Diverse employee benefits have become indispensable incentives to enhance staff engagement and retention in addition to base pay. Apart from meeting statutory requirements on some general benefits such as leave and retirement protection, employers have put more emphasis on employee wellness by enhancing medical benefits and work-life balance for employees through non-statutory leave and retention initiatives.
According to the 2015 Benefits Survey conducted by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM), the percentage of organizations providing various kinds of non-statutory leave entitlements to staff has remained stable over the last three years when similar findings were revealed in 2013.
Provision of different kinds of leaves
The basic/initial annual leave entitlement across all employee levels in all the business sectors covered in the survey ranged from 10 days to 19 days on average. A little more than half (58.2%) of companies offered sick leave entitlement compliant with the statutory minimum requirement with no exception while 21.1% of employers offered sick leave payment higher than the statutory requirement in general (four or more consecutive days at the rate of four-fifths of an employee’s ordinary wage).
A majority or 93.7% of employers imposed service requirement for maternity leave payment on eligible employees in compliance with the employment ordinance. Among the organizations providing maternity leave, 57.2% offered maternity leave payment in accordance with the statutory requirement (i.e. 80% of 10 weeks of salary) while 42.8% offered benefits better than the statutory requirements.
Only about 18.7% of employers offered paternity leave entitlement better than the statutory requirement (i.e. 3 days of fully paid leave), with a maximum of 5 days on average granted to eligible employees. Less than half (42.9%) of employers provided study and examination leave, with a maximum entitlement of 5 days on average. 96.6% of employers granted such leave to eligible employees on a fully paid basis.
A majority (89%) of employers provided other kinds of non-statutory special leave to employees, including compassionate leave, marriage leave, family leave and birthday leave. The non-statutory leave maximum entitlement for each category ranged from 1 day to 4 days on average. Of all kinds of special leave provided, 17.6% of employers offered birthday leave to employees, a marked increase of 5.3 percentage points as compared to 12.3% of employers found in the 2012 survey.
Major medical benefits offered by employers included clinical (outpatient) benefit (96.2%), hospitalization benefit (95.7%), dental benefit (59.5%) and medical check-up (47.4%). Compared to the results of the 2012 survey, there was a decrease in the proportion of employers providing medical check-up, dental benefit and clinical (outpatient) benefit. However, the provision for hospitalization benefit by employers slightly went up to 95.7% from 95.2% in 2012.
The medical check-up benefit is usually offered to employees in top management. In the survey, 19.2% of employers reported that this benefit was extended to the dependents of eligible employees, up 1.4 percentage points from the previous survey. The banking/financial services sector recorded the highest percentage of employers providing medical check-up (72.7%).
The average retirement age for employees across the 22 industry and business sectors covered in the survey was 62. 64.2% of employers made delayed retirement arrangements in the form of extending retirement age, extending contracts and offering short-term contracts.
All employers in the survey provided Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme to employees while 11.5% of employers offered new employees the option to join either Occupational Retirement Schemes or MPF Scheme.
In terms of employer’s contribution of MPF Scheme, 62.5% of employers capped the contribution at the statutory 5% while 28.8% reported the employer’s MPF contribution was above the mandatory 5% for all employees.
Long service recognition
In terms of long-service recognition, 66.2% of employers provided non-cash awards including golden gifts, certificates/trophies/awards/letters of appreciation, gifts/souvenirs and additional leave to long-serving employees. 21.7% of employers provided a service-related cash bonus with the media/publishing sector (40%) reporting the highest percentage of companies that provided this benefit.
Regarding efforts to retain employees, 77.1% of companies provided education subsidies (excluding any training offered directly by the company). The average maximum subsidy entitlement across various employee levels was HK$17,110. Some business sectors reported a high proportion of companies providing education subsidies for employees such as hi tech/IT (88.9%), social/community services (87.5%), hospitality/tourism/leisure (87.5%) and retail (85%).
A retention bonus, ranging from 1.2 to 3.5 months of salary across various employee levels from general/supporting staff to top management, is provided by employers. The estate/property management sector recorded the highest percentage of companies (50%) providing this benefit, followed by business services, insurance, and oil/chemicals/energy sectors (all at 33.3%).
Work-life balance initiatives
A large proportion of companies have recognized the importance of work-life balance initiatives and measures as a tool to enhance employee wellness and engagement and to retain staff. 83.7% of companies reported they provided work-life balance initiatives.
Of all the work-life balance initiatives covered in the survey, a five-day work week was mostly adopted by employers, with 89.7% of organizations practicing this policy. Some other work-life balance measures have seen a marked increase in popularity among employers since the 2012 survey. These included flexible working hours (28.2%), part-time work (27.2%), employee assistance programmes (26.4%) and working from home (19%).
Benefits for employees stationed in mainland China
The study also highlighted that 26.7% of responding companies had employees stationed in Mainland China. 52.9% and 15.7% of employers provided China allowance and hardship allowance respectively. Both items saw a drop in percentage points from the 2012 survey. The allowance entitlement for employees at various levels ranged from 13.1% to 17.1% of annual base salary.
Industry and business sectors that reported to have employees stationed in Mainland China were mainly related to professional & consultancy services at 30%, followed by retail at 21.1%, manufacturing at 18.8%, construction/property development at 15.8%, high-tech/IT at 11.1% and banking/financial services at 10%.