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Short glimpses into the history of employee benefits

Employee benefits have been around for a long time, adapting throughout centuries to changes in work culture, technology, and social values.

by Allianz Global Benefits | 2 min read

Employee benefits are surprisingly old. Already in ancient times various forms of compensation and support were provided to workers, and soldiers in the Roman Empire, for example, were granted pensions as form of a benefit.

A more concrete concept of employee benefits started to take shape during the industrial revolution in the 19th century, marking the beginnings of the employers’ duty of care for the employees. In line with the increase of larger enterprises, companies began offering various benefits to their workforce. These included company housing, company stores and other non-monetary benefits and were mainly aimed at attracting and retaining talent to ensure the companies’ productivity.

The early 20th century shows the appearance of pension plans, initially in form of defined benefits, as well as the beginnings of workers’ compensation programs.

The concept of employee benefits significantly expanded in the mid-20th century with the introduction of employer-sponsored healthcare coverage, retirement plans, and other perks like paid time off and disability insurance.

Since then, the landscape of employee benefits has continued to evolve, with a growing focus on sophisticated wellness programs, a broad range of health initiatives, flexible work arrangements, and other non-traditional benefits such as childcare, healthy foods in the workplace or subsidized gym memberships.

Today, employee benefits are a critical component of the overall compensation package, playing a key role in attracting, motivating, and retaining employees across various industries and regions. Aiming to meet the changing needs of the workforce and taking a holistic approach to the employees’ overall wellbeing, they provide benefits that impact the employees’ entire life, not just their work life.

Looking ahead, employers might need to make significant efforts to retain employees, especially considering the challenges posed by an aging workforce and labor shortage. It is important to recognize that one size will not fit all anymore. This makes investing in flexible benefits, that reflect the needs and individuality of employees, more crucial than ever. Finally, benefits need to be well-received by the workforce. Thus, it is meaningful for employers to collaborate with providers that prioritize benefits education as well as their ease of use.

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Allianz Global Benefits

This is an official media release by Allianz Global Benefits.