“In our company for certain senior grades we do pay Utilities at actual cost which is the DEWA bill (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority). In my opinion utilities should cover the water and electricity, however I got employees who are claiming also for the household gas, or even the chillers charges. My question to you, do you see it all falling under utilities and we should pay the same these chiller and/or gas bills, or you see a different market trend for the same ?”
Here is my reply to him.
“That is an interesting question and I guess that every company may have a different answer.
I am making the assumption that the people for whom you pay the DEWA bill in full are the most senior managers in your company, so not many of them (maybe 5 to 10% maximum of your total headcount). And I am also making the assumption that your HR policy does not describe “utilities”… otherwise you would not be asking the question.
My view on that topic is very simple : it is up to you (as company) to decide if you should reimburse gas and chiller fees or not… but I do have a preference for one of the approaches.
First, let’s go back to the spirit of the utilities allowance.
It was created to cover expenses related to, well, living in a house. This usually means water, electricity and gas.
Why gas ? Because it just another means of allowing people to cook, have hot water and sometimes even light in a house. In the UAE, some houses also have a separate chiller fee because of the way the building was set up.
On a personal level, living in apartments since 2007, I have never had to pay a separate chiller fee so my air conditioner costs were always included in the electricity bill and reimbursed by my employers. And I never had gas cookers so my bills for cooking were also covered by my employers, through the electricity bill by DEWA.
So you can go in the spirit of the allowance and decide to include chiller and gas reimbursement, and swallow the cost.
Deciding not to include the gas and chiller reimbursement
You can also go very “strict” and say “utilities mean DEWA only”. Simple… in appearance.
…Until these senior employees tell you : “It’s not fair ! the person who lives in an apartment, not a villa, probably has centralised A/C and therefore not separate from the regular electricity bill… and if their kitchen cooker is electric not by gas, you also reimburse to them their whole expenses. So in effect you are discriminating against me”.
And what do you respond to these people ? “Sorry… not my problem !” or “Then I suggest you move out of your villa and choose a home with no separate chiller fee and electric oven and cooker” ?
So you need to take into account the reactions of these senior managers.
Also, make an estimate of how much it costs the company per year to reimburse the chiller fees and gas of these few employees.
How much does it represent as a % of the overall utilities reimbursements / allowances that you pay annually ? Is it worth it for your company to risk getting senior managers angry, complaining or worse, disengaged, for this amount?
You will be hitting senior people in the wallet, and even if the amount is not that large compared to their overall pay, they won’t like it. You can also anticipate that these senior people will expect for a compensation on their basic pay.So now you end up having to either manage some exceptions (because, you know it, they will happen), or to integrate these costs into basic pay, thereby raising permanent costs as well as End Of Service liabilities.
And your senior employees are still going to be at least mildly upset about “HR”, which they will perceive as not supportive, and focused on “small topics” compared to the big amounts of revenues and expenses that these senior leaders manage on a daily basis.
Obviously, it is up to you to decide the risks vs the benefits of each decision (to reimburse or not to reimburse). But I’d be inclined to say “yes, cover the gas and chiller fees” – it’s usually not worth the hassle and potential negative morale impact on your senior employees.
If you decide to STOP reimbursing the chiller and gas bills, and you were reimbursing them before, I suggest putting in place a good communication plan, with enough time in advance and some individual simulations if you can.
Don’t go “all employees communication” – get individually to each of the senior mangers who will be affected by your decision. Spend the time and effort to explain the rationale for your decision.
This small time investment will create some goodwill towards you in the future : these senior managers may not like your new policy, but they will appreciate your customer service approach and in the future, their reaction towards HR will not be as negative as if the new approach was implemented brutally and without communication effort.
I hope it will help you think about your upcoming decision for your company.”
So what do you say ? Does your company reimburse utilities at full cost for senior managers, and if so, did you specify “water and electricity only” or not ? Please share your experience in the Speak your Mind section !
In case you are interested by information related to cost of living elements such as accommodation, household goods, utilities, etc, as well as some salary information, I’d like to refer you to Cost of Living Reports – a good value-for-money investment for the UAE, KSA, Qatar and GCC at only a few thousand Dirhams per report.
If you would like to know more, and learn about my free ebook gift if you purchase any Cost of Living report (the offer is valid until February 28, 2014 so hurry up if you want to benefit from it !), please read my previous article Do you have questions about the Cost of Living reports ? which will give you all the background you need.