One of the key challenges facing the future of work is ensuring that all jobs are good jobs—that is, jobs that offer workers economic stability; opportunities for mobility; and basic levels of equity, dignity, and respect. Workplace benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans, are an important component of good jobs. But there is little consistency in what benefits are offered to workers and how those benefits are designed and administered. The term “benefits” is used widely but rarely defined. The range of benefits offered is incredibly diverse, including health insurance, paid time off, pet insurance, and gym memberships. Though grouped together, these offerings are vastly different and unequally available across the workforce, and they can have very different effects on workers’ lives.
This brief synthesizes existing knowledge on the landscape of benefits available to workers in the United States and the impacts of those benefits. It begins by defining workplace benefits and providing a brief history of their use. It then explores the connection between workplace benefits and job quality, mapping known impacts against key components of job quality. Finally, it reflects on opportunities for improvements in job quality and for future research.