10 employee benefits and perks better than a pay rise

employee engagement

by James Edwards, client success director 

Before I started working at Reward Gateway, I would have struggled to think of even five employee benefits better than a pay rise. I mean, honestly, who doesn’t love a bigger salary? But then I looked  at what ‘pay rise’ actually meant today in Australia, and it became a lot easier as we’re not talking huge figures.

The reality is that last year the average pay increase was at a 12-year low of 3.4%, With the average salary in Australia being A$74K we’re looking at pay rises of A$2,516. In the UK, this equates to about £1,500, and in the US, just under A$2,000.

But as you know, even though it may be a small amount to an employee (and yet, still welcomed), a company wide pay rise can be a large cost to the business.

So with this in mind, let’s take a look at what employee benefits are available that can add more value than a pay rise.

Some of the below employee perks we’ve introduced at Reward Gateway and others I’ve seen at the more than 1,300 clients we work with globally. As the client success director in our Australia office, I’ve spoken with loads of companies to see what they want most in their benefits. And what I’ve learned? Everyone views different things as benefits.

So, in no particular order.

1. Flexible working
Flexible working gives employees the benefit of working at a time and place that best suits their lifestyle needs. This may be earlier or later starts for some people or working from home for others. The flexibility to workat a time that fits in with other commitments such as childcare, fitness classes, study or family events can mean so much more than a simple pay rise.

2. Food at work
This seems like a simple one but for me, having food available at works gives me one less thing to think about in the morning. I know that when I need it the kitchen is stocked and I can grab breakfast or even lunch.

3. Increased parental leave
Time with family is always important but time with family when you have a newborn is crucial. Whether it’s primary or secondary carer leave, it’s so important that an employee feels they can spend much needed time at home without eating into annual leave or feeling pressure to get back to work. I’m a testament to this: I recently had four weeks paternity leave and I loved every second I spent with my family.

4. Leave purchasing option (sometimes called holiday trading)
Leave purchasing gives employees the chance to decide for themselves what is important when it comes to salary and leave. I see it every year at Reward Gateway when employees are making their decision on holiday purchasing, what we call “Choose Your Package.” Some employees sell their leave so they get more salary whereas others will buy as much leave as they can so they can have more holiday. Either way, having this control of your overall package means so much to the team.

5. Employee discounts (to make your money go further)
As an employee benefits professional, this is a no brainer for me. Introducing an employee discount solution like SmartSpending™ really gives employees the ability to have uncapped savings on their everyday spend. Life is getting expensive so any saving an employee can make is important and with a well managed discounts benefit employees can save on everything from everyday groceries through to big ticket items such as holidays and electronics. The cost to an employer is very small when compared to the saving an employee makes.

6. Wellbeing bonus
We introduced a wellbeing bonus this year and it’s been a huge hit. Every employee has an allocated amount of money that they can spend on their own wellbeing. This benefit has been hugely successful as it not only helps towards your employees wellbeing but it also lets the employees focus on themselves. When looking at expenditure it’s all too easy to ignore your own wellbeing needs when compared to other costs, so often people don’t purchase a product or take part in an activity that contributes towards their own fitness or mental health. By allocating a set amount that is specifically for these things, employees are able to look after their wellbeing without feeling guilty. We’ve seen people spend it on retreats, bikes, health insurance and even surfboards! (For our UK clients, we’ve got a wellbeing product called SmartFit that’s worth checking out.)

7. Wedding/child bonus
Having a child or getting married is expensive and with expense comes additional pressure, which nobody needs. One-off bonuses or “presents” for employees getting married or having a child can be hugely valuable as they provide a cash benefit at a time that it is most needed. These bonuses mean employees may now be able to hire a photographer, get the dress they dreamed of, buy a new cot or buggy or something else that they otherwise may have done without. As somebody who has made use of both of these bonuses I really can tell you they make a huge difference.

8. Travel subsidies
Travelling to and from work can be expensive, and it’s an expense that nobody likes. Travel subsidies allow employees to buy annual travel passes upfront and pay it off over the annual salary can save employees hundreds each year. Not only does it help save money but it also means your travel is organised for the year and you don’t have to keep worrying about updating tickets etc.

9. Subsidised or full medical insurance
I’ve worked with companies who provide full or subsidised medical insurance for employees. This is hugely popular and valuable as not only does it take the expense burden away from employees but it also gives them the piece of mind that should unexpected medical requirements come up, they are covered and can concentrate on getting well again. (Of course, this particular benefit varies by country.)

10. Casual dress code
This may seem like a strange one, but introducing casual dress codes can have a really positive and valuable impact for employees. Not only can it introduce a more relaxed and less stressful work environment but it can also take away the financial burden of purchasing business outfits such as suits and shirts, which can be expensive. It’s not possible to dress casually everyday, but for those days when employees aren’t meeting clients or customers, then allowing them to dress casually can be really positive.