Hidden Perks: The Other Employee Benefits to Watch For

A partially open chest has a golden light inside

Health insurance? Check! Dental? Check! 401(k)? Got it! You’re up-to-speed on the main employee benefits covered by your employer (or potential employer), but what about lesser-known perks?

Employee job satisfaction adds up to more than money, and employers are realizing the value of offering more competitive and creative benefits. Forty-five percent of human resources managers polled in an Accountemps survey said they plan to offer employees subsidized training this year, 35 percent propose flexible working hours or remote working options, and about one-third will put mentoring programs on the office table.

Here are six less-than-traditional employee benefits you may encounter in the job market:

1. Subsidized training

Companies that pay for training, such as industry conferences or seminars, prepare workers — and the firm — for the long run. Subsidized training can offer you, as an employee, valuable opportunities to build and sharpen your skills. What's more, it can position you for promotions and growth within the organization. Employers also do well in the deal: They get a better-qualified and often more-fulfilled workforce.

As a bonus, many training programs offer flexible timelines that won't disrupt your daily schedule or require after-work hours.

2. Employee assistance program (EAP)

More companies are expanding their employee benefits offerings to include EAPs, which are designed to boost employee well-being, mental health and productivity. Participation in EAPs is voluntary and free of charge.

EAPs make qualified counselors available to employees facing work or personal problems, such as alcohol or substance abuse, marital discord, or depression. These counselors may also advise managers on organizational and individual needs. Their services are confidential.

3. Leaves of absence

These variable time-out periods are usually employee-requested and cover personal circumstances such as bereavement or accidents. Leaves are a compassionate way to hold a door open for employees. Employment effectively "continues," and the choice to pay or not pay an employee — or maintain core benefits such as health and dental coverage — are made in accordance with company policy.

4. Family-focused employee benefits

Your company may offer ways to help employees adjust to family events and achieve a better work-life balance. Beyond offering flexible schedules for employees with young children, some companies provide on-site child care (day care).

And as people live longer, many employees must care for their aging parents or other relatives. As a result, some businesses are providing elder care benefits to help employees meet these obligations. Support ranges from partial reimbursement for elder care specialists, to emergency in-home care, to allowing employees to enroll adult family members in their healthcare plans.

5. Dependent Care Reimbursement Account (DCRA)

A DCRA helps employees with dependent family members make ends meet by giving them tax breaks that increase their take-home pay. These voluntary plans deduct out-of-pocket dependent care expenses from an employee's paycheck before federal, state and FICA taxes are applied and place them in a separate account.

States have varying rules about the kind of expenses that are reimbursable with a dependent care account. DCRA reimbursements can be claimed for children under 13, spouses or other financially dependent members of an employee's household.

6. Discounts, conveniences and seasonal perks

Discounts such as lunch and gym subsidies or discounts to local retailers and events can help employees curtail daily outlay while potentially improving health consciousness and strengthening bonds with colleagues.

Seasonal benefits are welcome ways to boost work-life balance. Three-quarters of HR managers surveyed by Robert Half offer flexible schedules during the summer. What's more, 41 percent of employees rate this as their top seasonal benefit, while 28 percent value leaving work early on Fridays.

Making sure you’re maximizing your employee benefits

If you're curious to know more about these and other employee benefits, why not ask your boss, HR manager or seasoned colleagues about the lesser-known perks your organization may offer? Better yet, put forward some suggestions of your own if your HR department is open to ideas. You might be rewarded with a better work life, home life — or both — for you and your fellow employees.