Fewer U.S. companies are offering financial benefits such as bonus plans or education assistance to their employees as they focus on maintaining or increasing health and wellness benefits, according to a new benefits study by the Society for Human Resource Management.


Between 2010 and 2014, fewer organizations offered dependent care flexible spending accounts, undergraduate educational assistance, incentive bonus plans for executives and 529 college savings plans, according to the 2014 Employee Benefits report.


"The need to maintain key benefits in areas where costs are rising rapidly may mean fewer resources are left available to invest in other kinds of benefits that are less in demand," the researchers noted in the report. "This need to counterbalance may be the main reason why the latest findings demonstrated an increase in the percentages of organizations offering several types of health care and wellness benefits, yet a decrease in many other categories of employee benefits."


The percentage of companies offering benefits such as health and lifestyle coaching, preventive programs targeting chronic conditions and premium discounts for completing annual health risk assessments all increased from 2010 to 2014.


Conversely, virtually all professional and career development benefits tracked in the survey have declined since 2010 or in the past year, the report found.


Among its recommendations, the report said employers should consider the potential impact that reducing career development benefits may have for future recruitment, given that many companies are already having trouble finding qualified candidates for key positions.