Grocery retailer Lidl US is among the growing number of employers looking to keep part-time workers happy with an important perk: health coverage.
Beginning Jan. 1, Lidl US will provide medical benefits for all its employees in more than 70 stores, regardless of the number of hours they work per week. Roughly 1,200 employees working part-time–about 30% of the company’s workforce–will be eligible to buy into medical coverage through the company.
Lidl’s head of HR, Eoin Byrne, says that behind the move is a desire to give employees peace of mind. The company also plans to use the new benefit as an attraction and retention tool.
“Our people are the drivers of our growth, and as an employer, we are committed to supporting them, regardless of the number of hours they work per week,” he says. “Giving them access to healthcare coverage will help them succeed and be at their best. It eliminates a major stressor and will naturally help to attract and retain great people.”
Adding medical coverage will help Lidl in its goal to be “the first choice for all prospective candidates interested in working in retail,” Byrne says. Part-time employees working less than 30 hours per week also currently receive dental and vision insurance.
Lidl US expects to invest up to $9 million in the first year of the new initiative, growing the investment as the retailer expands. It’s part of its effort to “offer one of the most generous benefits packages in the industry,” the employer says.
Expanding benefits to part-time employees is a growing focus among employers, especially as the number of part-time and gig workers grows. The vast majority (78%) of organizations now employ part-time workers, and 90% of those organizations define part-time work as fewer than 30 hours a week, according to research from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.
“At least a conversation is out there [about offering part-time workers employee benefits],” says IFEBP’s Julie Stich. “I think it’s growing.”
Offering health coverage and other employee benefits can help retain part-time workers, especially because companies with a lot of part-time workers–like retailers–are especially vulnerable to employee turnover, she says.
“It seems like it’s all tied together with this tight job market: ‘Let’s do what we can to attract and retain,’ ” Stich says. “It builds loyalty and morale. If you have an employer that is offering benefits and medical coverage, more people will likely stay.”
According to IFEBP research, the most favorable medical benefits among employees working fewer than 30 hours a week are healthcare coverage (54%), prescription-drug coverage (53%), dental and vision care (52%), flexible-spending accounts (47%) and health-savings accounts (33%).
As the number of employers offering healthcare to part-time workers continues to grow, other companies have gone even further with the benefits they provide to part-time employees.
Retailer H&M earlier this year announced a new six-week paid parental-leave policy for its thousands of part-time employees. H&M also offers its part-time employees an array of benefits, including medical and vision coverage, vacation time, 401(k), pet insurance and a paid day off on employees’ birthdays.
Italian eatery Eataly last year announced a new paid parental-leave policy–eight weeks of time off for both mothers and fathers following the birth or adoption of a child–available to all employees who have been working at the company for at least a year, regardless of hours worked per week. Dollar General last year also introduced a paid parental-leave benefit, offering two weeks of paid time off for all eligible full-time and part-time employees, and eight weeks of paid time off for birth mothers.
“As these workers become a growing force in the workplace, I think they can have a growing voice,” Stich says. “And if their voice is saying, ‘We want benefits,’ I think [employers] are going to have to listen.”