SurveyMonkey is now offering improved benefits to the contract workers and third-party food service and janitorial staff that work in its San Mateo, Calif., headquarters as it offers to its full-time workforce.

Since January, but announced last week, the polling company has been providing what it calls “gold standard” medical, dental and vision benefits, extensive paid time off and transportation subsidies for approximately 50 freelance workers from Clean & Green, Bon Appétit Management Co., and Eastridge Workforce Solutions. The benefits kicked in Jan. 1.

(The exact number of contract workers fluctuates for some short-term project workers.)

SurveyMonkey and its benefit broker partner drafted benefit benchmarks for their vendors that are "extremely competitive and similar" to those healthcare, PTO and transportation subsidies offered to its full-time employees,

Under the medical plan, 80% of claim costs are paid by its insurance carrier and the third-party employer pays 85% of employee premium and 50% of dependent premium. Contract and third-party employees are entitled to 80 hours of vacation and 40 hours of paid sick leave per year, including seven paid holidays, 12 weeks of paid parental leave per year and 12 weeks of paid medical leave per year. These workers can also receive a monthly subsidy of up to $260 for public transit expenses.

See also: How SurveyMonkey’s new chief people office engages employees

Starting late last year, SurveyMonkey worked with its benefit broker, i2i Benefits and Insurance Services, to develop standards for the benefits offered to Clean & Green, Bon Appétit and Eastridge. SurveyMonkey and i2i will work with third-party service providers it uses for its Seattle, Portland and Ottawa offices.

The idea for extending employee benefits to the support staff came from workers at SurveyMonkey. According to Chief People Officer Becky Cantieri, the company conducted an internal survey before last fall’s open enrollment season, and in it employees suggested that the janitorial and catering staff receive the same benefits as full-time employees.

“Our employees pointed it out and wanted us to get involved in helping set a better standard, so we did just that. These onsite employees were offered benefits through their employers, but they just weren’t to a standard that was directly comparable to our own employees, and that’s the gap we sought to close,” says Cantieri, who was EBN’s Judges’ Choice Benny Award winner in 2017.

“This was really driven by what you might call an embarrassment of riches on the part of our own employees,” she add. “We have the luxury of generous benefits, but our partner teams didn’t have that luxury.”

Such generosity is in SurveyMonkey’s DNA, says Dan Maass, president of employee benefits at i2i Benefits, the Redwood City, Calif., based brokerage that has overseen employee benefits for the polling firm for the past decade.

“This is the type of company that [SurveyMonkey] has been from the start, but it’s very unique in the marketplace to have a company focused on contractors and vendor partners,” he says. “We would love to see other companies look at this population and really focus on where their benefits are.”

While Cantieri admits that it might have been easier to hire these workers outright, she says that running a catering and janitorial firm is not in SurveyMonkey’s core competency.

“Rossi Vargas [CEO of Clean & Green] and her team are experts in what they do, and it doesn't always make sense to hire these resources in-house,” she says. “It's not just always about cost; it’s about who has the best expertise to do the work so it's not just a cost equation.”

Cantieri believes this offering — she says Microsoft has a similar plan in place for its contract workers — could become standard as the gig economy gains ground in the U.S. workplace.

“The world of work is changing, and we’re all going to be challenged to respond to it in a way that meets the needs of the business and the talent that we all desire to hire,” she says.

“I think it will continue to evolve, but we are certainly learning a lot and thinking differently about the world of work based on these changes,” Cantieri adds. “We have to.”

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