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Offer Employee Benefits to Stay Competitive in Labour Market

BC's tourism businesses will experience incredible growth in the next decade. However, industry-wide staffing shortages also loom ahead, and employers will need to work hard to lure top prospects into the field. Attracting quality workers from other industries means that you're now competing for job candidates not just with your closest rival, but also with employers from other sectors.

Common perceptions are that the tourism industry has high turnover, low wages, and little or no employee benefits. To turn this perception around, tourism employers must do their part to offer competitive compensation packages.

While the focus is usually on salary or wage figures, the benefit package you offer is a crucial element of total compensation. The strength of your benefits will often make the difference between a prime candidate's job acceptance and your continued “help wanted” headaches.

Who should get benefits

Most employers grant benefits only to full-time staff, those who work 32 hours or more per week. Granting benefits to part-time staff will really set your company apart. It sounds more costly, but don't forget that turnover costs money too. If your benefit package is attractive, your turnover may be small. Ultimately, you'll have to ask yourself how you'd rather spend the money.

What benefits you should offer

  • Statutory benefits: These include paid vacation, holidays and overtime, and Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Employment Insurance (EI) and Worker's Compensation (WCB) premiums. As these are required by BC and/or federal employment standards, most employees will take them for granted. However, they do present a real cost to employers, which must be factored in when designing a compensation package.
  • Provincial Health Care (MSP): While not required by law, many BC employers cover the cost of employees' individual health care premiums or pay a portion of it.
  • Private insured benefits: Many employers choose to bear the additional costs of life or accident insurance, short- or long-term disability pay, extended health care (prescription drugs), dental and optical care, and other health-related services.
  • Other common benefits: Employees may also be looking for you to contribute to retirement pensions, employee assistance programs (counselling), and tuition reimbursement for career development courses.

In many cases, employers are expected to bear some, if not all, of these program costs. Depending on what benefits other employers are offering, if you do not offer the same or better, you will differentiate your organization for the wrong reasons.

  • “Fringe” benefits: To really set your company apart, think about giving employees a fitness reimbursement (e.g., $100 toward a gym membership), covering transit costs, or providing job sharing or flex-time arrangements

Be creative to get the most mileage out of fringe benefits. What perks can you offer affordably, while supporting your organization's goals? You can use your own company's services to attract and connect with your staff.

Restaurants, events/attractions organizations and accommodation properties can easily provide free or discounted services to employees and their families and friends. Purchase discounts are an easily administered benefit, and are a smart marketing tool as well. (Remember, your employees are your most important marketing channel.)

Unique benefits help show you value your employees, yet remain affordable options for small businesses. Giving staff these perks is your chance to provide what no one else can. And, reaping the rewards of a good product or service will instill pride in your employees, improving your guest services in the long run.

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What this will cost

You will need to determine what benefits to offer, which of your employees will receive them, and how to actually administer your benefit plans. It is probably best to consult with a professional firm, as they can help you customize a plan that meets your objectives and your budget. A third-party provider will help manage day-to-day details and process any claims.

Providing employee benefits is a complex issue, but the payoff to your business will be great. The more you know about what you can afford to offer employees, the better you'll be able to design compensation packages that attract good workers.

For additional information:

Benefits Consulting and Administration

  • Group Lockhart - the largest administrator of hospitality group insurance programs in Canada, in partnership with hospitality industry sponsors
  • Morneau Shepell - health & benefits consulting, Employee and Family Assistance Programs, and other human resource consulting services for small and mid-sized businesses and association programs

Health Insurance Providers

Additional Resources

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