A new Idaho Department of Labor report shows that fewer employers are offering employees health benefits. The 2009 Idaho Fringe Benefit Survey said the 56 percent of employers offered workers medical insurance, down 7 percent from 2007. A labor department news release said the drop in benefits occurred largely in small businesses with less than 10 employees.
The report, based on a mail-in survey of Idaho businesses, also examined other perks and benefits for workers. Survey results found that three quarters of employers offer vacation or another form of paid leave to full-time workers and 44 percent of employers offer dental benefits. Nearly half of all employers - 49 percent - didn't offer a retirement package. Part-time workers were also much less likely to receive any benefits. Only 11 percent of businesses offered medical benefits to part-time employees.
The labor department study also highlighted differences between government and private-sector worker benefits. The state of Idaho offers health insurance to all employees working more than 20 hours a week, as opposed to 11 percent in the private sector number. State workers in the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI) also receive a retirement plan with a defined benefit, which is a fixed monthly payout. Fifty percent of local government employees qualify for a defined benefit retirement plan. Only 4 percent of businesses offer a similar plan. State and local governments are also more likely to offer vacation and leave options to employees.
The difference in benefits is offset by lower salaries for many state workers. A report from the state Division of Human Resources released in December showed that salaries for state workers are 15 percent behind the market rate. That report called on lawmakers to raise salaries and lower benefits for state workers. Due to budget constraints, lawmakers have not started on that course of action. Current plans for dealing with reduced state revenues include worker furlough days, which result in lower salaries, as well as not funding salary and benefit cost increases in the next budget.