Commuter benefits

As enterprise companies continue to battle inflation, worker shortages, supply chain issues and other factors that directly impact their bottom line, the need for an economical, scalable solution to workforce challenges is critical. Improved access to transportation and commuter benefits can help close these gaps.

Commuting times in the U.S. continue to rise, with almost 10 percent of workers traveling an hour or more each way to work. Cheap land and economic incentives have attracted large facilities to rural areas, pushing jobs further from dense populations to areas that do not have the population to fill newly created jobs. Economists call this gap between where jobs are and where job seekers live a spatial mismatch, which is creating even higher unemployment and longer spells of joblessness. For a growing number of companies, the key to solving spatial mismatch is commuter benefits.

For hourly workers, especially, transportation has a major impact on which jobs they can consider, impacting how much they can earn. But most job applications ask, “Do you have reliable transportation?” Job seekers have been conditioned to say yes, believing that is the only way to be considered. And in most cases, they are right. Hiring managers are acutely aware of how transportation affects their workers. However, commuting has always been the employee’s responsibility.

For many years, academics and advocates for equitable access to transportation have reported on job sprawl that is pushing hourly jobs further away from workers. And even though there is a tax benefit for doing so, 86 percent of employers don’t offer commuter benefits.

As companies struggle to fill open jobs, employers have a chance to stand out by offering a benefit that allows for the hiring of individuals who would not be able to say yes to the job if it required a car for commuting. Adopting commuter benefits that are effective and sustainable doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are three actionable steps HR managers can take.

■ Understand the commuting costs of your employees. Determine how far employees are traveling. Using the IRS rate of 62 cents a mile times the miles traveled can give you an estimate of the cost of commuting. Employees who spend more than 10 percent of their post-tax income on commuting are at risk of turning over. Tapping into real-time geographical data to inform hiring can improve talent acquisition, as well as retain your current workforce.

■ Set up commuter benefits deductions. Driving a car is a post-tax expense, but transit and solutions that bridge the transportation gap are eligible under the IRS Commuter Pass Benefit, allowing up to $280 per month per person to be paid for pre-tax,. Enabling employees to buy bus passes and other qualified mobility services pre-tax has a financial benefit for both employees — allowing them to keep more of what they earn by cutting transportation costs — and the company, to attract and retain talent.

■ Put “transportation provided” in the job description. Offering transportation can increase the number of prospective employees by as much as 60 percent.

High gas prices and expensive used cars are just a few reasons employees need transportation solutions. Employers are positioned to make the cost of commuting drastically lower. If your company is dealing with a spatial mismatch, providing a transportation solution for employees may be the only way to fill jobs and retain your current workforce. Helping an hourly worker keep $5,000 more of what they earn by not buying a car can be life-changing. ●

Ryan McManus is Founder and CEO of SHARE Mobility

Ryan McManus

Founder and CEO


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