One of my cat blogging acquaintances strongly believes that total rewards plans—which include health insurance, retirement, paid time off, life insurance and other benefits—are written for people with kids.
And she thinks it is criminal.
My friend wants a different approach: you should get a flexible mix of cash and other benefits that are more suited to your lifestyle.
I said—Hey, yeah, that exists. You’re not working in Eastern Germany under Soviet occupation. Most professional companies offer multiple options and choices.
She said—Yeah, but I want better choices than I have right now, and I don’t want to subsidize other people’s kids.
The Obamacare debate has turned many employees into more discerning consumers of healthcare and benefits. It’s a good thing. However, the other outcome has been a feeling that individual benefits are being undermined by another population that is less deserving of those same benefits.
People with kids get preferential plan-language treatment. People without kids pay higher premiums to offset larger group costs. Covering LGBTQ families—or even unmarried heterosexual partners—adds to the cost of healthcare for more “traditional” families. Modern retirement plans benefit older workers while younger workers will never retire. PTO banks that don’t differentiate between vacation and “sick days” seem to benefit people without kids who don’t get sick. Bereavement leave is never long enough. Workers compensation, short-term disability and long-term disability benefits are scammy. Why do we offer group coverage for financial planning and life coaching, but we don’t offer better mental health coverage? You get maternity leave; where’s my paternity leave?
I could go on and on about the complaints that I hear about total rewards packages, but one thing is clear: many employees differentiate the workforce as a mix of “makers” and “takers.” And everyone considers himself a maker who is being taken for a ride by some other group.
Now, it’s true that there’s only so much money to spread around. Yes, you pay for benefits that you will never use. But you drive on roads that are paved and maintained by my tax dollars. You put your kids in public schools that suck up my money. I don’t drive on those roads or have kids, but I’m not going to begrudge you the right to drive your kids to school on safe roads. (I just wish your kids weren’t such rotten assholes.) Lucky for you, I see a collective benefit in the investment in your safety and your kid’s education. And I see an advantage in investing in the workforce even when it doesn’t superficially benefit my bank account.
America could have better paid-time-off policies across the board. Our retirement scheme is a mess. Companies could do a better job of offering smarter benefits to working parents. But you don’t change the system by carrying a chip on your shoulder. You change the system by working hard, getting promoted and moving into a position of authority where you can implement better policy-related decisions.
Want change? Want better benefits and flexibility at work? Work hard, get into a position of power and make it happen.
(But don’t forget about the crazy cat ladies, okay?)