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Benefits change

ALEXANDRIA, Va.(PRNewswire via COMTEX) -- Growth in certain types of employer-provided benefits over the past five years reflect the changing needs of workers according to the Society for Human Resource Management's newly-released SHRM(R) 2001 Benefits Survey.

The annual survey of 754 HR professionals included 160 of the top benefits offered by employers and tracked trends in benefits since 1997.

"Reflective of our aging and increasingly busy society, employers are offering more flexible benefits and benefits geared toward aging workers," said SHRM President and CEO, Helen Drinan, SPHR. "The fact that this survey has doubled in size since it was first conducted is indicative of how complex and important employee benefits are today."

Among Benefits That Rose Over a 5-Year Period:

* Paid Time Off Plans
* Domestic Partner Benefits
* Flexible Scheduling
* Flexible Spending Accounts
* Retirement and Financial Planning

According to the survey, designated leave benefits such as paid sick and vacation leave have decreased over the past five years, while paid time off plans (PTOs) have increased considerably. Under a PTO plan, all leave is combined into one general pool for which the employee can decide how it will be used. The 2001 survey indicates that 62 percent of respondents offer such flexible plans, compared to just 33 percent in 1997.

Flexible scheduling benefits have also grown steadily since 1997. For example, the number of organizations offering telecommuting grew from 20 percent to 37 percent over the five-year period. The number of organizations offering flextime grew from 46 percent to 58 percent, while the popularity of compressed workweeks and job sharing benefits also grew. Also increasingly popular are flexible spending accounts that allow employees to set aside pre- tax dollars for dependent care, medical costs and health care premiums.

Perhaps reflective of an understanding of shifting demographics and the growth of non-traditional families, more employers are offering domestic partner benefits. A total of 6 percent of HR professionals reported their organization offered domestic partner benefits in 1997. Today, 25 percent report offering benefits for same sex partners and 16 percent offer benefits for opposite sex partners.

(c) 2001 PR Newswire

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