Benefits are a form of compensation paid by employers to employees over and above the amount of pay specified as a base salary or hourly rate of pay. Benefits are a portion of a total compensation package for employees.
Do Employee Benefits Give Employers the Payback They Deserve?
Do comprehensive employee benefits reward employers with increased employee appreciation and satisfaction? Too often, the answer is no.
Employer costs for employee compensation averaged $36.61 per hour worked in June 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Wages and salaries averaged $25.12 per hour worked. This accounted for 68.6% of these costs, while benefits averaged $11.48 and accounted for the remaining 31.4%.
Four out of 10 U.S. employees lack any knowledge of how much their health insurance costs. Of the 60% of employees who think they know the cost of their health insurance, just 15% were able to provide a reasonable estimate.
These were among the findings in a survey of 1,500 U.S. employees by research and consulting firm LIMRA that was published by the Society for Human Resource Management.
Why Do Employees Undervalue Benefits?
Employees undervalue their benefits for many reasons including:
- Employers communicate the value of the benefits poorly and infrequently.
- Employees have little or no choice in selecting benefits packages or options.
- Employees misunderstand the market value of their benefits and the additional cost of their compensation package to their employers.
For employees to understand the value of the benefits they receive, employers must educate employees and family members and provide monthly benefits statements that share the true cost of the benefits.
Maximize the Value of Employee Benefits Expenditures
Employers can overcome these factors by allowing employees to make choices about the types of employee benefits and by providing lots of information. You can jump-start the education process by providing paycheck inserts that detail your cost for each employee benefit.
Other ways to get employees to think about the value of their employee benefits include interactive computer quizzes, employee benefits fairs, telephone hotlines, workplace posters, and videos or television discussing employee benefits.
Firms that wish to maximize the value of their employee benefits expenditures need to survey their employees to ask them the types of employee benefits that they value and how much they value each type.
Employee benefits surveys or focus groups are important first steps in understanding employee preferences for types of benefits. Relevant questions about the desired types of employee benefits might include the following.
- What types of employee benefits are most important to you?
- If you could choose one new type of employee benefit, what would it be?
- If you were given X dollars for employee benefits, how would you spend them?
Follow-up research about the cost of employee benefits that employees desire can help you determine which programs will provide the most bang for the buck. On the basis of the data developed, you can adapt your employee benefits offerings or provide choices about types of employee benefits that are consistent with organizational objectives such as employee retention or performance.
Note that in a 2020 study by the office superstore, Staples, these were the benefits that employees most wanted.
- Workplace flexibility benefits such as flexible hours, commuter benefits, or the ability to work remotely on a regular basis.
- Continuing education perks such as tuition reimbursement, student loan repayment, or financial support for receiving professional certifications.
- Lifestyle and entertainment perks such as Netflix/Spotify subscriptions, free coffee, and snacks at work, or employee discounts.
- Health and fitness perks such as gym membership reimbursements, on-site fitness facilities, or nutrition classes.
- Family-focused/childcare perks such as daycare reimbursement or paid family leave.
Consider Types of Employee Benefits
However, other employee benefits are not—and these are the types of employee benefits that set companies apart. Organizational values are often manifested in the types of employee benefits organizations offer. Thus, the employee benefits help to establish an organization's positive reputation as an employer of choice in the marketplace.
So, isn't it about time to reconsider the employee benefits package that your company offers? Following is a long list of the types of employee benefits that are offered across hundreds of U.S. firms. The cost of these employee benefits varies, as do employee and employer perceptions about the value the employee benefits deliver.
The key for organizations looking for a competitive edge, through the types of employee benefits they offer, is to determine what employee benefits you can provide that are most valued and useful to your employees. Hopefully, these employee benefits will approach a 1:1 cost to the employees' perceived benefit ratio.
Employees Think of Some Benefits as Perks
Perks are employee benefits, usually in addition to salary and standard employee benefits. The word perk, or perks, is a short form of the word prerequisite which means incentives, bonuses, extras, or sweeteners. In use in business, the term perks have come to mean benefits or extras above and beyond the normal comprehensive benefits package.
Perks also refers to nonstandard benefits that are unusual or for which only a limited number of employees are eligible. You will hear employees in the business world use the word perks in reference to any nonstandard benefit though this is not the usual reference.
In organizations, perks are often viewed as an incentive or a form of gratitude that is offered to executive-level employees or employees with seniority or longevity—something that sets the employee aside from the average employee.
Types of Employee Benefits
The following are samples of the employee benefits that are offered across many organizations. Use this list of employee benefits in thinking creatively about your current employee benefits package.
If not, use this list to determine the types of employee benefits that you may want to consider providing. You're in competition with the best employers for the best employees. These types of benefits will attract and retain your best talent.
Bonus Options for Employee Benefits
- Performance bonus
- Attendance bonus
- Longevity bonus or service award
- Discount stock purchase plans
Medical and Health Employee Benefits
- On-site medical clinic
- Medical care programs (HMO, health insurance)
- Dental care programs (insurance)
- Vision care programs (insurance)
- Flexible spending accounts for healthcare costs
- Employee assistance programs (EAPs)
- Wellness programs
- On-site fitness facilities
- Fitness facility membership
- $50 to take annual physical; $200 reward if vital signs are positive
Paid Time Off Employee Benefits
- Sick leave
- Well pay
- Mental health days
- Paid Personal Days
- Bereavement leave
- Ten paid hours a month for volunteer work
- 35 extra vacation days in 10th year and every 5th year thereafter
- Personal or emergency business days or floating holidays
- Paid sabbaticals
- Professional association participation
Insurance Benefits for Employees
- Short-term disability insurance
- Long-term disability insurance
- Life insurance
- Mental health insurance
- Travel accident insurance (when traveling on company business)
- Insurances mentioned under "Medical and health"
Retirement Benefits for Employees
- Defined benefit pension
- Defined contribution
- Financial planning assistance
- Discount stock purchase plans
Children and Family Employee Benefits
- Free child care
- On-site child care
- Free elder care
- Vouchers to help pay for child care
- Information about the cost and quality of daycare for children or parents
- Discounts on daycare
- Flexible spending accounts for child care
- Sick child care center (to cover when providers won't accept children)
- Financial support for infertility treatments and/or adoption aid
Employee Benefits Related to Pets
- On-site kennel service
- Dog and cat grooming
- Animal sitting for business travelers
- Pet walking services
- Bereavement period for the loss of pets
- Pet insurance
- Bring a pet to work on a particular day
- Allowed to keep pets at work (an office cat)
Education and Development As Employee Benefits
- Tuition reimbursement or payment for seminars and classes
- Educational assistance (interest-free loans for own or children's education)
- Career planning and development
- Scholarships for children of employees
- Professional association meeting, conference or seminar expense
Concierge Services As an Employee Benefit
- Car wash and oil change
- Dry cleaning service
- Maid service to clean home
- Errands run
Food as Employee Benefits
- Free drinks such as pop, coffee, tea, juice, and espresso
- Free lunch
- Free popcorn, ice cream, fruit, or other snacks
- Discount meals
- Holiday turkeys
- Already prepared take-home meals
- Paid mini-bar snacks at a hotel (while on travel)
- Paid meals for the entire family if working on the weekend (to allow some family time)
- Beer, wine, meals included in company-provided refreshments at company events
Clothes as Employee Benefits
- Free uniforms or uniform cleaning
- Free clothes for personal use (such as shirts, sweaters, jackets, hats)
- Shoe repair
- Safety shoes
- Safety eyeglasses
Personal Care Employee Benefits
- Beautician on-site
- $5 haircuts
- Free on-site massages
- Naptime during the workday
Discounts for Employees as Benefits
- Leased automobiles
- Life insurance
- Discounts (up to 50%) of closing costs in the purchase of a new home
Transit Employee Benefits
- Vanpool programs
- Company car
- Free or subsidized mass-transit passes
- Free parking (car or bicycle)
- Free taxi rides home
- First-class travel
- Freeride in the jump seat of company planes
- Free airline passes
- Keep frequent flyer miles for personal use
Other Types of Employee Benefits
- Relocation expenses
- Subsidized or free housing
- Employee referral bonus
- Boomerang bonus (employee rehire bonus)
- Prepaid legal services (telephone advice, wills, purchase of a home)
- Award or gift certificates (redeemable at the employer's or another local store) as bonuses for attendance, productivity, and punctuality
- Game rooms (pool, foosball, video games, etc.)
- Free movies
- Free cigarettes
- Company-sponsored/subsidized events such as trips to athletic events, concerts, and hikes
- Theme days such as Halloween costume days and holiday cookie exchange days
- Condominium, hotel, camping or recreational areas for employees to use
- Annual family trips back to the "home country" of H1 B visa employees
- Relocation back to the "home country" if the job doesn't work out
- Relocation back to any United States location in case of "no-fault" layoff or termination
- Birthday card or note from the executive
- Assistance in obtaining a visa to visit the United States
- In-plant bank branches for employee banking services
- Life Cycle account of $10,000 to help employees across major thresholds such as buying a first house or financing a college education
Employers who consider and offer many types of employee benefits will experience positive employee morale and retain employees better than organizations that do not. Employers who educate their employees about the value of the employee benefits they receive can maximize the value to employees of the employee benefits that the employer provides.
More Information About Benefits
The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers information and statistics about benefits.