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Making Work Work for Women, Spotlight on Business
Presented at Working Women's Wellness 24/7, 7th Annual Conference on Women's Health sponsored by Women's Health Virginia, June 11, 2004

The Demographics of Virginia Business
The SBA estimates that 97.7% of all Virginia firms are small businesses with 500 or fewer employees.  These firms employ 47.8% of all nonfarm workers in Virginia.

According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, nearly half (47.5%) of all privately owned businesses in Virginia are majority or 50% women owned.  There are almost 160,000 majority woman owned firms accounting for 31.2% of all firms.  Another 74,000 Virginia firms are equally owned by women, accounting for another 14.5% of all private firms.  Virginia firms where women own 50% or more employ more than 422,000 people.

The most recent Census data indicate that at least 15% of all private firms in Virginia are 51% minority owned.

The Demographics of the Uninsured
The EBSA estimates that 50% of persons without health insurance are in families with workers who are self-employed or work at firms with fewer than 100 employees.

Employees at large firms are less likely to be uninsured than employees of smaller firms:

12% at businesses with 1000+ employees
12% at businesses with 500-1000 employees
14% at businesses with 100-499 employees
20% at businesses with 25-99 employees
27% at businesses with 10-24 employees
34% at businesses with fewer than 10 employees

Another study reported that health benefits were offered at just 49% of worksites of firms with fewer than 100 employees compared with 98% at larger firms.  At low wage worksites, the disparity is greater:  34% of small firms at low wage sites and 95% at low wage sites of larger firms.

More than one-fifth of women with children under 18 lack health insurance.  Half of working mothers do not get paid when they miss work to take care of a sick child. 

10% of all women ages 18-64 provide care to family members who are sick or disabled; 43% of these caregivers have a chronic health condition; 25% of caregivers are medically uninsured.

Firms that are not providing health insurance to workers are unlikely to be providing any other benefits related to work-life balance.

What Do Employees Want?
Benefits are important to employees.

According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), 68% of employees at all organizations rated benefits as “very important” to their job satisfaction, ranking benefits above compensation, feeling safe in the work environment, job security, and flexibility to balance work/issues. Health care, paid time off and retirement benefits were ranked as the most important benefits related to overall job satisfaction.  Ranked least important were child-care assistance, flexible spending accounts and professional development.

Employees consider health insurance to be the most important fringe benefit.

Employees at larger firms are more satisfied with their benefits than employees at smaller firms.
SHRM reports that only 47% of employees in small organizations (1-99 employees) are satisfied with their total benefits package and fewer, 38%, are satisfied with their medical benefits package.  This compares with 74% and 67% respectively for employees at organizations with more than 500 employees and 60% and 62% at medium sized organizations (100 to 499 employees).

Feeling safe in the workplace has new importance.
SHRM reports that in 2004 almost twice as many employees (62%) stated that feeling safe at work was “very important” than did so in 2002 (36%).


Work/Life flexibility is also important but less so.
SHRM found that in 2004 57% of employees ranked flexibility to balance work/life issues as “very important,” slightly less than in 2002.  Included among work/life balance practices are flextime, telecommuting and compressed workweeks.  Slightly more than 50% of organizations offer flextime, 33% offer compressed workweeks or telecommuting.

According to When Work Works, 79% of employees said that they would like to have more flexible work options (85% of younger workers), yet 39% of respondents reported that employees who use flexible schedules are less likely to get ahead in their jobs or careers.

Availability of Child Care Can Affect Employee Recruitment/Retention
45% of parents say that child care was an important factor in deciding to join the organization for which they work (Benefits of Work-Site Child Care, Simmons College, 1997). 19% of employees reported turning down other offers rather than lose their work-site child care.

What Prevents Businesses From Giving Employees What They Want?
Not a lack of desire.

87% of women business owners at the Women Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century Conference (21st Century Conference) indicated that providing a “family friendly” workplace was either extremely important or very important.  “Women entrepreneurs not only run their businesses, they often manage their families and fulfill community and other responsibilities as well. Balancing work and family commitments is a special challenge for women entrepreneurs, particularly in small firms where the unplanned absence of the owner or one employee can precipitate a crisis. With work and family demands often in conflict, flexibility is integral to the modern workplace.”  http://www.dol.gov/21cw/Women_3_18/Conference_Report.htm

Perceived cost
76% of women entrepreneurs at the 21st Century Conference said that cost was the biggest obstacle to providing health insurance benefits.

Small firms are charged more per employee for health insurance than large firms.  Premiums were up for all businesses by 12.7% in 2002 and 18.1% for firms with between 10-500 employees.  Smaller firms routinely face the highest rate of increase.

But, cost is not the only factor.

Lack of knowledge
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation Survey, 1/3 of small businesses not offering health insurance coverage admitted that they did not know how much it costs.  Those who said that they did know overestimated the average premium cost by $40.

Half of small firms responding to another survey said that they did not know that health insurance premiums are 100% tax deductible to the employer.  >Over half believed incorrectly that employees purchasing insurance on their own could deduct 100% of their premiums.

A majority of Fortune 1000 and 500 firms have Employee Assistance Programs, but smaller companies are unaware that they too can affordably implement EAP/worklife programs that benefit employees, managers and the bottom line.

Small business owners who do not have ready access to human resources professionals are overwhelmed by the amount of information about benefit options and put off by regulations (ERISA, for example).

Administrative burdens and resource challenges
Small business owners do not have staff, time or resources to manage the administration of benefit programs.

No perceived return on investment.
Business owners are not convinced that investment will lead to cost savings.

Cost/Benefit Analysis of Work/Life Programs and Benefits
Benefits/programs are less expensive than believed

Provisions like flextime, compressed workweeks and telecommuting are inexpensive to administer and increase employee satisfaction.

Employee assistance plans cost from $2.00 to $3.75 per employee per month and return $4.00 for each dollar spent.

Reduced turnover
In a recent study of organizations sponsoring child care centers, the Bright Horizons Family Solutions Consulting Practice found that voluntary turnover among employees is estimated at 7.2% compared with 3.7% among employees using the employers’ child care centers.  Retention among top performers using the child care centers was 97%.

Turnover costs at least 1.5 times the salary of a salaried employee and .75 times the annual salary of an hourly employee (Personnel Journal, December 1990).  Any increase in retention can result in substantial cost savings to an employer.

Higher employee satisfaction and loyalty
Employees who use or are aware of work/life programs are the most committed employees in the company and the least likely to feel burned out.  At one company, these employees were 45% more likely to strongly agree that they would “go the extra mile” to help their company succeed (DuPont Work/Life Study, 1995)

Greater productivity/reduced absenteeism
45% of parents miss at least one day of work every six months due to a child care breakdown; 65% are late to work or leave early due to child care issues (Bright Horizons Child Care Trends, 2002).  Availability of work-site child care can reduce absenteeism and enhance productivity.

10% of the workforce is estimated to be substance abusers contributing to a 50% reduction in productivity.  EAP plans resolve 50% of problems.

Cost reduction through prevention
HHS estimates that prevention saves $3.14 for each dollar spent.  HHS Report, Prevention Makes Common “Cents”.

Injury prevention is less expensive than correcting problems after they’ve occurred.  The American Association of Safety Engineers estimates that for very $1 invested in a safety and health program, $4 to $6 is saved as a result.

Bank of America conducted a health promotion program for retirees.  Cost was $30 a person; insurance claims were reduced by an average of $164 compared to a $15 increase for nonparticipants.  Coca Cola reported savings of 500 per year for employees enrolled in their fitness program.  Prudential reported a reduction of major medical costs from $574 to $312 for each participant in their wellness program.  Worksite Health Promotion Directory, www.jointventure.org

Obesity as an example.
HHS estimates that 80% of workplaces with more than 50 employees and almost all employers with 750 workers or more offer health improvement programs, most with an obesity component.   Health care costs for a person who is morbidly obese are 36% higher and medicines for morbidly obese persons cost 77% more.  Morbidly obese people are 2 times more likely to be absent; U.S. companies pay $2.4 billion a year in paid sick leave.  Weight reduction can yield direct savings in reduced health care costs, turnover, and sick leave expenses.  Improved fitness can reduce risk of major diseases by 25 to 50%.

Ten low-cost ways employers can address obesity:

1)       offer voluntary health risk appraisals;

      2)       require vendors to include healthy food choices in cafeterias and vending machines

3)       provide nutritional information for cafeteria selections

4)       offer on-site classes related to nutrition and exercise

5)       offer “Weight Watchers at Work” or other targeted programs

6)       create safe walking paths and encourage use of stairs

7)       distribute health education materials

8)       sponsor lunch and learn sessions

9)       consider an allowance for health clubs

10)   support community based weight management and fitness resources.

Source:  National Business Group on Health

Why offer worksite wellness programs?

Healthy employees are a valuable asset.

Promote a healthy lifestyle.

Reduce absenteeism and presentism.

Contain the costs of benefit programs.

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