This Recession Is No Picnic

Company picnics and casual Fridays will have to wait.

September 24, 2012

Over the past five years, the U.S. workplace has become a little less employee-friendly.

The recession has required all of us—employers and employees alike—to make some sacrifices.

It seems as though company picnics and casual Fridays will have to wait for better economic days. Only about half (55%) of companies now hold employee picnics, down from 64% in 2007, according to the 2012 Employee Benefits Report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

There was a similar decline in casual days—only 55% of employers let employees dress casually one day per week, down from 66% in 2007.

Employers are cutting the deepest in health-care and retirement benefits because that’s where costs have climbed the most. About 77% of employers say they’ve trimmed benefits due to the slow pace of recovery, SHRM reports.

Additional workplace perks on the decline since 2007:

► Traditional (defined benefit) pension plans. About 40% of employers offered these plans in 2007. Now, only about 21% offer these plans, which guarantee payments for life.And no respondent plans to start offering this benefit within the next 12 months.

It’s now more common for employers to offer 401(k) and similar types of retirement accounts (92%). The proportion of employers offering 401(k) matches, however, declined from 75% in 2008 to 68% today.

 Long-term care insurance. About 28% of employers provide long-term care insurance for employees, down from 46% in 2007.

 Health maintenance organizations (HMOs). The number of employers with HMOs decreased from 48% in 2007 to 32% today. Preferred provider organizations are much more common, with 83% of employers offering this option.

► Paid family leave. About 33% of employers offered paid family leave in 2007, but now only about 24% do so for births, deaths, and other significant family events.

Professional development opportunities. While nearly all companies (96%) paid for professional development opportunities in 2007, only 87% do so this year. The proportion of employers offering mentoring programs also decreased from 26% five years ago to 20% this year.

 Life insurance for dependents. About half (55%) of employers provide life insurance for children and other dependents, down from 65%
in 2007.

 Incentive bonus plans. Bonuses for executives are also on the chopping block. Half of the employers SHRM surveyed offer incentive bonus plans for executives, down 10 percentage points since 2007.

► Sports team sponsorship. Only 18% of employers currently sponsor sports teams for employees or their families, a significant decrease from the 29% of employers that did so in 2007.