Employee retention is essential for companies of all sizes. A 2012 study from the Center for American Progress noted that “Companies typically pay about one-fifth of an employee’s salary to replace that employee.” That’s why some employers are taking unique steps to retain their top talent, particularly when it comes to reimbursing expenses. Here are 13 items that some employers are allowing their employees to expense to the company.
Education is a major part of helping employees to feel more fulfilled. Several companies are helping out their employees with tuition reimbursement not only because they get smarter employees in exchange, but also because the company can take advantage of the tax breaks. The list of companies that provide this benefit is growing.
Wellness programs around the world have advocated for full or partial reimbursement for the Weight Watchers program or for the gym. That’s why it’s a smart idea to do some research to see if your company does provide this benefit or if there is an existing deal for better pricing before you sign up. The benefit of providing this expense reimbursement is for employers to get healthier and thus lead more productive lives, but also to ensure that employees feel supported in their health goals.
Many employers list this benefit as a partial reimbursement on top of offering accounts that allow employees to deduct childcare expenses from their paychecks pre-tax to use throughout the year and gives employees reimbursements for up to $2,500 per year (or $5,000 for married couples). These programs are called Dependent Care Assistance Programs (DCAPs).
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Google and Amazon are just two of several companies that have taken to paying for the expenses of top talent, even when it’s just recruiting. The company benefits because they might be getting the top programmer for their company and the prospective employee gets a nice trip out of the deal. Granted, this is only for the top employees in their field and it’s not yet commonplace, but it’s still a nice perk.
Beyond reimbursing for college tuition is reimbursement for professional development opportunities, whether through conferences or even tutoring from the top professionals in the field. Employees who continue to learn benefit the company through their newly acquired knowledge, but the company can also see these as a way to invest in the employee’s training so that they stay up to date and the company remains competitive.
Some companies (even nonprofits) will reimburse employees for expenses related to moving to those who move to do jobs in another country. From the cost of moving furniture to the cost of visas to even the cost of transporting a pet, companies see this as investment in hiring someone who will perform well if they have all the things they need. The catch is that usually these hires are made based on multi-year contracts. That means that an employee is required to stay in that new country for a minimum number of years or they have to pay the company back for those relocation expenses.
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This might sound like an odd expense to cover, but if the employee is moving overseas on a one- or two-year contract, they probably can’t take all their belongings with them, so they’ll need to take advantage of storage facilities in the meantime. The benefit is again like an investment in the employee for a job well done.
If an employee owns a house and is hired for that temporary overseas job, that house still needs to be taken care of, whether it’s for services like mowing the lawn or for acting as a manager to rent the property. This can be worked out as part of the relocation package and acts to provide the employee with peace of mind that their land is being taken care of.
Doing work in locations known for particular diseases means getting the appropriate vaccinations to prevent the spread of that disease. That’s why vaccinations can, depending on the line of work, become a reasonable expense. The benefit is not only taking care of the employee, but also providing some protection for those employees who are doing work in what can be unhealthy areas.
Particularly in metropolitan areas, companies might reimburse employees for their commute fees, whether that’s taking the bus or hopping on the nearest subway or metro station. The benefit to the employee is obvious in that it makes coming to work not cost anything in the long run; the benefit to the employer is that they ensure that their employees can get where they need to do, particularly when it’s doing work for the company. This is especially common when an employee needs to travel from one office to another in their normal course of duties.
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Depending on the parking situation, many employees will provide parking reimbursements for reasonable costs incurred in an employee’s daily job. For example, if the only place to park is in a paid garage and there are no public transportation options, that would count as a reasonable expense. Employers might invest in this also to make their employees’ lives a bit easier if they can get closer parking for a fee.
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This sounds a bit unusual, but it’s something that major airlines like Qatar and Emirates will do for their employees who come on from the United States. This may be full or partial rent, but since their goal is the get quality pilots and flight attendants, these airlines find value in adding on rent as an expense-able perk in order to attract the best people for the job. The catch is that those employees must move to the airline’s home base. For example, an American would need to move to Dubai in order to take advantage of reimbursed rent expenses.
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Some companies are hesitant to provide reimbursement for uniforms, but others are happy to provide this as a perk. There are airlines, for example, that allow their employees to expense their uniforms to the company. Other companies might take an alternate approach by purchasing hundreds or thousands of a particular uniform in certain sizes and allow their employees to rent them for free (which is something that the Walt Disney Company does for its theme park cast members).
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This is a unique benefit that you're probably not going to see often. However, reimbursement for weddings does happen. For instance, bulk retailer Boxed.com provides reimbursements up to $20,000 for wedding expenses. According to Boxed.com CEO Chieh Huang, "We don't do free meals, we don't do $10,000 happy hours, we're lean all around...We don't have extravagant salaries, but we focus on a few fringe benefits." The CEO says that this works because the benefit is so "targeted." Since this isn't a recurring or yearly expense and since not every employee will need it, this is a benefit that doesn't end up costing a lot to the employer while it makes a big difference to the employee.
Overall, one thing to note about reimbursements is that some companies will offer different reimbursements based on location. Starbucks, for example, provides tuition reimbursement in the United States after studies showed that college expenses were the greatest hardship on their employees. However, Starbucks offered housing reimbursement to employees in China because that was the greater financial hardship for those employees. This seems like a smart consideration for employers to make in order to not only do a good thing for their employees, but to also stir up a sense of loyalty.
These thirteen expense-able items probably won’t all be reimbursed by any one company, but some might provide several of these benefits in order to retain or obtain excellent employees. The goal is also to invoke a sense of loyalty in those employees so that they will stay because of what the company has provided to them.
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