Paid time off is most desired workplace benefit

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Employees have spoken: paid time off and more flexible work schedules are their most desired benefits, according to a new survey by benefits provider Unum.

The poll, which surveyed 1,500 working adults, found that 40% of employees want more paid time off. Thirty percent of workers said flexible and remote working options were their second most-desired perk. Paid family leave was third, followed by gym memberships and other fitness and lifestyle incentives.

“With today’s unemployment rate hitting a low of 3.6%, benefits matter,” Rob Hecker, vice president of HR Global Total Rewards at Unum, says. “If workers aren’t getting what they want from their employer, they’ll look for better benefits elsewhere.”

The average employee gets 10 days off per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But with the rise of unlimited PTO and generous remote work policies, employees are prioritizing when — and where — they can do their work.

Read more: How to prevent employees from taking advantage of unlimited PTO

Employers are juggling the demands of a multi-generational workplace, and the scope of desired benefits reflects varying priorities. While baby boomers and millennials both ranked PTO and family leave as top benefits, student loan repayment was top priority for Gen X workers. But just 8% of employers currently offer a student loan benefit, according to SHRM, though that figure doubled from 2018.

PwC was one of the earliest adopters of a student loan repayment benefit, and has paid nearly $26 million towards student debt. Companies like Wayfair, New Balance and Commonbond have followed suit by offering this benefit in 2019.

Read more: CommonBond partnership seeks to unburden workers of student loan debt

“When we look at data, we see that 70% of graduates have student debt and 80% of people with student loans will choose to work at a company that provides student loan assistance,” David Klein, CEO and cofounder of CommonBond, told Employee Benefit News. “The companies that respond to the data will attract and retain top talent. The companies that don't will be less competitive than other companies in the space.”

Without an appealing and competitive benefits offering, workers will leave for better options. According to Unum, 57% of millennials and 65% of Gen Z employees said they would leave their current employers to find a job with better benefits. Employers are responding: 72% have increased their benefits over the past year in order to retain talent, according to SHRM.

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