The Disparity of Benefits… And a Possible Solution…

2015-08-14_09-13-12SEATTLE — Microsoft said on Wednesday that it would offer new parents an additional eight weeks of paid time off from their jobs at the company, in a significant boost to its parental leave benefits.

Microsoft’s changes to its policy came a day after Netflix, the online video service, said it would allow new mothers and fathers who are employees to take as much paid time off as they need during the first year after the birth or adoption of a child. The more generous policies are a way to hold onto employees, particularly the highly skilled technical workers who are in extremely high demand in the booming tech industry.

Source: Following Netflix, Microsoft Sweetens Parental Leave Benefits – The New York Times.

I know that companies that value their employees and recognize their worth generally give them benefits in order to keep them with the company. They typically allocated a certain percentage of their profits into this arena. Profits are the main, some say only, priority for many so they sparingly deal out benefits.

The problem with the current method of allocating benefits is that they are often only applicable to certain employees. For those who are beyond child-bearing years and those who choose something other than a married lifestyle the above benefits mean nothing to them.   It is kind of like those of us who are childless having to pay such a high percentage of our property taxes to send other kids through public education. We see no personal value to where all our dollars go.

There seems to be a great disparity of who gets benefits.  The solution to this problem is too obvious. Why not offer a cafeteria type choice of what benefits you receive? Give every employee a certain percentage of their income to the benefits pool and let them decide where to allocate the money.   Those who are childless might spend it on additional vacation time. For those with school age children they might take shorter hours in order to pick up their kids from school. For others something different.  Let the employee decide which benefits they want.

Companies, at least when I was working, made a big point of “empowering” employees to make their own decisions. That is the excuse, and I do mean excuse, they use to forcing their them off fixed benefit pensions and putting all the risk of financial planning on them even though most are totally unprepared for that task.

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