Personal Finance

These are the work perks job seekers really want

Key Points
  • As wage increases fail to keep pace with inflation, employers are rethinking benefits to recruit and keep top talent.
  • For employees, generous paid time off and flexibility matter more than other possible perks — and, in some cases, even money.
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For those considering a career change, the year ahead looks particularly promising.

With the unemployment rate at a 50-year low and U.S. companies adding many more jobs than expected, 2020 could be the year to land a new job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But not just any job will do.

Job seekers are looking for positions with flexibility and generous amounts of time off, according to a recent online poll of more than 1,500 working adults conducted in August by employee benefits provider Unum.

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While paid time off continues to top the list, student loan repayment and lifestyle benefits — such as gym memberships and onsite healthy food options — are gaining steam among most desired work perks, Unum found.

"Today, employees are seeking more work/life balance, whether that's in traditional paid time off or paid leave benefits," said Laurie Mitchell, assistant vice president of global wellbeing and health at Unum.

"People want meaning beyond work," said Harley Lippman, the CEO of staffing firm Genesis10, particularly millennials who now comprise roughly half of the American workforce, according to the Pew Research Center.

"What they look for is a great work experience, especially flexibility," Lippman said.

People want meaning beyond work.
Harley Lippman
CEO of Genesis10

Willis Towers Watson, a leading global advisory company, found in their 2019 Best Practices in Health Care Survey that more employers are rethinking benefits to recruit and keep top talent.

As wage increases have failed to keep pace with inflation, "employers are looking to provide more benefits in different ways," Unum's Mitchell said.

Chief among them is paid parental leave. Netflix, Cisco and Intuit are among some of the employers that have recently gone above and beyond the basic requirements to support a new parent's transition back to work.

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Just last week, President Donald Trump also signed the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act, a bill providing 12 weeks of paid leave for federal workers following the birth, adoption or fostering of a child. The legislation will apply to more than 2 million civilian workers employed by the federal government.

It is the first update to federal family leave policy in a generation, since the Family and Medical Leave Act was enacted in 1993.

That law provided employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for personal illness and care of a newborn child or sick family member. However, it only covers about 60% of the workforce due to exemptions for firms with fewer than 50 employees.

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