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Employee Perks: Are You Taking Advantage of Them?

employee perks

With an unemployment rate below 4 percent, U.S. employers are boosting their efforts to keep their current employees on the job, and that includes offering more employee perks and benefits.

From company gyms to college scholarships, businesses are doing what they can to retain and recruit strong employees. Indeed, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, of the 34 percent of employers that increased benefits in the last year, 72 percent said retention and 58 percent said recruiting were why they did it.

Health insurance and retirement plans are often thought of as the primary perks for full-time employees, but there are many other benefits that employers offer that you might not be taking full advantage of.

Here are five common employee perks and why you should be taking advantage of them.

Employee Perks You May Be Missing

Professional development

More and more companies are encouraging employees to brush up on and expand their skills and knowledge by subsidizing tuition for everything from online certification courses to college degrees. UPS, Publix, Starbucks and McDonalds are among the major companies that offer this benefit. Yet, according to a Wall Street Journal article, only 10 percent of workers take advantage of this employee perk.

Here’s the thing: The benefits of boosting your work skills could have a dramatic impact on your own financial health, making you qualified for more challenging and, most importantly, higher paying jobs. If your employer wants to pay for it, why not take them up on the offer?

Discounts

Employees in some business, such as retail stores, enjoy big discounts off of the items they sell.  But employers also work out deals with other businesses to make the cost of travel, sporting tickets, theater tickets and other items less expensive for their employees. Common employee perks include deals with rental car companies and hotel booking sites. You might save 10 percent or more off your final bill. Before you plan your next vacation, find out what your company offers and take advantage of it.

Paid time off

Employers pay their workers to take days off, but more than half of Americans still leave vacation time unused each year, according to Project: Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2018. The report says that Americans are leaving $62.2 billion in lost benefits on the table when they don’t take off all their vacation time. In fact, employees each essentially donated $561 in work time to their employer in 2017 because they didn’t use all of their vacation days.

Many Americans don’t take vacation time because they can’t afford to travel. If that’s what’s holding you back, consider a staycation instead. Or, use that time away from regular workdays to start an online course (bonus points if your employer pays your tuition) or launch a side gig.

Remote work option

Thanks to technology, online platforms and other advances, more employers allow and even encourage their workforce to work from home.

Employers like it because it saves money on office space, allows them to pull new employees from a broader pool that’s not based on location and could even lead to productivity gains. One study published in the Harvard Business Review found that remote workers are more productive and happier than their at-work colleagues.

For employees, working from home could be a money-saving opportunity. FlexJobs estimates that by saving money on your commute, dry cleaning, lunches and coffee out with co-workers and even tax breaks on your home office, you could trim $4,600 a year from your budget.

Wellness program

Employers offer wellness programs as an employee perk for one big reason: to reduce health care costs. A healthier workforce, after all, should be less likely to suffer from costly chronic diseases and other illnesses.

But employees also could enjoy better health and lower health care bills when they get involved in the programs that their employer offers. It might be access to an onsite gym or reduced cost membership to a neighborhood gym, smoking cessation programs, vaccination clinics or weekly walks or exercise programs.

Not every employer offers these employee perks, but many do. If you’re not sure what’s available to you, it’s time to head down to human resources to find out what’s offered and how you can benefit from them all.

Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today

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