• Stuart Oakey
    46
    We are looking at introducing an allowance for our staff to cover wellbeing related activities (gym, exercise classes, etc.). I wanted to ask if other companies provide an allowance, or have specific arrangements with company approved service providers?
  • Brendon Ward
    24
    We have a perks scheme in the form of an app.
  • Joe Boyle
    14
    Hi Stuart, I am not sure of the current law but you may find things like fitness memberships etc. fall foul of the fringe benefit tax restrictions?
  • Alex
    22
    In addition to an onsite gym, we have a $200 (gst incl) allowance every year for wellness. Wellness extends to house insulation, sportswear, chiropractors etc. Equipment for hunting allows clothing and hiking/camping equipment but not firearms.
  • Ange White
    0
    We introduced a '$500 wellbeing dollars' (per year) benefit for employees. They can spend on things that improve their wellbeing e.g. gym memberships, sportswear/equipment, medical/health expenses etc. Employee claims the benefit via an expense claim (so they make the purchase, keep receipt and claim the expense back).
  • Stuart Oakey
    46
    Hi Joe, yes I had to check with our Finance Team. FBT does apply but our leadership team is happy with that.
  • Stuart Oakey
    46
    Thanks Ange, we're looking at a similar offering. We already have health insurance in place, but I was asked to look in to what value of allowance was being offered as we're considering $400 per year.
  • Joe Boyle
    14
    Great result then! I wish our leadership team was that accommodating :smile:
  • Peter Bateman
    270
    At the risk of stirring the pot, rather than gym memberships and the like, wouldn't it be better for a company to address worker wellbeing at source, ie: ask people what it is about their work that leaves them feeling unwell (physically or mentally) and then work with them to experiment on making changes to work to address their concerns? (It might mean hiring more people to spread the workload, for example.)
  • Stuart Oakey
    46
    Hi Peter, I wouldn't say it's stirring the pot at all. We are working through our psychosocial hazard and risk evaluation. It's a great learning opportunity for all of us, and has support across our company. Our people asked for the allowance, which our leadership team support. I found that including addressing psychosocial risk in the business case for extra staff certainly helped.
  • KeithH
    171
    Hi @Stuart Oakey,
    Just food for thought.

    What are the outcomes for management? And what are they for workers?
    What has been put in place to measure the effectiveness of the allowance?
    Where will the measurement data be sourced from?
    How will results be presented so outcomes can be measured?
    What will the results be compared against?
    How will the accuracy of comparative results be determined?

    My 2 cents worth.
  • Andrew
    391
    My well being gets well sorted after a few pints at the local pub. But I don't see my boss paying for that.

    I see this as just another situation of an employer moving into an employees private life. Employees should be responsible for their own personal, non work related well being.

    That said we pay for both health insurance and EAP. Because sometimes stuff happens in life and its going to directly impact work. So best we get people back on the road to recovery as barrier free and quickly as possible.

    And if I could be bothered claiming I'd get back the cost of one sports event entry fee a year on the insurance.

    If you have $500 to spend on employees I'd recommend subsidizing health insurance.
  • Jaylene Barwick
    2
    We are in the process of exploring an app called Health Now instead of an insurance offering. Each staff member gets a wallet with an allocation they are able to spend on things such as dental, gp etc. Companies choice what package options are included I.e. pharmacy can be added. Just means it is more likely to be spent on health and well-being this way.
  • MattD2
    338
    If you have $500 to spend on employees I'd recommend subsidizing health insurance.Andrew
    With over a third of NZ'er living pay check to pay check I wonder how much employee wellbeing would be improve by just giving them the $500 extra to spend on unexpected costs or just the day-to-day expenses they face rather than dictating how they should spend their money.

    Employee claims the benefit via an expense claim (so they make the purchase, keep receipt and claim the expense back).Ange White
    Has the possibility for some employees to be "missing out" on using their benefit because they can't afford to bridge the gap between the purchase and when they are reimbursed been considered?

    ...ask people what it is about their work that leaves them feeling unwell (physically or mentally) and then work with them to experiment on making changes to work to address their concerns?Peter Bateman
    Our people asked for the allowance, which our leadership team support.Stuart Oakey
    I would have to assume they have asked for what they expected they could get, rather than what they really want/need to improve their wellbeing. $400 a year (which most workers likely won't actually take up due to the effort and hoops to jump through to get it) is minuscule when compare to the surplus value of their labour that is shared around to those whose only effective contribution is "having an excess of money" rather than those workers actually adding value to the company. However I would also assume that no self-preserving board / C-suite would support an initiative that would be really detrimental to the shareholders, and so the token gesture of wellbeing allowances will continue.

    It might mean hiring more people to spread the workload, for example.Peter Bateman
    This could lead to some unintended consequences - while most workplaces could probably do with additional workers to improve safety (less stress, less fatigue, etc.), a good number of workers I talked to rely on the overtime pay just to get by (or at least live a little bit more comfortably). Take that overtime away and I would expect those in this situation's overall stress to actually go up and well-being to go down. Essentially we have a large amount of our workforce that basically have to run themselves into the ground just to (ironically) survive.
  • MattD2
    338
    Companies choice what package options are includedJaylene Barwick
    They can spend on things that improve their wellbeing e.g. gym memberships, sportswear/equipment, medical/health expenses etc.Ange White
    Wellness extends to house insulation, sportswear, chiropractors etc. Equipment for hunting allows clothing and hiking/camping equipment but not firearms.Alex
    Are these examples of what Andrew was referring to as
    an employer moving into an employees private life.Andrew

    What in the company give them better knowledge and understanding of hiw their employees "best spend" their money?

    What's to say making their rent payment this week or being able to afford more than beans on toast for their family's dinner doesn't "improve wellbeing"? You know - the stuff that paying them a decent wage would already account for, without the need for a household to have over 2 full time jobs to support.

    If you want to go further to support your employees past paying them what they need for a decent life, provide them with the information and opportunities to improve their lives rather than a $XXX wellbeing allowance token gesture. How about providing employees information
    , suppport and access to courses on things like general household budgeting, or providing them with discretionary leave for important home-life appointments that have to be done during the workday (including stuff like actually getting to see their kids school performances / assemblies / sporting events / etc.).
  • Andrew
    391


    You say "With over a third of NZ'er living pay check to pay check I wonder how much employee wellbeing would be improve by just giving them the $500 extra to spend on unexpected costs or just the day-to-day expenses they face rather than dictating how they should spend their money."

    Id be somewhat cautious about where you are getting your data from. And lets not forget the unseen Working For Families which tops up every workers pay if they have kids.

    You may be surprised with just how much Leave without Pay our people take. It staggers me when I look at it every week. Employee well being would be significantly improved if they just turned up to work because I am more than happy to pay them.

    And believe me. Every year when we sit down and look at our health insurance bill we do go - maybe its better in the employees pocket. But we fully subsidize the insurance and there are quite a number of employees who get significant benefit form it. We average 7 claims per employee. That's claims they would be unlikely to be able to pay if they relied on their weekly pay check.
  • Jaylene Barwick
    2
    agree but we already give discretionary leave, flexible working conditions where roles allow, wellness days and the organization is moving towards the living wage. Staff get lots of benefits and giving them tokens to contribute towards their health means they actually spend that money on their health which has benefits for them and us. It might be this week they can spend that money they would have spent on a GP visit to pay for extra living costs.
  • MattD2
    338
    Id be somewhat cautious about where you are getting your data from.Andrew
    I was referring to this older 2020 article in Stuff referencing a survey done by Finder (first somewhat recent source that came up). A more recent Newshub article this year refers to a survey that found 39% of NZ'ers could not cover a $5000 unexpected cost within a week without going into debt, and of the 1/4 of NZ'ers that do not current save any of their income nearly half is because the are living paycheck to paycheck.

    And lets not forget the unseen Working For Families which tops up every workers pay if they have kids.Andrew
    Not every worker with kids, it is means tested. And what was the point of even bringing this up?

    You may be surprised with just how much Leave without Pay our people take.Andrew
    Have you asked why so many are taking leave without pay? When I see stats like that I am curious as to why, instead of chalking it up to employees who just don't want to turn up for work.
    An example is if the current minimum leave entitlements in NZ re reflective of what life in NZ is actually like nowadays for a lot of families - common point on this is with most families needing 2 working parents, how does 8 total weeks of paid annual leave cover 12 weeks of school holidays, let alone actually getting to spend time with the whole family being together.

    But we fully subsidize the insurance and there are quite a number of employees who get significant benefit form it.Andrew
    Yes those employees got the benefit of the health insurance being in place, but would it be fair to say the main benefit of that insurance cover is to minimise the risk to the company of employees taking extended leave due to injuries/medical issues covered by the policy (i.e. save on costs of overtime/temp cover, retraining for other roles, recruitment costs, etc.).
    Honestly is the question you and your management ask when you sit down really "should we just give them the money we'd be spending on health insureance for them", or is it more "is it better for our bottom line to cover the health insurances for our workers (all things considered)"?
  • Andrew
    391
    I'm not sure it is safe to conclude that a person that doent have $5,000 in cash on hand is living pay check to check. Financially, if you have a mortgage it seems to me very sensible that you would not in fact hold cash earning a very low taxable interest rate compared with the benefit of having that $5,000 sitting off your mortgage. That's not to say people arent leaving week by week - of course they are. And I despair each time I get a phone call from a lender of last resort.

    I bring up Working For Families because it guarantees a worker with a family a minimum income dependent on the number of children in that family. So the worker doesn't just get their weekly pay check. I find this a major problem with absenteeism - because if the weekly pay drops it gets topped up by WWF. And I can't get overtime done because the more a person works, the more they earn and the less WWF they get.

    There is numerous reasons for absenteeism. Which has increased over the past few years. Which I attribute primarily to the increase in sick leave. People get paid more to stay at home on sick leave than they do to come to work. Mondays and Fridays, especially around long weekends / sunny days are worse. A fair bit I put down to resilience - or the lack of. This ranges from can't be bothered getting out of bed through to marital problems bogging people down - for which we provide EAP support. Theres is also the addictive element of gaming. And also low aspirations. Its a multi factor issue with many issues outside my influence. Where I can influence I try to provide solutions. Interestingly (or not) absenteeism is very low / non existent among our foreign workforce. And at the risk of getting myself into trouble with another contentious view, Nz's working conditions essentially don't change very much. These conditions ought to be well known to anyone considering having a family. Theres should really be no suprise conditions

    Hand on heart I can honestly say "No" " employees taking extended leave due to injuries/medical issues covered by the policy (i.e. save on costs of overtime/temp cover, retraining for other roles, recruitment costs, etc" has not once been part of the decision making. We have the view that we are very good at solving internal work related problems. External private life problems are not ours to interfere with or try to solve. But we try to give people the tools and resources to find help themselves. Either through the medical insurance and/or EAP. I don't even blink if our EAP provided say someone would benefit from councelling. Just do it and send me the bill.

    The only reason we do the health insurance is we think it is of significant benefit to the employee. If a person doesn't have $5.000 in emergency savings where are they going to find $15,000 for a replacement knee. And we insure family members - not just our worker Having their kid get eye surgery adds nothing to our bottom line.
  • Stuart Oakey
    46
    Our staff asked for an allowance, several figures were mentioned, and after some research we agreed on $400. The uptake has been good, no red tape or hoops to jump through.
    We also provide Health Insurance at no cost to staff or their families. I'm carrying out market research to see what other companies are doing for their people so we can discuss all the potential options.
    Peter's comment regarding hiring extra staff is a good example on addressing a psychosocial risk of continuous over overworking.
  • MattD2
    338
    Our staff asked for an allowance, several figures were mentioned, and after some research we agreed on $400. The uptake has been good, no red tape or hoops to jump through.Stuart Oakey
    It is good to hear that you have had good uptake on the allowance, and that barriers to participating seem to be low. Have you had / ask for feedback from those that have not decided to participate? (just out of interest in why they wouldn't).

    However the main point I was attempting to make is that when the value that an employee adds to a company vs the remuneration that they receive for adding that value is compared, that the value of these additional allowances are effectively a drop in the ocean and could be a lot more - but that is going to take a major (societal level) rethink of how our economic system values work/workers and how the benefits from that work is allocated to best benefit society as a whole.

    agree but we already give discretionary leave, flexible working conditions where roles allow, wellness days and the organization is moving towards the living wage. Staff get lots of benefits and giving them tokens to contribute towards their health means they actually spend that money on their health which has benefits for them and us. It might be this week they can spend that money they would have spent on a GP visit to pay for extra living costs.Jaylene Barwick
    It's hard to argue the point because there is an element of truth that "well at the bare minimum they are better of with this allowance in place than without it", however it goes back to the question - who has the right to dictate what an individual spend their money on? Unless you are more genuine with the reasoning behind it, as you said your company gets the benefit of healthier workers (e.g. more productive / less "waste" / etc.) - again not denying that the workers also get benefit, but that's not really the sole purpose if we really get down into it.
    Again my main point isn't that these allowances are bad, it is that they are masking what could be done to address the growing social issues in NZ (and most other "western" countries). As an example, should it really be hard that for a company with an average wage 1.7x the living wage to move towards paying at minimum a living wage to all their workers? The C-Suite of most companies (that are not owner/operator) could probably finance the extra $0.95 per hour to those currently on minimum wage (or even more) out of their own paychecks without any noticeable change in their own standard of living. Or it could be funded out of a company's net income - however for For-Profit companies this would likely have a negative affect on the company's value / shareholder dividends / etc. and therefore not be an attractive option to Boards / Senior Management that want to keep their jobs.

    To clarify, I'm not saying that those that have made these small gains/wins for their employees should be doing more, or that they shouldn't be celebrated. What has been done is important and should continue. What I am saying is to be open to thinking more broadly about how companies are operated and for who's real benefit - after all when we have a company, that makes (a global average of) NZ$16,000 of profit each year out of every one of its workers, needing to take the time to figure out if giving those workers an extra $400 a year is not enough / too much it starts to become clearer who that company is really focused on benefiting.
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