From the Blog:

The biggest HR benefits debates of 2015

We’re not the first to reflect on the trends that rocked human resources in 2015. From consumer-driven healthcare options to game-changing technology, HR leaders were busy with big decisions this year.

No doubt about it, 2015 was all about taking care of the whole employee. The economy has recovered – and employees now hold all the cards. That’s clear from the corporate initiatives we saw take effect this year. Here are the benefits topics that kept our industry talking in 2015.

Top 3 HR benefits debates of the year


1. Parental leave

Big-name companies shared major changes to their paid leave options for moms and dads.

Netflix set the ball in motion over the summer with a year-long “unlimited” parental leave policy. Amazon followed up with an announcement of its own, introducing the concept of “shared” parental leave to accommodate spouses who work at companies with unpaid leave options.

We also saw new benefits to help with early parenthood – many companies now offer onsite daycare, overnight newborn care and baby-friendly work environments.

These announcements left most people celebrating, but they weren’t without controversy.

2. Flexibility options

We know that 80 percent of today’s organizations offer some form of flexible work arrangements for employees. 

Research shows that employees who have time to recharge bring extra energy and efficiency into the workplace – and some companies (and countries!) took that to heart:

    • Unlimited vacation. What was once a novel concept is now creeping into vacation policies worldwide. Zillow, SoFi and LinkedIn are just a few organizations that let their high-performing employees take as many days off as they want.
    • Set vacation time. On the other side of the PTO argument, companies started requiring people to take their earned time off with set leave rules. Kickstarter actually swapped its unlimited policy for a 25-day limit. The open-endedness left employees unsure about how much time was too much, so they weren’t taking any. Other employers tackled that phenomenon with a twist — mandatory vacation.
    • 32-hour work week. Only a short year after banning after-hours work email, France made headlines again. Its leading trade union wants to save jobs and boost productivity by cutting work time to 32 hours. Union leaders predict many more benefits, like improved social progress and quality of life.

3. Egg-freezing policies

This year found Sheryl Sandberg sharing the compassionate reason Facebook decided to pay for female employees who want to freeze their eggs: A female employee with cancer found out she couldn’t have children without the expensive procedure.

“I talked about it with our head of HR, and said, ‘God we should cover this,’” Sandberg said. “And then we looked at each other and said, ‘Why would we only cover this for women with cancer, why wouldn’t we cover this more broadly?’”

It’s a question more company leaders are asking. In the same interview, Richard Branson defended Facebook’s decision, “We at Virgin want to steal the idea and offer it to our women….How can anybody criticize them for doing that?”

Your turn. What’s the most interesting HR benefits debate you heard in 2015?