Salary matters, as do employee benefits. A popular trend in current business magazines is to claim that when treated well, employees don’t worry as much about their wages. There is some truth to this claim, but tread carefully. Employees work so they can pay their bills and feed their families. As nice as an atta boy may feel — and as necessary as it may be — it doesn’t pay the electric bill.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to scour your HR budget so you can up your pay rates. Instead, consider offering some job perks that won’t raise employment taxes for you or your employees. Some may even cost you far less than increasing employees’ base salaries, which can be prohibitively expensive in some markets.

What are Fringe Benefits

Fringe benefits got their start in 1875 at the American Express Railroad Company and have been going strong ever since. So how do benefits work? The concept is quite simple but is a highly effective way to attract and retain employees. A benefit is simply something you offer your employees to keep them happy. If two employers post the same job at the same pay rate, the one with the better benefits will almost always get the most applicants. Making sure you’re the guy with the better perks means that you’re more likely to skim the top talent off the top of the pool.

A benefit can be something tangible like free meals or daycare services. Something intangible but highly valued can also serve as a benefit, such as flexible hours or generous maternity leave for both men and women. Benefits can really make your company’s compensation package stand out above the rest in the talent marketplace.

It’s of note, however, that your benefits strategy doesn’t have to go big or go home. Expensive benefits like health and dental insurance are all but expected these days, but not every benefit you provide needs to be this big or costly. A few smaller perks can often add up to big employee happiness.

Best Financial Employee Benefits

Lunch & Learns with Tax Professionals

Lunch and learns make an excellent employee benefit. During a lunch and learn, you hire a CPA, insurance agent, financial planners or other relevant professionals to come and speak to your employees as part of a lunch meeting. This gives your employees a chance to learn about difficult but relevant topics such as tax filing, life insurance coverage and retirement planning. It also offers your employees with a chance to ask relevant questions without having to pay for professional counsel themselves. Free professional advice is highly valued, for obvious reasons.

Employee Discounts on Tax Services (or Other Services)

employee benefits

Helping employees to retain the maximum amount of their hard earned salary will not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Retail establishments often give employees a discount on the items they purchase, but we’re inviting you to think bigger. One excellent benefit is to get together with a service like Picnic Tax and offer your employees a discount on tax services.

The possibilities here are almost endless and need not be limited to taxes. Perhaps you can offer your employees discounts at a certain daycare provider or with a specific car insurance company. Perhaps a local doctor would offer discounted wellness checks or prenatal care to your employees. Perhaps you could offer discounted amusement park tickets in the summer.

Working with outside providers provides a two-way street for you and any firms you partner with. You’ll have happy employees and they may see an increase in business as your employees get added to their customer base.

Fitness/Gym Memberships

Offering your employees a free or discounted gym membership lets them know you care about their health and well-being. It can also save you money on your health insurance premiums in some cases. This is an appreciated benefit, and it’s also a flexible one.

If you have the space, you can add a gym to your facility and give employees a super convenient way to work out. If not, a discounted membership to a local gym is the next best thing. You can also offer to reimburse employees for any home gym equipment they buy. Obviously, you don’t want to fully furnish an expensive state-of-the-art workout room in every employee’s home, so it’s perfectly acceptable to put an annual cap on how much you’re willing to reimburse.

Mental Health Perks

Good benefits can make happier and healthier employees mentally as well as physically. To help employees navigate life’s ups and downs, consider offering workers confidential access to mental healthcare services. Again, you need not get elaborate. Something as simple as providing subscriptions to apps like Calm and Talkspace can go a long way.

Mental health topics also make for a solid lunch and learn experience as mentioned earlier. Work/life balance and other related issues serve as excellent topics that are relevant, practical and beneficial.

Employee Meals/Cafeteria Plans

Lunches at work can be tough. Brown-bagging it gets old in a hurry and going out gets expensive just as quickly. If you have a cafeteria in your business, or if you’re a restaurant, providing employees with free lunches and dinners is a fantastic perk. If you’re not in a position to serve food, see if some nearby restaurants that employees frequent are willing to offer your people a discount.

Another option is to buy employees lunch from time to time. Perhaps once a month, for example, you could spring for pizzas or pick up a spread from a local restaurant and feed your team at no cost to them. Maybe you could have the managers make pot luck dishes once a month for their staff. Like gym memberships, free meals offer a lot of flexibility and options that let you give a job perk without breaking the bank.

Bonus Ideas

daycare assistance employee benefit

This list of possible benefits is, of course, by no means comprehensive. You may also wish to consider providing on-site daycare, tuition reimbursement, trade journal subscriptions, on-site health clinics, telecommuting options and more. Some of the less conventional choices businesses have recently made include free book programs, student loan assistance, pet-friendly environments and giving the employees the freedom to set their own hours.

Perhaps the only limit you’re up against is your own creativity. If it’s legal, your employees want it and you can make it happen, then there’s really nothing stopping you. If you want to add some more benefits to your current lineup but aren’t sure where to start, ask. Survey your employees and ask them for suggestions. Many will be more than happy to share what they would like. Vacillating between a few options? Give employees a multiple-choice survey and find out which bonus they would prefer.

When it comes to deciding which job perks to offer, Picnic Tax can help. We understand which perks have potential tax consequences and which ones don’t. As such, we can help you up your benefit game without increasing your payroll taxes or bumping your employees into a higher tax bracket. We’ll help you find win-win situations that make life a little better for both you and the talented staff you count on to help get the job done.