Employee benefits are putting the squeeze on companies looking to mitigate rising costs. A majority (84 percent) of chief financial officers surveyed in October by Grant Thornton LLP cited benefits as their greatest pricing pressure, up from 68 percent six months ago.

Roughly one-third of respondents say they will reduce health care benefits, 23 percent will reduce bonuses, and 18 percent will be reducing stock options/equity based compensation.

Grant Thornton LLP surveyed more than 500 U.S. CFOs and senior comptrollers participating.

About which type(s) of pricing pressure are you most concerned? (may select more than one)    
  (%) October 2010 (%) March 2010

Employee benefits (e.g., health care, pensions)

84 68
Raw materials (e.g., food, metals) 27 29
Energy 21 26
Other 12 17
Company Insurance (not including healthcare) 11 19
Is your company making any changes to the average costs per employee in any of these employee benefit and compensation areas?    
     
Salary raises (%) October 2010 (%)March 2010
Decrease 13 32
Same 65 53
Increase 21 15
     
Bonuses    
Decrease 23 44
Same 63 47
Increase 14 8
     
Stock options/equity based    
Decrease 18 29
Same 79 66
Increase 3 5
     
401(k) match    
Decrease 10 21
Same 84 74
Increase 5 5
     
Health care benefits    
Decrease 30 29
Same 49 66
Increase 21 6
     
Life insurance benefits    
Decrease 9 11
Same 86 86
Increase 5 2
     
Disability benefits    
Decrease 8 10
Same 86 88
Increase 6 1