Small business owners say benefits help to retain top talent.
Employers don't want to cut benefits, but as companies struggle for survival, some experts say it could be their only choice.
Metlife recently reported that despite employee concerns most companies do not plan to reduce benefit offerings. In a survey of 1,300 employees and 1,500 human resources executives, the report revealed that fewer than 15 percent of companies were planning to make cuts.
The study also found health and retirement benefits are the second and third biggest influences on loyalty to employers, and 39 percent of employers belief workplace morale is strongly linked to benefits.
While he admitted deteriorating economic conditions may have rendered the numbers stale, Bill Mullaney, Metlife's president of institutional business, does not expect employers to slash options. Pointing to the study's results, he said employers want intact benefits to ensure they hang on to their best performers.
"Employees continue in increasing numbers to value a wide range of benefits, not just health care, and there's a definite link between benefits satisfaction and retention," he said.
But sometimes trimming benefits is the best of several bad options. Steve Rimmer, a principal in HR services for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said struggling employers should consider downsizing benefits, rather than employees. He is seeing more companies in immediate need of cash for short-term survival slashing their offerings.
"There's a tendency to shy away from cutting benefits—with good reason in a normal situation," Rimmer said. "But we're not in a normal situation."
"Don't be afraid to engage in discussions of cutting benefits if it increases the chances of survival and reduces the need to cut heads," he added. "Employees get it, and it's all a question of how you engage them in that discussion."