As employees squeezed by cost-of-living crisis, perks can help

14 August 2023 2 min. read

As Canadians’ finances are squeezed tighter and spending power continues to fall, benefits packages could help ease the pressure, according to BrightHR’s Thea Watson.

Though inflation has been moderating, the cost of essentials, including gas, groceries, rents, and mortgage rates, has continued to climb. According to a recent Deloitte survey, only 38% of workers have money left over at the end of the month – down from 47% last year.

Business owners are also being pressured, citing inflation as a top barrier to growth and employee retention.

“Employers are being inundated with requests for pay raises. And in an ideal world, they would of course be granted. But we need to remember that business owners are equally impacted by the economic situation,” said Watson, chief international growth and marketing officer at BrightHR, a human resources consulting firm.

As employees squeezed by cost-of-living crisis, perks can help

In situations where a pay raise isn’t possible, Watson says a well-crafted benefits package could help enhance employee wellbeing and make their paycheck go further.

One avenue is salary sacrifice schemes, wherein employees agree to forgo part of their salary for non-cash benefits – such as vehicles or technology equipment. Other options are remote and flex work to save on commuting, as well as enhanced vacation entitlements and dedicated mental health days.

“If employees have sufficient downtime and are able to continue doing the things they enjoy, there’s a much-reduced risk of burnout,” Watson said.

Employers can also subsidize medical appointments, gym memberships, or access to marketplaces that offer discounts on products and services.

“In fact, when times are tough, perks that allow employees to still be able to enjoy the ‘niceties’ of life that are usually the first to go when budgets are tight, are very much in demand,” Watson added.

It’s important not to presume what perks employees may want, however, so it’s best to consult with them. “There’s no point in spending time, money, and effort in introducing a benefit that no one wants, needs, or uses,” Watson said.