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HR/BENEFITS

Case Study: How to Handle Employees' Unused Perks

You'll hurt your company by putting employees on the hook for unused company expenses.
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Imagine you offer a really cool benefit to your employees. The type of benefit that makes you a really cool place to work, the type of perk employees really value.

In the case of a company recently highlighted on the Ask A Manager blog, that perk is an allowance to attent conferences or seminars, thus empowering employees to develop themselves. The company picks up the tab for events that could help the employee grow their skills.

Very cool stuff, but management was confronted with a problem recently when one employee signed up for a conference several months ahead of time. Well before the event was set to take place, however, the employee decided to leave the company to pursue a new career opportunity. His tickets for the event were non-transferrable.

A manager at the company wrote to Ask A Manager's Alison Green, explaining that the company's director felt the employee should be responsible for reimbursing the company for the ticket. The manager disagreed, saying the wasted allowance is just the cost of doing business. Green sided with the manager.

The company would have a hard time forcing the issue, to the point that it probably wouldn't be worth the hassle. Demanding the reimbursement would also reek of a petty and ungracious response to hearing somebody had chosen to move on from your company.

But the biggest reason Green advised against pushing the issue? It would serve to undermine the benefit itself.

"What he’s proposing would discourage people from ever signing up for anything more than a month or so out, because they won’t want to be on the hook for the cost in case their circumstances change," Green writes.

Green likens the situation to a trade publication subscription that a company might pay for on the behalf of an athlete. If the employee left the company in the middle of the year, his or her boss probably wouldn't require them to pay for a prorated annual subscription cost.

"Your company offered this benefit, and the employee acted on it in good faith. Now the company needs to act in good faith too," she writes.

IMAGE: Jetta Productions/Getty
Last updated: Mar 27, 2014




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