Some, like Facebook, offer gym memberships, some who include the benefit of the dentist (Google) in their contract proposal, some who even assist with financial and legal assistance for adoptions (Amazon). The boom in corporate welfare, the set of employers’ practices to promote the wellbeing of workers through a series of services and performances to complement the classic salary, is not stopping. And indeed, it is finding new ways to “retain” employees. We are not just talking about large multinational companies: whether they are meal vouchers, solutions for collective transport or contributions for the care of family members, there are many companies, even small and medium-sized ones that have adopted some form of benefit for their workers as part of the pay. Also, and above all, thanks to tax benefits that the law allows.
According to the latest report on the performance of productivity bonuses by the Ministry of Labor, in fact, as of November 14, 2018, there were 39,287 declarations of conformity deposited for tax relief purposes: the number of company agreements that provide for the conversion of welfare into goods and services is increasing compared to previous years, and this is good news.
It is also for this reason that Adapt recently published “Welfare in the company. Practical guide for companies, consultants, trade unionists, operators ", an operating handbook that aims to provide directions for the creation of welfare plans that are not " improvised, but thought out, consistent with the real needs of companies and workers and integrated with the services present in the territory”, according to the description that is provided in the book.
“Given the widespread use of welfare, we thought it useful to publish a text that talked about the topic and helped to understand the normative bases, the reasons and the objectives ", explains Silvia Spattini, Director and Adapt Senior Research Fellow and co-author of the guide.
Among the types most requested by employees there are health services, social security, education for children, assistance and care services for family members, or purchase vouchers for recreational activities.
If for some time there has been talk of welfare, and in Italy it has already become quite widespread, in reality a real discussion on the subject has only recently started: “It is with the 2016 financial law that we see the possibility of agreements relating to bonuses being turned into welfare ", says Spattini. “This has re-launched all of the corporate welfare types, which can have different sources: the transformation of the performance bonus, the result of an agreement between the parties, or of a company regulation, in which the company establishes by itself which type of welfare to deliver. "
These types are well known: some are merely organizational and more linked to the private life and work balance, such as flexible hours, and some are linked to a more general sphere of social utility, from education to recreational activities and leisure time, but also meal vouchers, public transport or vouchers.
In general, the type of benefits depends largely on the business contexts, according to the latest Adapt report, produced in collaboration with Ubi Banca. For example, in the mechanical engineering sector, flexible benefits prevail, namely the provision of a welfare credit in which workers themselves choose the type of asset or service they prefer to use. “Among the types most in demand by employees there are health services, social security, education for children, assistance and care services for family members, or purchase vouchers for recreational activities. In second place there are solutions for conciliation and organization of the workplace and continuous training ", explains the expert.
In short, in the great universe of corporate welfare, there is a plethora of choice. And if in general it is easier to adopt policies of this type for large companies, there also is no lack of "examples of small and medium-sized enterprises that put themselves into networks to promote the spread of welfare, such as in Veneto", Spattini reports.
The possibility of using technology has made welfare easier and more profitable for both companies and workers in terms of choice, widening the range of available services
In other words, a new sensitivity is being spread towards the issues of worker well-being, proven by studies that show that welfare not only allows the employee to be loyal, create organizational well-being and a positive business climate, but the construction of a constructive organizational context also has a positive impact on the company's productivity, reducing turnover and absenteeism.
In short, it seems that the "welfare era with a concessive function, linked solely to the paternalistic attitude of the enlightened capitalist of the late nineteenth century" is officially over. Universally, the care of the wellbeing of workers is entering the radar of companies as a determining factor for a healthy business.
And technology in this sense is also making an important contribution: IT platforms for the management and provision of welfare goods and services favor the spread of welfare, thanks to the increasing simplicity of use (just think of the example of the platforms mentioned above). "The possibility of using technology has made welfare easier and more advantageous for both companies and workers in terms of choice, widening the range of available services", the expert points out.
In the same way, the growing spread of welfare has also contributed to the emergence of new professions, where service providers or jobs related to the link between companies and providers of those services "are no longer just commercial, but must deepen the subject and develop a more specialized professionalism”.
At the moment, however, fiscally facilitated welfare measures can only be targeted at employees (or temporary employees). Nothing stops us from recognizing welfare services to other categories, but they will not be able to enjoy tax advantages
In other words, a new level of prosperity and awareness is opening up for corporate welfare. So what’s the limit? The fact of being restricted only to employees, due to the tax advantages associated with the job. But we know that the world of work is in a phase of profound transformation, where alongside the forms of smart working, there is also a growing number of people who work "on their own" within the so-called gig economy. The risk, even with the evolution of the forms of welfare, is that these workers will be cut off. Will it be possible to think of including them in some way?
“Recognizing welfare measures also to other forms of collaboration would be relevant as a response to the transformations of the current world of work. At present, however, fiscally facilitated welfare measures can only be targeted at employees (or temporary employees). Nothing stops us from recognizing welfare services to other categories, but they will not be able to enjoy tax advantages”, Spattini concludes. From a certain point of view, the self-employed could have the interest not only to have a simply financial recognition, but also of other kinds. After all, in the exchange between work performance and consideration, it would be a sign of the recognition and enhancement even of a social component ".