Employers Cover Worker Fuel Costs to Stay Competitive

Though gas prices are trickling down, it costs some people twice as much to fill up these days, and the labor market is still tight.

June 29, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Gas prices are at historical highs, and some companies are helping their employees cover the cost to fuel up, which has nearly doubled for some people, reports the Wall Street Journal. Benefits include fuel stipends, gas station gift cards and other perks, such as additional work-from-home days, as companies attempt to retain their staff during a tight labor market.

Workers are still quitting their jobs—job openings were at 11.4 million in April, and the quit rate was 4.4 million, while job openings outnumber job seekers by close to 2 to 1. Employers say perks such as fueling up benefits are critical to keeping employees.

Cassandra Gluyas, chief executive of Thomas Instrumentation Inc., has 15 employees and considered giving all of them a one-time bonus to offset fuel costs but decided to give her workers a 6% raise instead. She thought a permanent raise would be better for household budgets. “Everything was getting tight for them,” she told the Journal.

A garden center in Naples, Florida, gives its employees $50 and $30 stipends in each paycheck for full-time and part-time workers, and in April, it gave its staff raises between 20% and 30%.

“We almost had to do it or we risk losing a lot of very good employees,” the center’s chief executive Craig Hazelett told the Journal.

Office occupancy in major cities is at 44%, according to Kastle Systems, which uses badge swipes to monitor occupancy. That percentage is the highest it has been since the pandemic began.

Some companies are delaying or reversing their return-to-work policies. A cosmetic and pharmaceuticals manufacturer based in Lawton, Oklahoma, told employees who live more than 25 miles away from work that they can work from home an additional day each week.

“That’s directly related to gas,” CEO Jennifer Ellis told the Journal, who is also considering buying gift cards from Love’s Travel Stops and distributing them to workers.

Of course, not all companies can leverage remote work to help out employees. A Seattle printer company requires most of its employees to be on site, so the company figured out a formula that determines how many gallons of gas each employee uses to get to work each week and added a $1.50 a gallon stipend to their paychecks.

The company is also looking into paying for bus passes for employees who don’t drive to work and gave workers raises in January and will again next month. But these types of incentives can’t go on forever, according to Reid Baker, president of the company.

“We’re certainly trying to create longstanding retention, but there’s a limit to what we can compensate our employees at,” Baker told the Journal.

Gas prices are trickling down, according to AAA. The current national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is $4.87, down two cents from yesterday and 9 cents from a week ago. The decrease is due to a drop in the global price of oil—economic fears of a potential global recession are leading to less demand for oil, dropping the price to around $107 per barrel, down from $110 last week.

“Fear is not a good reason to move a market like the one for oil, but it is a powerful motivator,” said Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson. “The cost of oil accounts for nearly $3 for every $4.89 at the gas pump. Consumers should find more relief when fueling up if oil prices drop further.”

(Here’s how to explain to customers why gas prices aren’t dropping quicker when the price of crude oil does drop.)

Gas prices have decreased two weeks in a row and could for a third week, but any sudden changes to supply could reverse the decline, Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told CBS News.

"Risk remains that when the peak of hurricane season arrives, we could see a super spike at the pump," he said in analysis.

For Sheetz customers at more than 640 locations in Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, gas is below $4 a gallon for certain fuel types. For the July 4 holiday, Sheetz lowered its Unleaded 88 to $3.99 a gallon and its E85 to $3.49 a gallon. The lower prices are for a limited time.

A recent NACS survey revealed that high gas prices are taking their toll on sales at convenience stores, with 59% of retailers saying customer traffic has decreased in stores during the past three months. Nearly half of all retailers (49%) also say that those customers coming inside the store are buying less compared to three months ago when gas prices were $1.50 a gallon lower.

In addition, retailers expressed concerns that elevated gas prices could also depress sales over the traditionally busy summer-drive season: 53% say they expect sales to be lower this summer than last summer, with only 25% anticipating increased sales.

The Convenience Matters podcast episode “What’s the Tipping Point for Gas Prices?” explores how much pain at the pump consumers will tolerate.

Also, here’s what consumers should know when gas prices soar.