Benefits perk up

Workplace perks such as generous benefits programs all but vanished in the lean years of the recent past. But now that the economy is strengthening, more employers are fleshing out bare-bones benefits policies to offer competitive pay packages, and warehouses are no exception. “Warehousing Benefits Programs 2005,” a report by the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), provides benchmarks for assessing whether your operation’s benefits policies need improvement.

The WERC study of 179 warehouses, conducted by Leever Research Services, covers both exempt (professional or managerial) and non-exempt employees as well as union and non-union operations. The results present benefit programs in effect as of Jan. 1, 2005. Below are highlights of the findings:

  • Most warehouses provide nine or more paid holidays. Nonexempt employees who work on those days typically receive time-and-a-half or double-time pay.

  • Fifty-six percent of the respondents offer both a short-term disability plan and a formal sick-day plan. A surprisingly large percentage, 36%, allow employees to use accrued sick time as additional vacation time; nonunion shops are particularly flexible in this regard.

  • Nearly half (46%) of the warehouses surveyed provide a defined benefit employee retirement plan, and of this group, 21% offer immediate full vesting. More than 90% of the respondents offer a defined contribution retirement plan, of which the most common is a 401K program.

  • Almost all of the respondents provide medical insurance benefits, with the most prevalent options being preferred provider organizations (PPOs) and HMOs. The employer typically covers 75%-80% of the premium. The average annual deductible for an individual ranges from a low of $88 for an exclusive provider organization (only 5% of the respondents offer this option) to a high of $560 for a PPO. Ninety-six percent of warehouses provide a copay or discount prescription plan, usually as part of the medical insurance program.

  • Ninety-two percent of warehouses offer dental insurance, paying at least 50% of the premium and a maximum annual benefit of $1,000-$1,500. Sixty percent provide vision insurance, again paying at least half of the premium.

  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are in place at 58% of the operations surveyed; 51% allow employees’ dependents to participate. Services provided include counseling, flu shots, blood-pressure and cholesterol checks, and classes on nutrition, weight loss, and quitting smoking.

  • More than 80% of warehouses offer a plan that enables employees to use pretax earnings to pay for insurance premiums, medical expenses, and dependent care.

  • In 15% of the warehouses surveyed, part-time workers receive the same benefits as full-time employees; in 30% the same coverage is available but at a prorated level. A full 40% of warehouses pay the same benefits premiums for both part-time and full-time employees.

Other benefits that the respondents provide — mostly to full-time employees — include tuition reimbursement, sign-on bonuses, employee discounts on merchandise, legal and financial counseling, a credit union, aid in buying or selling a house if transferred, and in rare cases, child care.