Take-up of family-friendly benefits continues to gather pace in USA


Take-up of family-friendly benefits continues to gather pace in USA

UK remuneration managers have often looked to their American counterparts for inspiration when overhauling their compensation and benefit practices. To explore some of the ideas at the top of the benefits agenda in the USA, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) — the IPD’ s equivalent across the Atlantic — has just gathered a vast amount of data on the take-up of various benefits. It reveals the UK has some catching up to do when it comes to family-friendly benefits.

While family-friendly policies remain a minority practice in the UK — even in some of our leading organisations — they are certainly in fashion across corporate America.

The two most popular family-friendly benefits among the 742 US organisations polled by the SHRM are dependent care flexible spending accounts , used by 64% of respondents, and flexitime (53%).

A sizeable proportion of respondents also operate flexible-working schedules that seek to help employees balance their work and personal lives, including telecommuting (28% of respondents), compressed working week (25%) and job sharing (22%). These practices are more common in larger organisations than smaller ones.

The number of older people in the US is increasing and, as a result, more workers will have responsibility for the care of ageing parents, thus increasing the demand for employer-provided elder care benefits, says the SHRM. Driven by these demographic changes, 14% of those canvassed by the US researchers offer an elder care referral service. But other elder care benefits remain at the margins of mainstream US practice: just 1% of respondents operates company-supported elder care centres and the same proportion subsidises costs of elder care.

Overall, the 44-page report examines the incidence of approximately 110 benefits, divided into seven sections:

  • family-friendly

  • housing

  • health care

  • personal services

  • financial

  • leave

  • business travel.

Family-friendly benefits in US organisations


Per cent of respondents

Dependent care flexible spending account






Compressed working week


Bring child to work in emergency


Job sharing


Childcare referral service


Adoption assistance


Elder care referral service


Emergency/sick child care


Domestic partner benefits


Subsidise costs of childcare


Company-supported childcare centre


Corporate lactation programme


Onsite childcare centre


Company-supported elder care centre


Subsidise cots of elder care


Source: SHRM.

Sample size: 742 HR professionals.

Survey details

Title: 1999 benefits survey.

Survey sample: the 44-page survey is based on information supplied by 742 human resource professionals, of which 77% work in units with 1,000 or fewer employees.

Business sectors: participants are drawn from a broad range of sectors from across the US, with a particularly large response form manufacturing (31%), followed by business/professional services (11%).

Methodology: survey questionnaires mailed to 2,500 randomly-selected SHRM members in January 2000.

Availability: call the Society for Human Resource Management, tel: 001 703 548 3440.

Want to know more? Visit SHRM online at www.shrm.org