part of their benefits. When stock options are involved, the employer often bases the number of shares issued annually on several factors, including employees’ tenure of work, the salary classification of the employee, etc. ESOP’s have the potential of increasing the job satisfaction and work morale. With the growing number of single parents and dual-career couples in the work force, many companies have opened day-care facilities in the workplace where employees can feel safe about leaving their children. On-site child care is obviously a very desirable benefit for parents because it allows them to check up on the children, cut down on travel time, and be available in case of an emergency. However, some childless workers feel that this benefit discriminates against them because they get no use out of the day-care facility. One way many companies are handling this type of concern is through a cafeteria plan; one of the most useful ways is to give employees many different benefit options to choose from. Each employee is given a set allowance that can be used toward any benefit the employee chooses, allowing

the employees to pick the options that will most benefit them. The cafeteria plan is one fair way to handle benefits for everyone concerned. Another characteristic of the work force is its increasingly older age. As a result, there are an increasing number of workers with aging parents who need care. Many companies recognize the need for elder care and are providing benefits to help, such as referral services for quality nursing homes and flexible work hours and/or days off so employees can care for aging parents. Other benefits provided by some employers include credit/loan options to help employees with financial needs, gym facilities to allow employees to fit exercise into their busy schedules, cafeterias that sell reduced price meals to working employees, and on-site laundry services where employees can have laundry done while they are at work. Making the work environment seem more like a family helps boost employee morale and improve working relationships. Many companies provide uniforms for their employees, so that workers do not have to worry about ruining their own clothing. The uniforms also help with the feeling of unity because everyone in the company is dressed similarly. Because transportation can often be a problem for employees, some companies are even providing transportation options as a benefit to employees. Disney World, in Orlando, Florida, has a shuttle that picks employees up from their living quarters and takes them to work. While these types of benefits are meant to attract and retain employees as well as create a positive work environment, some types of employee benefits are used to encourage increased performance. The following are the four main types of benefits used as incentives to encourage employees to exhibit superior performance:

Profit sharing gives the employee a portion of the company profits. Profit sharing is often done through making shares of company stock part

of the employee benefit package. This type of reward distributes compensation based on some established formula designed around a company’s profitability. Employees receive a certain number of shares of stock each year, which provides employees an incentive to help the company succeed. This might also be accomplished through a yearly profit-sharing bonus.

Gain sharing rewards employees for exceeding a predetermined goal by sharing the extra profits. If profits exceed the goal, employees share in the extra profits. The focus here is on the productivity gain rather than on profits of company, meaning that employees in a gain sharing plan can receive incentive awards even when the organization isn’t profitable

Lump-sum bonuses are a one-time cash payment based on performance. Lump-sum bonuses may be an annual reward, such as a Diwali bonus, where the purpose is to share profits with the employees, and thus motivate them. The idea is to recognize recent performance rather than historical performance.

Pay for knowledge rewards employees for continuing their education and/or learning new job tasks. The more education or experience an employee has, the higher he/she moves up on the pay-for-knowledge pay scale. Pay for knowledge is an incentive for employees to continue their education because it results in immediate rewards on the job.

PERKS In addition to what we typically think as employee benefits, many employers also offer "perks” to their employees. Typically limited to employees in management positions, these perks include such benefits as country club or health club memberships, a company car, and special parking privileges at work, tickets for sporting events, first-class travel accommodations, and generous expense accounts. However, certain types of perks are also being

extended to employees in many different types of positions. One type of perk that is common in many retail stores is an employee discount on merchandise bought from the place of employment. For example, Future Group’s Target stores offer a 10 percent discount to employees and their immediate families when purchasing merchandise from any Target store. Employees of local movie theaters often receive free movie tickets as a perk, while many restaurant employees receive free or reduced-price meals. By offering employees such perks, the company is providing a strong incentive for employees to continue working there. FLEXIBLE WORK PLANS A flexible work plan is another type of employee benefit that has been proven to have a positive influence on employee productivity, attendance, and morale. A flexible work plan allows employees to adjust their working conditions within constraints set by the company and may include such options as flex-time, a compressed work-week, job sharing, and home-based work. Flex-time involves adjusting an employee's daily time schedule; it can be as simple as allowing a worker to come into work an hour earlier and leave an hour earlier than the normal 8-to-5 workday. Usually there are some time constraints set up by the company, but employees who work within those constraints can basically set their own schedules. A compressed workweek involves working longer hours each day for fewer days than the normal Monday-through-Friday work-week. For example, at many businesses employees work ten-hour days, four days a week. Job sharing allows two or more people to divide the tasks of one job. It allows the same consistency as a full-time person, because the work is simply divided among the people who share the job responsibility. Job sharing is popular among people who only want to work part time but want a job with full-time responsibilities. These types of people include older workers, retirees, students, and working parents.

Home-based work programs allow employees to perform their jobs at home instead of in an office setting. These people are often known as telecommuters, because they "commute" to work through electronic mail, faxes, and other types of telecommunications. Home-based work is popular with disabled workers, elderly workers, parents with small children, and workers who have had to relocate far away from the workplace because of a spouse's job change. Through home-based work, all of these types of employees are able to take care of personal and family responsibilities while maintaining and enjoying their job and/or career. It should be noted that the various types of benefits offered to employees can depend greatly on  The size and type of the business  The profitability of business  Its geographic location Allowances also form a major aspect of Employee Benefits. Some of the typical allowances are:  House Rent Allowance: Assistance in paying the full amount or portion of the rent  Conveyance Allowance: Reimbursement of transportation costs to and from work  Education Allowance: Cost of Children’s education up to a certain age  Leave Travel Allowance: Travel and vacation  Medical Allowance  City Compensatory Allowance  Telephone/Mobile Allowance  Entertainment Allowance  Training/Educational Allowance

 Leave Travel Allowance  Special Allowance (optional) Perquisites/Perks:
Perquisites or 'perks' as they are popularly known is the monetary content of fringe benefits. Perks are taxable according to Indian tax laws.

Tax Free Perquisites in Indian Tax System  Medical facility: Any medical facility provided by the employer to the employee and his family members in a hospital, dispensary or a nursing home maintained by the employer.  Medical reimbursement: Any medical expenses reimbursed by the employer for the treatment of his employee and his family members in an approved Hospital subject to maximum of Rs.10,000 per annum up to assessment year 1998-99. The limit of Rs.10, 000 has been raised to Rs.15, 000 per annum w.e.f. assessment year 1999-2000.  Refreshments: Any refreshment provided to the employees during office hours at the place of work.  Subsidized lunch or dinner provided by the employer: When lunch or dinner is provided at subsidized rates i.e. the employer charges some amount for the lunch or dinner then only it is tax-free perquisite.  Recreational facilities: Any recreational facility provided to a group of employees by the employer is not taxable. These should not be restricted to only a few employees.  Telephone Bills: Telephone bills of the telephone installed at the residence of the employee for official purposes, if paid/reimbursed by the employer, is not a taxable perquisite even if such telephone is used for official as well as personal benefit of the employee.  Goods sold by the employer at a concessional rate to his employees: When the employer sells the goods being manufactured by him to his

employees at concessional rates, it is not a taxable perquisite e.g. a company, manufacturing fans, sells the fans to its employees at concessional rates, the concession given to the employees shall not be taxable. However, if the employer sells other goods to the employees at a value lower than the market value of the goods, the benefit given to the employee is taxable.  Insurance: Any portion of the premium paid by an employer to effect or to keep in force insurance on the health of the employee under an approved scheme.  Loans to employees: If the employer gives a loan to an employee either without interest or at a concessional rate of interest for construction or purchase of a house or for a conveyance, then the benefit of interest availed of by the employee would not be taxable.  Transportation facilities: If an employer, engaged in the business of transport, provides transport facilities to its employees and his family members either free of cost or at concessional rate then it would not be a taxable perquisite. For example, free passes provided by the Indian Railways to its employees are not taxable in the hands of the employees.  Perquisites provided outside India: Perquisites provided by the Government to its employees, who are citizen of India for rendering services outside India, are not taxable.  Training of employees: Any expenditure incurred by the employer, for providing training to the employees or by way of payment of fees of refresher management courses attended by the employee, would not be taxable because these enable the employees to perform their services more efficiently.  Rent free House: Rent free official residence and conveyance facilities provided to a Judge of a High Court/Supreme Court are not a taxable perquisite.

 Residence to officials of Parliament etc.: Rent free furnished residence (including maintenance thereof) provided to an officer of the Parliament, a Union Minister or Leader of Opposition in Parliament is not a taxable perquisite. However, allowances and perks can be also grouped under different category of benefits with different name. Employee benefits may be the major deciding factor for many people when choosing a company for employment. In order to attract and retain the bestquality employees, companies must be willing to offer flexible and extensive types of benefits to meet various employee needs.

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