Employee benefits: the (almost) definitive list

Sometimes, it’s good to reset and re-evaluate your offering to your employees. So, where do you begin? If you were to start from scratch today, what benefits should an employer offer? You obviously have your core benefits, like pension or 401(k), life insurance, health insurance, income protection, etc. But what about those things which are a bit less common? A few examples of unusual employee benefits can go a long way from turning a good scheme into a great one.

To stand out as an employer of choice and recruit top talent, your employee benefits need to be appealing, relevant, and a bit different. From healthcare, to lifestyle and leisure activities, to free food in the office, rewards and benefits are a central part of your employee experience. Whether you operate in one country, or have a global reward scheme, whether you're recruiting full-time employees or offering flex hours; here’s a list of our top perks compiled from some of Glassdoor’s best companies to work for:

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Parental leave

Shared parental & unlimited leave

One of the most closely scrutinised benefits in any offering will be parental leave. It can make or break your ideal candidate’s impression of you. While the government’s ‘Share the Joy’ initiative hasn’t proved as effective as hoped (almost half of HR pros have admitted they don’t proactively advertise shared parental leave in their organisation), offering other shared leave opportunities is the route that more and more employers are going down. Unsurprisingly, Netflix are always near the top of the leader board when it comes to employee satisfaction. They have the second highest median base salary in the US, and their software engineer salaries are up to 56% above the national average. However, their most popular benefit is their maternity/paternity package. Employees are entitled to up to a year’s maternity or paternity, and can return to work full or part-time. Their company-wide unlimited holiday policy enhances the parental leave package as they can take time off when needed.

There’s also the consideration of parental leave for non-biological parents. Offering parental leave equally to biological, adoptive, surrogate or fostering parents of any gender will appeal to many more people than traditional standards. Etsy, for example, offer 26 weeks off to any parent, over the first two years, as long as 8 of these are taken at the time of the birth or adoption.

Pawternity leave

Parental policies need not be just for children. To promote inclusivity for all employees, parental leave can be extended to included four-legged friends. Across the UK, 5% of owners have been offered this benefit to help them settle their furry friends, which is a time-consuming, often emotional undertaking. Take Brewdog, the punk brewery, for example. In recognising the commitment and responsibility that comes with taking on a new dog, they give their people Puppy Leave for that all-important first week. And having pet-friendly workplaces is certainly a big draw for a lot of candidates out there. There’s also a growing trend of offering pet bereavement leave, too – particularly in the US.

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Fitness benefits

Sports equipment discounts

Promoting physical health through gym memberships, running clubs, or even on-site facilities can really help you to champion healthy, happy employees. Nike, for example, certainly practise what they preach. Their impressive headquarters is home to two walking/jogging trails, a race track, and the Bo Jackson workout facility. Employees also receive a 40% discount in-store so they can have better access to sports clothing and equipment.

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Financial wellbeing benefits

Student loan repayment benefits

With student loans creeping ever-higher and making more and more people reconsider further education, employers can step in and make a difference. US graduates typically have $37,172 in debt. In England, that figure rises to £50,000 ($64,750) although what you actually pay back depends on your subsequent earnings. With this in mind, PwC are contributing $100 per month to non-management employees for up to six years, to help them reduce the burden of repaying debts. Plus, the money goes directly to the loan repayment service, not via the employee.

Debt consolidation

Debt consolidation benefits enable employees to roll their debts into one payment, directly from their salary; reducing interest amounts, and at low risk to the employer and employee!  

Extended holiday leave makes a welcome addition to any employee benefits scheme

Global employee benefits

Extended holiday and travel opportunities

The organisations which are thriving are the ones who go beyond the legal minimum requirement for holiday leave. Skyscanner has a whole host of travel and holiday benefits to complement its global workforce. Their Extended Annual Leave benefit sees loyal employees get additional time off work; an extra three weeks after three years, and an extra five weeks after five years! They also have a Skyscanner Explorer Experience. This initiative allows staff to work from another Skyscanner office across the globe, for up to 30 days every two years.

Travel stipend

Voted Glassdoor’s Best Place to Work in 2016, Airbnb really do have their employee value proposition nailed. Their most famous benefit is the $2000 stipend each employee receives to stay in an Airbnb listing anywhere in the world.

Leisure benefits

Book allowances

Many of you will have heard of wine club, or even beer club benefits which give employees a bottle of the good stuff each month. But what about other, more unusual, nice-to-haves? Twilio, the makers of the cloud communications platform have really seized the opportunity to enhance their L&D strategy in this great and innovative benefit: book allowances. Employees receive a Kindle from their employer, plus $30/month to spend on books! Hey, if Bill Gates reads 50 books a year – it’s clearly a habit that worth getting into. And if you remove barriers to reading by increasing book access on your employee benefits portal, then what a gift to give your people!

Acupuncture and massage make great employee benefits

Perks

Massage and acupuncture

One of the more unusual and unknown benefits on our list; massage therapy is actually often included as part of a normal healthcare cash plan, but you can take it one step further by bringing it in-house. One of the chemicals in the body widely responsible for stress – cortisol – has been shown to be reduced by up to 53% following a massage. With an increasing amount of sick leave being taken due to stress, this perk offers a much-needed solution. Nestlé Purina Pet Care have an on-site massage therapist among many other wellbeing offerings. Twitter is well-known for looking after its people, including having an on-site acupuncturist – perfect for those who spend a lot of time at a desk.

Parking benefits

There’s no denying it; all of your employees will have some sort of commute to work unless they work from home. You won’t necessarily get a lot of luck getting discounts out of train lines, bus or ferry companies, but one thing you can probably negotiate is parking. Driving in every day can be an expensive business. In fact, a study has shown that the latest cost of driving is £5,785 per year, on average. Plusnet arranged for discounted parking near their premises for all employees who travel by car. The result? More engaged employees with one less expense in their life, and improved recruitment once candidates realised there wasn’t a big parking bill to pay every month to get to work!

Free food in the office

Who doesn’t love that office-wide email, “there’s food in the kitchen…”? Well, how about making it a regular thing? Although small perks like this won’t solve all of your engagement problems, they are the kinds of things people talk about when discussing their job outside of work, including on Glassdoor. JustEat take it one step further; they provide free food and drink every Friday, plus a resident DJ!

Okay, so free food in the office may not be ground breaking territory, but a small investment in something that’s guaranteed to please can be the difference between recruiting a good candidate and recruiting a great one.

Hygiene factors

Those were some of the more unusual benefits; but don’t forget the must-haves which you need to provide in order to deliver an exceptional employee experience:

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Pension

You know it, we know it, your employees know it – we all need to save for our future. And 41.1 million of us are doing just that. With the future of state pensions still unknown and still precarious, saving for caring costs or paying into a retirement plan is more important than ever. Auto enrolment has helped people put some money aside, but ultimately, employees need to be proactively saving, for their own futures – their family’s, or for any caring responsibilities. This is where great communications come in; no matter how valuable or important the benefit, there is no point in it being there if it’s not effectively communicated.

Healthcare benefits

We’ve mentioned the advantages of fitness benefits, and perks like free massages, but ultimately, what’ll matter most to employees is that their fundamental health – and that of their families – is being looked after.

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Health screening benefit

Nothing distracts us at work quite like mental, physical or financial concerns. A personal health check identifies early warning signs for potential health issues, which can give employees peace of mind and help them regain focus at work.

Healthcare cash plans

Outside of the NHS, UK healthcare spending is steadily rising. Routine healthcare treatments can add up, and often result in employees worrying about their financial wellbeing, or just not seeing doctors and dentists when they really need to. Getting money back on everyday treatments can help your people to reduce financial stress and improve engagement and motivation.

Dental insurance benefits

Did you know that the dental health of a UK resident is better, on average, than in the US? Check-ups for adults can be expensive, though, and for anything remotely cosmetic, the dentists’ bills are enormous! Whether our dental treatments are critical, cosmetic, or routine – teeth and gums can be a pricey business. Spreading that cost over monthly payments can really help employees to budget and plan.

Digital healthcare

One of the main things that puts employees off going to the doctor is the long wait-times for an appointment, and having to plan this around work. Digital healthcare gives employees access to phone and video GP consultations, plus prescription deliveries too.

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Insurance benefits

Private medical insurance

The key advantages of health insurance are shorter waiting times, quicker diagnosis and better facilities. With NHS waiting times exceeding 18 weeks in some cases for planned treatments, employees suffering with acute conditions – or who have a family member who is suffering – need support and understanding from their employer more than ever. There’s no worry quite like the worry of going through a medical procedure, and employers can help alleviate this stress by offering either a voluntary or employer-funded PMI benefit.

Life insurance

Pension is the only benefit which surpasses life insurance in popularity. Many people are worried about sourcing life insurance outside of their company’s offering, as it can be difficult to know who to trust. Offering a life insurance benefit through work gives employees peace of mind that their beneficiaries will be taken care of should the worst happen.

Critical illness insurance

Sometimes, we’re at our best when we’re prepared for the worst. Being diagnosed with a critical illness can completely destabilise our working life, our finances, and our personal relationships. In alleviating the stress of ‘what happens if I have to give up work for a while?’ employees will find comfort. The ABI found that, in 2016, £4.7 billion was paid to British households in critical illness claims – 92.2% of new claims were successful.

Income protection

In case of long-term illness or injury, your people can safeguard their earnings if they need to take extended time off work. This employee benefit normally has a very high take-up rate, and can be a real life-saver in a time of the most intense stress.

Travel insurance

It’s almost a guarantee that the one time you go on holiday without travel insurance is the one time you need it. In 2016, nearly half a million claims were made on travel insurance, with an average claim of over £1,200. Without insurance, this kind of cost would be a massive hit to most. Employees can get fantastic cover at low costs for themselves and their families so that holidays can be what they should be – relaxing!

Personal accident insurance

In the event of any sort of accident – involving themselves or a dependant – your people can make sure they still have an income in case of permanent injury, or extended time off work.

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Gadget insurance

We’ve all cracked a phone screen, or had a tablet stolen, or lost something expensive, right? Now that 54% of all UK households own a tablet, and we spend, on average, two hours per day online on our smartphones, insuring these items is becoming more and more important. Gadget insurance gives employees protection against accidental damage, breakdown, theft and loss, so they don’t have to worry when life happens to their expensive devices.

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Home and lifestyle benefits

Technology purchase benefit

We all deserve to treat ourselves – whatever salary we’re on. Technology benefits allow employees to purchase the latest gadgets like phones, laptops, tablets and TVs, and spread the cost over the year. It’s enabling tech access to more and more people, as – according to Employee Benefits – 89% of those who take up tech benefits would not have bought the product without this particular access.

Travel accounts

Holidays should be relaxing and restorative, but sometimes, they’re so costly that they can be anything but! It’s now estimated that the average cost of a two-week holiday for a family of four is £4800, before spending money. Travel Accounts let employees book when they can take advantage of early booking discounts, or seasonal sales, and pay for it in monthly instalments, supporting their emotional, physical and financial wellbeing.

Restaurant discounts

We mentioned free food in the office, right? Well, how about discounted food out of the office? Over 10,000 restaurants in the UK alone have joined up to a discount card scheme, so employees can have a night out for a little less.

Car salary sacrifice

Speaking from experience, having an unreliable, old, environmentally un-friendly car can be worrying – particularly when it’s all you can afford. But having a cost-effective way to drive a brand-new energy efficient car, fully maintained and insured, can offer real peace of mind. Plus, with people becoming more and more socially conscious around issues like the environment, car salary sacrifice schemes are – arguably – more attractive as you still get ultra-low-emissions vehicles through salary sacrifice.

Gym membership

Through discounted gym membership rates, employees can get fit and healthy, save some pennies, and be more productive, motivated and energised at work! There are nearly 10 million fitness members now in the UK – so if you consider that nearly one in seven of your employees could take you up on a gym membership benefit, that’s a huge chunk of your staff who would be fully engaged with you and your scheme!

What’s best for you? Anytime, Flex, TRS, or a combination?

Anytime, flex, TRS

Activity pass

“Mum…I’m bored!” Sound familiar? An activity pass helps employees to treat themselves and their families to days out, cinema tickets, restaurants and more.

Wine Club

The older sibling of beer club and book allowance – wine club benefits mean employees can enjoy wines from all around the world, experiencing different tastes and cultures for a small fee every month. And with the happy news/opinion that moderate consumption of red wine might actually be good for you, you could argue this is a health and wellbeing benefit too. Probably not though.

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Experience Days

Like activity passes, but more extreme and grown up! From sky diving to spa days, Ferrari driving to theatre tickets, there’s something for every employee to have that experience of a lifetime and create memories with their friends and families.

Charitable giving

According to the Charities Aid Foundation, 60% of us donate to charity in some way. While that’s fallen by 1% since 2016, the amount we’re donating is rising. A lot of people want to give to charity but don’t necessarily have a direct and meaningful pathway to it. So, for your employees who want to give back, GAYE (give as you earn) is a straightforward, simple way to give to charity every month. A small amount is taken direct from employees’ salaries every month, and they can pick their favourite charity to donate to.

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Cycle to Work

Halfords say that buying a new bike through a cycle-to-work scheme can save employees up to 42%. Employers can encourage greener commutes to work, healthier lifestyles, and better overall wellbeing by offering such a popular benefit. Employees can get a new bike to use for commuting, and spread this cost over 12 months.

Retail vouchers

Who doesn’t love a bargain? Employees can save money in high-street stores with discounted retail voucher cards. Some fantastic savings are to be made, which can help make things like Christmas and birthdays much less costly and much more enjoyable!

Childcare vouchers

Although the scheme has now closed for new applicants, parents who are enrolled can save on childcare costs by selecting vouchers of up to £243 per month to use at nursery or daycare. There’s also a government alternative – Tax-Free Childcare – which gives parents 15-30 hours’ free childcare per week (for three- and four-year-olds), plus help with annual childcare costs for all kids under 11.

Beauty and fitness discounts

Employees can take advantage of guaranteed discounts on thousands of treatments and fitness sessions nationwide, including hair dressers, beauty salons, spas, boot camps and personal trainers.

Conclusion

As we can see, there’s a whole host of perks out there to excite, engage, and inspire your employees. People who are having a great time at work, who feel appreciated, and who have access to do and buy the things they want are more likely to be productive, motivated, and engaged in their work. They feel like they belong, and that – on its own – is an exceptional employee experience.

What are you hoping to achieve from your employee benefits scheme? Take a look at our 10 things to consider when creating a robust business case for employee benefits.

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