What are the most common employee benefits?

Find out what the 10 most common employee benefits are.

Over the last few years, the nature and requirements of employment have changed. This is partially due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which introduced remote work as a new standard and shifted the job market in employees’ favor, but these changes have been a long time coming. The result is that companies now need to be more employee-centric than ever. 

A business must offer more than just a good salary to attract and retain top talent. It’s crucial to know what benefits employees are legally entitled to, what benefits they are most enthusiastic about, and when they need to or expect to receive them. This guide breaks down the most common employee benefits and how to take advantage of them.

10 of the most common employee benefits

1. Health insurance

The most common and widely used employee benefit is, by far, health insurance. In the U.S., where per-person healthcare costs are higher than in any other wealthy nation, the health insurance offered through employers is a precious lifeline. Employers of a specific size are required to provide this crucial employee benefit in the U.S., and many other countries have laws making it mandatory for businesses of all sizes. 

But simply having a health insurance plan isn’t enough anymore. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees now place even more importance on this benefit and prioritize employers with better plans and comprehensive coverage.

2. Life insurance

While it isn’t legally mandated, most employers offer a life insurance plan and supplemental coverage. Generally, this covers the employee’s beneficiaries for the amount of the employee’s yearly salary, and optional supplementary plans offer one or two times the wages on top of that. Life insurance shows an employee that the company doesn’t just care about them—it also cares about and wants to protect their family. 

In addition to standard life insurance offerings, many employers will offer accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance to cover the employee’s family if the employee is injured and can’t continue to work.

3. Dental coverage

Under most insurance plans, dental care is not covered under general healthcare, despite dental health playing a significant role in an individual’s overall health. Regular dental care can be prohibitively expensive without insurance coverage, but it’s relatively simple maintenance and can help prevent significant health issues, like heart disease. Most dental plans cover two routine teeth cleanings per year, which is enough to keep an employee’s teeth healthy for years to come.

4. Vacation and holiday time

In the past couple of decades, the effectiveness and health impacts of the 40-plus-hour workweek have come into question around the globe, and study after study has demonstrated that more time off means healthier, happier, and more productive employees. Employees know this and tend to prioritize working with employers whose practices demonstrate that they know it, too. 

In addition to federally recognized holidays, many employers have added minor holidays and even monthly rest days to their holiday schedules. This is a quick and effective way to show employees that your company values their personal lives, and it keeps morale higher throughout the year. You can also do this by increasing the amount of vacation each year and allowing employees to use their vacation time all at once rather than using only what has already accrued. Whereas two weeks of accrued vacation per year used to be the standard in the United States, three- and even four-week vacation allotments are becoming more common. This is especially useful if you’re recruiting international talent who may be used to more vacation time. 

Your business could even save money by offering an unlimited vacation plan. Workers throughout the country accrue billions of dollars’ worth of unused vacation time each year, which must be paid out when an employee leaves the company—and this can cost employers a significant amount of money each year. Offering employees unlimited paid time off can incentivize them to use their vacation time, helping businesses build trust and save money at the same time.

5. Parental leave

In the United States, parental leave has long been overlooked and underappreciated, but this is not the case in other countries globally. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the U.S. guarantees maternity leave only for employees of businesses with 50 or more employees, and it only mandates 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Most new parents in the U.S., and anyone you’re hiring from a country with better provisions, will agree that this isn’t nearly thorough enough coverage. 

You can make your company stand out like a shining beacon by offering more generous leave packages. Paid leave for all parents is a good place to start, and if it’s feasible, you may even want to extend the leave beyond the minimum requirements. Parents who receive these benefits are more likely to return to work enthusiastically, have healthier families, and experience less financial stress.

6. Equity

For new and growing companies, paying high enough wages to attract top talent may be challenging. While a company should always work to provide the best wages possible, offering equity on top of salary can be a great compromise in the early years. Equity incentive plans usually include shares of the company offered through stock options or bonds. Once your business is established, these stock offerings increase an employee’s investment in their job and the company.

7. Health and well-being perks

If your employees spend all day sitting at a desk, it’s worth offering incentives to maintain their physical and mental health and well-being. Perks like gym membership reimbursements, fitness initiatives, and mental health programs can give employees access to numerous resources to take care of themselves. 

8. Flexible working hours

Employees like to know that their lives outside of work are just as valuable to the company as their working hours. One way to show this is by offering flexible hours to accommodate employees’ health needs, family responsibilities, personal schedules, and hobbies. Allowing people to come in late or leave early builds trust and reduces stress. You can also offer flexible hours in the form of non-standard start and end times. When individual employees are more productive varies by person. For example, if someone is a morning person and will be most productive before most of the team arrives, they should be allowed to adjust their start time accordingly.

You may also want to consider reducing the number of hours in the workweek without reducing the total pay employees receive. Four-day, 32-hour workweeks are being tested in different countries and companies, and many of them report success in the form of higher productivity and improved morale.

9. Learning and development budget

It’s easy for an employee working the same job in the same industry for years to feel like they are stagnating, and that feeling kills morale and increases the odds that an employee will leave. Many companies have begun offering yearly or quarterly learning and development budgets to encourage employees to branch out, improve their education, and diversify their skills. These budgets can be used to take courses, apply for certifications, and buy learning materials. You may even want to have a broad learning and development policy that enables employees to explore development beyond the bounds of their roles.

10. Remote and hybrid schedules

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies worldwide to develop infrastructure for remote work on the fly, many employees found their new working conditions satisfying, productive, and even healthy. Since then, many companies have started rolling back work-from-home policies only to face overwhelming employee pushback. Companies that don’t offer remote or hybrid schedules can no longer compete for top talent. Even having a hybrid policy that allows for two or three days out of the office each week can attract more potential recruits.

Common employee benefits for remote workers

The proliferation of remote work has changed the working world in many ways, and it continues to drive innovation in employment. Some of the perks offered to in-person employees may be useless or impractical for remote employees, and some of the challenges remote employees face may not be immediately evident from the office. Here are some extra benefits you can offer to attract remote talent.

Work-from-home stipend to set up a home office

Companies that allow remote work and those that have remained fully remote commonly offer remote employees a home office stipend. This sum of money may be given yearly, quarterly, or even just once, and it extends funds to the employee to help them acquire comfortable, ergonomic home office equipment that will aid their productivity and health. Chairs, keyboards, standing and sitting desks, printers, and lamps are commonly approved items. This incentive makes employees feel good about buying quality equipment to improve their working lives.

Company get-togethers

Companies have opted to maintain and build their culture in an era of remote work by offering regular company get-togethers. These gatherings can help employees from around the world feel like they’re part of something bigger, and they also help individuals develop bonds outside of their departments, and build community.

What about benefits for international employees?

Different benefits are popular in different countries—some might even be mandatory. For example, common employee benefits in Mexico may vary significantly from expected employee benefits in Australia. Keeping track of what employees in each country want and need can be challenging, but it’s well worth the diversity of talent you can draw in from across the globe. 

Contact Oyster if you’re looking to hire or have employees working abroad and would like to streamline compliance. Our Total Rewards program makes it easy to manage benefits in all different corners of the world.

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

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