If you’re exploring new job opportunities, you should look beyond the salary to find employee benefits that can make you happier and wealthier. Pay is important, but it’s the perks that make your workplace more enjoyable.
Sometimes, a company offers you a higher salary than its competitors, but it comes at the cost of worse benefits. The bigger paycheck may not give you the best value once you factor in the higher healthcare costs or a lower 401(k) match.
The last time I was job hunting, I was lucky enough to secure three offers. The salaries were within $5,000 of each other, but they each offered different perks. I chose the organization with the best employee benefits package, and it ended up being the right move.
The Top 10 Employee Benefits to Look for in a New Company
Sometimes you can negotiate certain benefits, but others are governed by a plan document and can’t be changed for an individual employee. Here are the benefits to look at when comparing job offers.
If your potential position offers a retirement account, you may think you’ve hit the jackpot. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
These plans, such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s, offer benefits that vary from firm to firm. Some come with high fees that result in diminished returns while others offer low-fee programs with great investment options.
In my first position, I got a 3% contribution to my retirement plan regardless of whether I put money in. But a different job required me to set aside 6% of my salary to get a 4% match. Before you accept an offer, understand how any matching funds can be earned.
You should also understand the vesting process. Some companies require that you work there for a certain length of time before you’re 100% vested, while others have immediate vesting.
Related: 401(k) vs. IRA: Pros, Cons, and Key Differences
2. Paid time off
The names for this benefit vary. It may be called paid time off (PTO), vacation, sick time, or paid leave.
Whenever I switched workplaces, I always tried to negotiate more vacation time. I was often able to secure an additional week of PTO beyond what each employer offered, even though it went against the established policy. Firms may not be willing to budge from their official paid leave benefits, though.
3. Raises, bonuses, or overtime
Knowing your total compensation is vital. You have to understand how much you’ll be paid beyond your salary or hourly rate.
Ask if you’ll be eligible for overtime. For non-exempt workers, overtime pay is governed by law. Despite the fact I was an exempt employee, which is a term for employees not required to be paid overtime, my first position offered straight-time overtime for their salaried workers.
Bonuses and raises can play a big factor in your total take-home pay. Research pay potential on anonymous sites like Glassdoor. You should also ask the hiring manager about their usual bonus and pay increase practices.
An organization that offers a high initial salary but only gives raises for major promotions may not be the best choice. Another company that gives sizable annual raises to most employees may result in higher pay down the road.
Related: How to Ask for a Raise: The Advice No One Ever Gave You
Employers may offer health, vision, dental, life, short-term disability, and long-term disability insurance. Other types of insurance, such as pet insurance, may be offered in rare cases.
When comparing insurance options, ask for the insurance plan documents. This gives you an idea of what the insurance pays for. Premiums, deductibles, providers, and coverage options can vary between plans.
Find out if the business subsidizes the cost of the policy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average civilian employer pays 67% of a family health insurance plan’s cost. This can provide massive savings.
While insurance isn’t negotiable, it’s necessary to understand what you’re being offered.
5. Work from home opportunity
The opportunity to work from home is a benefit more workplaces are offering. You may want the option to avoid the office to save on commuting time and costs. Some people perform better away from the distractions of the workplace.
Even human resources professionals see the benefits of remote work.
“If I were to convince an employer to allow me to work from home, and I did, I would definitely talk about the potential for increased productivity,” said Sandy Smith, Senior Certified Professional in HR and founder of the Elevate Community.
Related: Is Working From Home Bad for Your Mental Health?
6. Paid training
Paid training can be a big money saver if you hold a professional license that requires continuing education. It may be offered to help you learn skills or to maintain certifications relevant to your career.
As a Certified Public Accountant, I must complete 40 hours of continuing professional education each year to maintain my license. My public accounting firm jobs paid for my training, but I had to negotiate having my education costs covered when I moved to corporate accounting.
7. Tuition reimbursement
Tuition reimbursement can benefit employees and the companies providing you the option to pursue a bachelor’s or a graduate degree. Even so, tuition reimbursement doesn’t mean you can study anything.
“If you’re going to be pursuing another degree or program, understand what potential employers cover in their reimbursement programs,” said Jen Bohler, PHR, SHRM-CP and YouTuber at The Budget Bounce. “If yours isn’t currently included, try to negotiate it into your offer, and get it in writing.”
Be sure you understand any repayment or employment restrictions associated with the benefit. You may have to repay certain costs if you leave before your agreement specifies.
Related: Should You Get a Graduate Degree?
8. Student loan assistance
As the student loan crisis continues to grow, more employers are assisting with the repayment of student loan debt. You may have to meet certain eligibility requirements to qualify for a workplace’s program, though.
Programs may offer monthly, yearly, or matching payments. Lifetime maximums on the total amount repaid or program time limits are standard.
Related: How to Refinance Your Student Loans in 5 Simple Steps
9. Family planning benefits
Paid parental leave has become a hot topic in the United States. FMLA requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave in certain circumstances, but paid time off isn’t required.
“It’s nice to be able to expand your family without worrying about money,” Smith said. “More companies are providing up to 12 weeks of paid leave for men, women, and adoptive parents.”
Some progressive companies are even offering assistance with the costs of fertility treatment or adoptions.
10. Employee stock purchase plan
Some businesses provide workers an opportunity to own shares of the firm’s stock through an employee stock purchase plan (ESPP). These can be a great way to invest at a discount if you believe in your organization’s future.
The programs have strict guidelines, but it’s one way to get extra compensation through the discounted stock price. There are tax consequences for investing.
I never participated in an ESPP. The industry I worked in wasn’t one I was fond of investing in. Plus, I didn’t want to worry about my investment and my career if the firm faced difficult financial times.
Unique Employee Benefits That Set Companies Apart
Old-fashioned employee benefits provide significant services, but innovative workplaces are moving toward offering newer perks to help make their employees’ lives better. The most important benefits to employees aren’t always traditional ones.
11. Tech benefits
If you must be responsive around the clock, you may be provided with the technology to do so. If not, the organization could give you a stipend to buy equipment.
It may be tempting to use the equipment for personal use to save money.
“If the company does give you a device such as a cell phone, laptop, or tablet, you’re likely subject to usage monitoring,” said Laura Gariepy, a human resources expert turned freelancing coach at Every Day by the Lake, LLC. “Use that equipment strictly for company business.”
12. Pet-friendly policies
If you have fur babies instead of children, pets are a huge part of your world. Employers are beginning to recognize this and may offer pet insurance or the ability to bring your pet to work.
13. Personal health benefits
Progressive firms have started offering health-related benefits other than insurance. My first workplace had a small gym in the building any employee could use.
Others may offer free or discounted services in the office on a regular schedule, such as bringing in a massage therapist once per month.
Related: 11 Good Work Habits for Becoming a Stand-Out Employee
14. Time off for volunteering
Organizations often like to give back to their communities. One way they can do this is by offering employees time off to volunteer locally. Your options may be limited to certain causes your employer supports, though.
If this perk is important to you, Bohler suggested asking if there is a designated volunteer program, if it includes company-sanctioned volunteering events, or how many hours you may get paid to volunteer per year.
15. Free meals
“When your employer provides free coffee, snacks, and meals, it can save you a pretty penny and the hassle of having to procure them on your own,” Gariepy said.
When certain workplaces offer this perk, it’s a genuine way to say thank you to employees. Other companies may use this to get you to put in more hours in the evenings. Consider the motivations behind the perk before assuming it is a benefit.
Related: How to Negotiate Your Starting Salary
Read the Specifics of Your Company’s Policies
Before you sign your offer letter, get the specifics of any employee benefit policies that are your top priorities. Ask any questions you have before you commit.
When reading the policies, look out for commitments or hidden downsides. You may be required to stay employed by the organization for three years after receiving tuition reimbursement.
If a critical employee benefit isn’t available or isn’t as strong as you’d like, try to negotiate with the employer. You may be able to secure an extra week of PTO or a 2% higher salary if a competing offer provides more robust benefits.
Remember, a job is more than the salary. The best employee perks can result in a much different compensation package when viewed as a whole with your pay.