- The majority of employees surveyed by Paychex in October 2019 said that an employer's openness to negotiating benefits is important when considering a new job offer, the HR outsourcing firm said in a May 20 statement.
- Sixty-four percent of respondents said they attempted benefits negotiations with an employer. Additionally, 87% said they had done so during the hiring process, and 60% attempted negotiations after being hired. During the hiring process, more than half of respondents had requested a 401(k) match or contribution, flexible work hours or flexible time off.
- Paychex found in a survey of 299 managers and those in a similar position to negotiate benefits that about 83% were willing to negotiate. In situations where benefits requests were denied, more than half of this group said the decision was "often or always" influenced by upper management.
The Paychex survey's results reflect a period in time that dramatically differs from the present, as the COVID-19 pandemic has sent the U.S. labor market into a downward trend. Though recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the situation may be slightly improving, the fact remains that talent professionals are dealing with the aftermath of shedding millions of workers from their payrolls.
One aspect of that impact is that attrition is largely unlikely among employed U.S. adults, according to a recent survey by The Harris Poll for outsourcing firm Yoh. Many workers in the survey didn't believe they would be able to find a new job during the pandemic, but most also said they might consider a job change if they felt their current company was not doing enough to protect workers.
That's not to say that employee benefits have lost their importance in the hiring and retention conversation — in fact the pandemic may be pushing employers to make benefits, particularly healthcare benefits, more accessible. Nearly half of employers surveyed in April by Wills Towers Watson said they would enhance healthcare benefits as well as well-being programs, while one-third said they would make changes to paid time off and vacation programs. Lidl, in its push to hire additional store associates during the pandemic, said new employees would be made immediately eligible for medical benefits that cover testing and treatment for COVID-19.
At the federal level, the IRS issued a May notice stating that health plans may permit employees temporary flexibility to make mid-year election changes for employer-sponsored health coverage, healthcare flexible spending accounts and dependent care assistance programs due to the pandemic.
Employers have also chosen to be more flexible in other areas of benefits coverage, like retirement. A separate Willis Towers Watson survey released in May found a majority of employer respondents had made it easier for employees to access 401(k) plan assets during the pandemic. Few respondents said they suspended matching contributions for retirement plans, but those in industries like retail or business services were more likely to have done so, according to Willis Towers Watson.