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Employers to Offer Benefits to Offset Higher Fuel Prices, New Study Shows

August 29, 2008
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Some employers plan to offer various benefits to employees to alleviate the impact of higher gasoline prices, including a compressed workweek and increased use of telecommuting, a new study has revealed.

Within the next six months, 22 percent of employers plan to offer at least some of their employees the option of a four-day workweek, and 24 percent plan to allow more employees to telecommute, according to Mercer’s 2008 Gas Price Impact SnapShot Survey.

The survey also found that two-thirds of the responding companies plan to increase mileage reimbursement amounts by as much as 20 percent for business-related travel, while 41 percent anticipate raising car-allowance provisions by as much as 20 percent.

Other findings indicate that organizations are considering creative steps to help employees offset gasoline prices, including organizing car-pooling programs and offering company-funded van services from bus and train stations. Some 30 percent of responding companies offer car-pooling programs, and 23 percent plan to implement them in the next six months.

Organizations are also offering prepaid gas cards for perfect attendance and subsidies for public transportation costs. The subsidies are provided by 20 percent of the respondents, and 8 percent plan to offer the option in the next six months, according to the report.

“These options are more practical than raising salaries to cover high gasoline costs because of the implications associated with increasing pay, such as employer taxes, 401(k) matches based on percentage of pay and bonus payouts that are a percentage of pay,” said Mitch Barnes, principal at Mercer in Atlanta.

“Making the most of creative alternatives to help employees save on commuting costs is good management practice, supports attraction and retention concerns, and doesn’t add significantly to corporate expenses,” he said.

Mercer surveyed more than 300 U.S.-based companies last month. The report will be available online in mid-September and can be accessed at www.imercer.com/snapshot.

Filed by Colleen McCarthy of Financial Week, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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