Is This Any Way To Trim Fringe Benefit Costs?

High benefits costs may be contributing to the recent surge in layoffs. Based on data from some 800 companies, Wyatt Co. consultants report that the annual cost of employee benefit packages--including pensions, savings plans, and health care--runs from an average of $7,900 for those earning $24,000 to $9,400 at the $35,000 level to $17,000 for an employee making $75,000.

Meanwhile, economist Richard S. Belous of the National Planning Assn. notes that a number of companies that fired white-collar, professional, and technical workers in recent years have hired many of them back as "contingent," or contract, workers. "This has not only saved employers the heavy cost of fringe benefits," he says, "but helps explain why unemployment is not higher."

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