Employers are cutting white-collar benefits as they face higher costs—but they’ll do anything to keep working parents on the job, survey shows

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With companies looking to cut costs in a high-inflation landscape, a bevy of employee perks that saw a rise during the hypercompetitive post-pandemic job market is on the chopping block, including tuition assistance, charitable gift matching, and even dental insurance. 

Still, there’s one benefit that remains untouched—and it’s to do with keeping parents happy.

That’s the takeaway from a Glassdoor analysis of 2024 workplace trends, which reveals a shifting landscape in some of the most popular benefits of the last few years. 

Take mobile-phone discounts, which were available at a majority of employers six years ago, according to Glassdoor’s analysis of employee reviews. As of 2023, those discounts have fallen off a cliff, Glassdoor reveals. 

Commuter assistance, which peaked in 2020, has since fallen to its pre-pandemic level, and gym memberships, which were all the rage among tech sector employers in 2019, have fallen nearly to zero. 

“With the corporate austerity over the past year, benefits that were less used during the pandemic are coming under scrutiny,” Glassdoor Chief Economist Aaron Terrazas told Fortune

“Wages rarely, almost never, adjust down, so when times are difficult and companies try to save on compensation costs, they often look at benefits,” Terrazas added.

The availability of 401(k) plans, dental insurance, and tuition assistance have all fallen from 2021, across all types of employers, the review shows, while vision plan availability has stayed flat. 

(The review didn’t address the availability of medical insurance, which surveys show remains among the most critical benefits employees want.)

More companies offer fertility, adoption, or leave benefits

Even among the landscape of cost-cutting, though, benefits that focus on family — including adoption or fertility assistance and parental leave—have grown sharply, including since the pandemic.

“There is a trend of more family-focused benefits,” Terrazas said.

Adoption assistance went from nonexistent in 2017 to appearing in about a quarter of employer reviews this year; among financial services employers, the benefit is nearly ubiquitous, Glasdoor’s analysis shows. Fertility assistance and parental leave rose from negligible in 2017 to appearing in half of reviews in 2023 (and nearly universal among financial services and tech employers). 

There are two overlapping reasons for this, according to Glassdoor. The largest generation in the workplace—the millennials—are now in their 30s, the peak years for child raising. Their aging into parenthood coincided with the pandemic-era push to keep working parents on the job, where employers rolled out a slate of formal and informal perks to make it easier to work amid household responsibilities—from parental leave to flexible work schedules.

With a concerted push to bring workers back to the office (at least some of the time), and white-collar workers in general enjoying less cushy terms than they had in the last few years, the family-friendly trend could easily reverse, Terrazas noted. But one factor in its favor is that parental benefit policies can be surprisingly cheap for the employer, he said. 

“Something like fertility assistance is very expensive for the individuals who use it, but only a small portion of the employee population uses it—compared to the lower per-employee cost of the mobile phone discount that maybe every employee uses,” he said.

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