Valentine’s Day Surprise: Sweet Bonus for Workers
Life + Money

Valentine’s Day Surprise: Sweet Bonus for Workers

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

Cards, candy, flowers, or a sparkly bit of jewelry – this year Americans will spend $18.6M, about four percent more than last year, on Valentine’s Day gifts, according to the National Retail Foundation.

But this hardly holds a candle to the sweet gift one company is giving its thousands of employees this year.

Baptist Health South Florida, a “faith based” conglomerate of hospitals and outpatient facilities headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida, is doling out Valentine’s Day “employee appreciation” bonuses, a one-time 2013 gift. 

Full-time employees are receiving a $1,000 bonus, while part-time and per-diem employees are receiving $500 and $250 respectively. The company says it wants to ease the pinch felt by workers this year because of the restoration of the additional two percent payroll tax that bit hard into paychecks as 2013 began, as a result of the bipartisan fiscal cliff deal. The Tax Policy Center estimates the average payroll tax liability has gone up about $700 per household.

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“With the sudden payroll tax increase in early January, everyone’s personal financial situation has been affected,” said Brian E. Keeley, president and CEO of Baptist Health, this week. “Our people are our most important asset. We’re making financially responsible decisions to maintain employment stability and the strength of the organization.”

Baptist Health South Florida is one of the largest non-profit health care providers in the U.S., with seven hospitals and more than two dozen outpatient facilities in southern Florida. It’s a $3.6 billion organization that functions like any other hospital system by charging for hospital services through insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. More than 2,000 physicians are affiliated with the organization, and the group treats more than a million patients each year. 

All active employees “in good standing hired before Oct. 1, 2012” are receiving the one-time bonus, the company says. (The exception is executives at the assistant vice president level or above, plus Baptist Health-employed physicians who opted out of the program.) The gesture is costing the company more than $12 million.

It’s worth it, says Baptist Health. “Our employees are the reason the health system receives top rankings for patient care every year,” spokesperson Melissa Lichtenheld told The Fiscal Times. “Employees were shocked when they got their first paycheck of 2013 and 2 percent was taken out because of the FICA increase.” The average employee makes $50,000, so the bonus “is a way of making up the additional cash loss to them, in addition to thanking them.”

CEO Keeley’s in-box has been clogged with emails from grateful employees. “Many of us are struggling in today’s economy, so [the bonus] is welcomed,” said one worker. Another said he’ll use the cash to pay medical bills, while another called it “a good deed.”

The Baptist Health South Florida group, named to Fortune’s 100 “best companies to work for” list for 2013, includes Baptist Hospital, Baptist Children’s Hospital and South Miami Hospital, among others. The company strives “to use the latest technology to give high-quality, compassionate medical care to those in need, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Baptist Health gives $221 million annually in charity care and community service and supports a number of free clinics in Miami-Dade County. The company is rated AA by Moody’s and S&P.