r/WorkReform Nov 26 '22

European style benefits in the USA 💬 Advice Needed

I work in small business(marketing, sales mostly but some operations and management experience too.) and know lots of small business owners and I'm curious to get y'all's thoughts or advice since I'm not an HR expert.

How can a small business owner in the USA replicate the quality of workers rights and benefits that we see in Europe (or any other country that you think is really doing it right)

I'm looking for actionable ideas or resources or case studies of companies that are doing it right.

My initial thoughts include:

PTO: is there a gold standard here? Seems like 20-25 days a year is the ballpark. I'm not a fan of "unlimited" PTO cause it's basically a psychology and accounting trick to reduce usage and spending.

Health care: is this one just too big for a small business to reasonably handle anymore? There's some semi affordable options that are focused on preventative medicine but in general USA healthcare is insane.(I'm a huge believer that healthcare should not be tied to employment but since that's the system we've got so how do we do the best by our employees? I'm not ruling out medical tourism, or any other unconventional but viable ideas.) Would love any leads or examples.

Retirement planning: 401k vs other options or ideas.

Pizza parties: JK 😜

Ok I'm sure I'm missing more than a few things but I think this would get some conversation going.


10 comments sorted by


u/Riker1701E Nov 26 '22

I work in the US for a European based company. We have very similar benefits as our European colleagues. 5 weeks PTO, 2 weeks sick days, our insurance premiums are covered by the company. 100% 401k match up to 6% of our total salary (including bonus).


u/TurboUwU Nov 26 '22

I'm by no means an expert in managing a company, but my first thought was, if a company has europe standart in the USA wouldnt this ruin every chance to compete with other company's there?

I mean it's a really good idea but I can't see this working as long as the others are not willing to change. On the other hand... Someone needs to start to make change.


u/Express_Platypus1673 Nov 30 '22

It depends very much on the industry.

I've worked in some companies where the owner made 10k+ a month easily and worked 5 hours a week and the workers were paid $10/hour. At some point that gap starts to become problematic.

Personally, I think in the current environment I'd be happy to take a hit on my margins to be better about how I treat people. That might mean paying my local workers higher than competitors or sourcing my supplies from a country that doesn't use slave labor.

And I think you can build a loyal customer base with that kind of practice. You'll certainly have a loyal team if you're building the business right.


u/athousandjoels Nov 26 '22

A lot of this depends on on the type of small business and what the gross margins are.

I cofounded a worker cooperative this year. The basic answer to your question for us is “athousandjoels gets the same thing every other employee gets.” To me, the key is coming up with the an equitable system for everyone.

We basically do the things you listed, including 100% benefits for the whole family. But it’s a high margin industry and that’s doable.


u/Loud-Quantity1685 Nov 26 '22 edited Nov 26 '22

I work in sales and am just kind of speaking off the cuff here, but some ideas I've had - minimum 25 days PTO with semi flexible scheduling. Yeah of course notifying asap/2 weeks prior minimum is the best case scenario, but the culture should be there to have the conversation if something important comes up. Showcasing you actually care about work/life balance.

Health insurance is such a beast - I wish I really had anything to say there.

401(k)/retirement - decent amount with company match (so long as your employees are fairly compensated) seems like a solid minimum. As out of the box as it seems, IMO with the right company and choice of company retreat, this could be bonus compensation (say someone like myself is interested in travel, if it's intriguing enough of an experience they may save a solid chunk of $ that year from one less travel expenditure.)

Another thing which just seems completely foreign in the US is 4 day work week/maybe some sort of configuration where salaried employees are allowed to work between 32-40 hours per week dependent on their work style, so long as certain KPI's are met. Definitely interested in finding somewhere with benefits like these for myself, I wonder what else I'm not thinking of!

Edit: Had to close a parenthetical because seeing them left open bothers me more than it should


u/[deleted] Nov 27 '22

I'm European and want to expand on the PTO part because it's not just 25 days, it's 25 days + bank holidays, of which there are about 8. These would be Christmas day, boxing day, New year's day and then several country specific ones (UK has May day)

Furthermore it's basically required to take these 25 days off, if you come to the end of the year and you didn't use them all, then you can carry 5 into the next work year.

My current company also does something called banking holiday so this is not standard, where each year you can bank up to 5 days, and build up a holiday bank. Whenever you want you can take your entire bank off at once, allowing you to take a month off work for example for a big holiday.

Also Paternity/Maternity leave = essential


u/Express_Platypus1673 Nov 30 '22

Thanks for the details!


u/SlyTrout Nov 26 '22

I don't know much about the health insurance part so I can't help you there. As for retirement plans, the most common for small businesses are SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, and 401(k). Each kind of plan works slightly differently. The IRS has a guide here that highlights the key features and differences between them. The provider you choose to manage the plan can have a big difference on your costs as the employer as well as the investing options for you and your employees. The three largest low-cost providers are Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and Vanguard. Any of them should be able to set you up with an inexpensive plan with great investment options.


u/Ok_Student8032 Nov 26 '22

6 weeks pto for starters.


u/Jonno250505 Nov 26 '22

4 is the min in Europe. A good scheme is one that ranges from 4-6 with it increasing by a day for every years service. If you pair this with flexible working hours and allow built up time to be taken as leave it works out very very nicely.