11 Creative global benefits ideas
Global Benefits Director
As the saying goes, if we had a £1, €1 or $1 for every occasion we had been asked if a benefit offered in one territory was ‘standard’ across other regions, we would be very happy. As you would expect, we have seen a number of benefits that at first glance may seem overly generous or unusual, but are actually common in that particular region.
When you embark on the roll out of a global benefits platform, the first stage is to audit what you already have in place in all your locations. This is a great opportunity to benchmark your benefits against local expectation, so you know that you are competitive and keeping up with market changes. In addition, this gives you the confidence to either manage local employees’ expectations or to address gaps with a business case to expand local benefits.
We’ve looked at the importance of balancing a global benefits strategy with local requirements. But we’re also often asked to share the innovative ideas and initiatives we’re seeing around the world which are helping employers become a leading place to work.
With this in mind, we wanted to share with you some of the interesting benefits that we have seen and implemented on OneHub:
1. Rice allowance
Unsurprisingly, this is a common benefit in Asia. This allowance - often set by central government – offers assistance to employees should the price of rice (a staple to local diets) increase significantly.
2. Away days/theme park tickets
Discounts on away days or weekends, including discounted entry tickets for theme parks, are common in many locations - especially Japan, where they are seen as part of a wellbeing initiative. Yes, that does also include Disney in Tokyo!
3. Spa allowance
Who doesn’t like a spa break? Whilst we have seen a growing number of our global customers include this within wellbeing allowances, it is a benefit that many countries such as those in the Nordics see as an expectation. With traditional gym memberships slowly being replaced with a more flexible approach to wellbeing, spa allowances look set to become a more widespread employee benefit.
4. Holiday allowances
In some countries including Belgium and the Netherlands, a 13-month salary termed holiday allowance is very common. Historically, this has been paid to employees to encourage them to take holiday, but now we are seeing more employers look to this as a fund for employees to spend on flexible or wellbeing benefits.
5. Spending accounts
In some ways linked to the above, spending accounts allow employees to set aside money from their monthly pay, sometimes matched by employers to save for high cost items. These parameters are often set by the company and vary from health-related spending to childcare fees, school fees and even holidays.
6. Parking, commuter, transport
Although grouped together, these benefits mainly focus on travel to and from the office. Whilst season ticket loans are common, there are many countries - especially where benefits are negotiated by unions or work councils - where public transport costs may need to be fully or partly reimbursed. In the USA, parking allowances for those in cities are common.
7. Eco vouchers
Still a relatively new benefit, we expect that this will grow in popularity. Employees receive eco vouchers that can be used to buy goods and services that are environmentally friendly. This includes bicycle purchases, public transport tickets, water saving devices and gardening goods. We are already seeing car leasing embracing electric cars as the world moves to a more sustainable future.
8. Cash in an envelope!
At first glance this may sound a little suspicious, however the practise of giving cash in envelopes (normally red, to signify luck) for birthdays and significant regional festivals has been traditional in Chinese society for many years. Shopping vouchers are becoming a more popular replacement.
The mid-autumn Festival, also known as Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival, is a traditional festival celebrated in a number of Asian counties, including China. At this time, companies provide moon cakes to employees. In addition, across many global regions, employees receive a birthday cake or a voucher to buy one!
10. Fuel delivered
Although not a company paid benefit, this benefit in the USA allows employees to fill their car with petrol (or should we say gas) at their home or place of work.
11. Lunch allowances
Discounted canteens are common worldwide, as are lunch allowances where subsidised facilities are not available. Like with transport allowances, this is often a negotiated work counsel or mandatory state benefit and we would advise that you check that this is the case.
Overall, the best first step to take in fulfilling local benefits requirements is to benchmark your offering of core benefits and these more unusual options against local expectations. No matter how strange they may seem to you, these are the offerings which could really make or break your employees’ experiences across the world, so it’s essential to make sure you’re including even the smallest perks if that’s what’s important to your people.
Building your business case for global benefits tech
Now you’ve got the ideas, take a look at how you can make these benefits easily accessible, with our guide...
Paul joined Benefex from Mercer in 2019 with a wealth of international benefits experience, having worked with a large number of high-profile, multinational clients to review their approach to global talent and reward. He leads Benefex’s global benefits delivery team and he’s doing an excellent job of it, if we may say so ourselves. He is skilled in international risk assessment and management, legislative compliance, trend research, cross-border claims, and customer relationship management. AND, he can speak fluent French, mais oui!