By Emily Brandon

Traditional pension plans, paid family leave, and even the company picnic are all on the decline. Employers have significantly cut many of the benefits they offer to workers over the past five years. Some 77 percent of companies report that benefits offerings have been negatively affected by the slow pace of recovery, according to a Society for Human Resource Management survey of 600 human resources professionals.

"The two biggest areas where cuts have come have been in health care and retirement because that's where costs have increased the most," says Mark Schmit, research director of the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va.

Here's a look at the workplace perks that have significantly declined since 2007:

1. Traditional pension plans.

Traditional pensions were offered at 40 percent of the companies surveyed in 2007. Now just 22 percent of firms provide access to a retirement plan that guarantees payments for life. More commonly offered retirement benefits include 401(k)s and similar types of retirement accounts (93 percent) and Roth 401(k) accounts (31 percent). However, the proportion of companies offering a 401(k) match declined from 75 percent in 2008 to 70 percent in 2011.

2. Retiree health care coverage.

The proportion of companies offering retiree health insurance declined from 35 percent in 2007 to 25 percent in 2011, SHRM found. "Retiree medical plans are costly and the costs have changed over time due to factors outside the employer's control," says Stephen Parahus, a Towers Watson consultant. "More often than not new employees are not on a path that is going to earn them a subsidized employer benefit when they retire."

3. Long-term care insurance.

Just over a quarter (29 percent) of employers provide long-term care insurance for workers, down from 46 percent in 2007. Even fewer employers offer access to an elder care referral service (9 percent), a significant decline from the 22 percent of firms that offered this benefit five years ago.

4. Health maintenance organizations (HMOs).

The number of companies with HMOs decreased from 48 percent in 2007 to 33 percent today. Preferred provider organizations (PPOs) are much more common, with 84 percent of companies offering this type of health insurance plan.

5. Paid family leave.

A third of companies offered paid family leave in 2007, but now only a quarter of companies provide paid time off for births, deaths, and other significant family events.

6. Adoption assistance.

Adoption assistance is another waning employer benefit, with just 8 percent of companies helping with adoption costs, down from 20 percent five years ago. Foster care assistance also declined significantly from 10 percent of companies in 2007 to only 1 percent in 2011.

7. Professional development opportunities.

Don't count on your company paying for you to attend an annual conference or symposium this year. While nearly all (96 percent) companies paid for professional development opportunities in 2007, only 87 percent will in 2011. The proportion of employers offering mentoring programs also decreased from 26 percent 5 years ago to 17 percent this year.

"Work development is one of the things that helps train and recruit employees and can only be temporarily cut," says Schmit. "We see dips in it during recessionary times and then we see it come back following those recessionary times." Companies have also been cutting back on their subsidies for education expenses. The proportion of firms offering undergraduate and graduate educational assistance has declined by 10 and 11 percentage points respectively since 2007.

8. Life insurance for dependents.

About half (55 percent) of companies provide life insurance for children and other dependents, down from 65 percent in 2007

9. Incentive bonus plans.

Bonuses for executives are also on the chopping block. Incentive bonus plans for high-level employees are currently offered at half of the companies SHRM surveyed, down 10 percentage points since 2007.

10. Contraceptive coverage.

Nearly 74 percent of employers provided coverage for contraceptives in 2007, a proportion that has since declined to 69 percent.

11. Casual dress day.

Many people will need to take jeans out of their office attire rotation. Only about half (55 percent) of employers say they encourage or allow employees to dress casually one day per week, down from 66 percent in 2007. "Companies are focused on cutting out any of the extra kinds of things that might distract from their focus, even those programs that don't cost anything," says Schmit.

12. Legal assistance.

One in five companies provides legal assistance or services to workers, down from a third of employers five years ago.

13. Sports team sponsorship.

Your company may not renew its sponsorship of a local little league team next year. Only 17 percent of employers currently sponsor sports teams for workers or their families, a significant decrease from the 29 percent of companies that did so in 2007.

14. Executive club memberships.

While about a quarter (24 percent) of companies subsidized executive club memberships for certain workers in 2007, now only 14 percent continue to provide this perk.

15. Relocation benefits.

Relocating to a new place for a job often causes an employee to incur a variety of new expenses. Some companies step in to help finance some of the costs of the move. However, employers have significantly cut back on temporary relocation benefits, location visit assistance, and spouse relocation assistance. And only a small proportion of companies continue to offer to pay a cost-of-living differential (10 percent) or provide assistance selling the previous home (9 percent). "Instead of moving people to new facilities, companies might have them work as remote workers or take on a different style of work," says Schmit.

16. Help purchasing a home.

Fewer companies now aid workers with their home purchases. The proportion of companies offering mortgage assistance has declined from 12 percent in 2007 to 3 percent today. Company-provided down payment assistance and rental assistance also declined significantly over the 5-year period.

17. Travel perks.

Employers have cut back on the travel-related perks they will subsidize for employees including travel planning services (down 13 percentage points), paid long-distance calls home while on business travel (down 17 percentage points), travel accident insurance (down 9 percentage points), and paid dry cleaning while traveling for work (down 9 percentage points).

18. The company picnic.

Many firms are cancelling the company picnic, and not due to rain. Only about half (55 percent) of firms scheduled a company picnic in 2011, down from 64 percent in 2007.

19. Rewards.

Company-wide rewards programs for certain lengths of job tenure with the company (down 16 percentage points) and noncash rewards for performance (down 11 percent) have both been reduced or eliminated at many companies.

20. Company-purchased tickets. Season tickets to the local sports team or theater that are shared by employees are now only offered by about a quarter (26 percent) of employers, a considerable decline from the 42 percent of firms that provided workers with subsidized event tickets five years ago.

21. Take your child to work day.

Many companies no longer encourage workers to bring their children in to spend a day at the office. Only a quarter of employers continue to participate in take your child to workday activates, SHRM found, down from over a third in 2007.


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Careers - Many Once-Standard Workplace Benefits Disappearing

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