With unemployment rates going down and companies struggling to attract and retain quality employees, employers should pay close consideration to the emphasis being put on the importance of health care by employees. We have seen several times more and more that employees are first asking about the benefits plan and then about salary. It is obvious that affordable health care is prevalent on the minds of candidates.
For existing employees, we’ve found that offering higher benefits contributions in lieu of salary increases is a well received concept. Small businesses have their eyes on the bottom line and labor costs are one of the hardest hitting factors. By offering higher contributions to benefits plans employers are able to reduce the overall payroll costs. This is an area that most employers don’t spend a lot of time looking at because they think they are under the impression it will be too costly. Another misconception is that for a good benefits contribution plan, an employer must purchase a group policy. This is not the case, a resourceful HR person will assist company leaders in researching alternative benefits options such as mini-meds (miniature medical plans with lower maximum coverage and limited visits), individual medical plans specific to each employee (often times much lower cost than group rates) and Health Savings Accounts just to name a few.
Small businesses should definitely consider benefits options now as there are proponents of legislation to make benefits mandatory for small to medium size businesses. At the end of 2005 California voters were presented with potential legislation that would require that certain employers provide health coverage for their employees and in some cases dependents through either (1) paying a fee to a new state program primarily to purchase private health insurance coverage or (2) arranging directly with health insurance providers for health care coverage. The state would also establish a new program to assist lower-income employees to pay their share of health care premiums.
This referendum lost by only about 2% so we are keeping our eye on this to resurface again in the very near future.