What are the benefits of offering commuting perks to employees?

Commuting to work is part of daily life for many Canadians. In the 2016 census, Statistics Canada found 15.9 million citizens were commuters, spending an average of 26.2 minutes travelling to work each day.

So how do employers make commuting easier? And how do they communicate perks, such as free parking, discounted transit passes and bike-friendly offices?

Michael Pecchia, a group benefits account manager with Penmore Financial Group, is familiar with commuting perks on a personal level. Before joining his Concord, Ont.-based employer, Pecchia was in human resources in the mining industry in Vancouver. Employees in his office were offered free parking in the building or a reimbursed monthly transit pass, and he made use of both benefits.

Read: Employers have role in mitigating stress of daily commute: survey

There was no written policy or hard number assigned to how much could be charged monthly, he says, noting he’d try to spend no more than what a monthly transit pass would cost. For those who just took transit, the monthly amount they could be reimbursed typically corresponded to where they lived and how much a transit pass cost from their zone.

In terms of communication, commuting perks are largely promoted through an employer’s internal internet, says Kevina Hyde, a Vancouver-based associate with Aptus Benefits Inc., though she says there are better ways to highlight these benefits.

“I believe all the cities in the Lower Mainland, we’ve got a focus on biking a couple of times of the year,” she says. “So there are things that an employer can do to heighten it depending on their size, with local champions within their own organization and create some events to promote that.”

Read: How WSP Global strives to conquer the commuting conundrum

Another factor Hyde has seen employers take into account is engaging with employees before an office relocation, to help them understand how their staff travel to work and where they live. “That’s what I’m seeing and that’s a positive sign,” says Hyde. “Not positive that people have to move out because lease rates are too large, but they’re giving some consideration to how where they’re geographically located affects their employees.”

Looking at the benefits of offering these perks, Pecchia says it helps set employers apart. “There are a lot of little added benefits that mining companies and employers like to add to set themselves apart, to be an employer of choice,” he says. “Those types of benefits are certainly something, [but] wouldn’t be the main decision an employee would choose X company. It certainly doesn’t hurt when you look at the total rewards package as a whole.”

Another reason to consider commuting perks is talent retention, according to Hyde, noting the attraction and retention of talent is becoming a big issue across the whole country. “But once you have a good workforce, you need to consider what may appear to be an insignificant thing that you can do to help retain them. Commuting could be one of them.”

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