Fringe Benefits

'Fringe Benefits' to consider in your Job Search and when negotiating your salary

What Are Fringe benefits?

Generally, fringe benefits are some type of non-cash or extra remuneration that an employer offers an employee over and above the cash payment earmarked as salary for the job. Fringe benefits, perquisites or benefits (as these are commonly known) could be anything that would make the life of the employee a little easier.

Contrary to common belief, fringe benefits are not offered only to those who have low remunerative packages. Sometimes this is the case; however, most often it is a ruse to attract the best talent and to hold on to this best talent in an industry. Fringe benefits are hence, offered to employees who have low remuneration (as extra compensation) as well as those are highly paid but in demand for their qualities and capabilities.

Some of these are briefly described below:

Free education for children - considering the rising expenses of education, some companies offer free education where the same is required. This could be in the form of cash, free books, tuition fees, allowance, etc.

Free transport to-and-fro the office - Commuting has been a great inconvenience in terms of both expenses and time. Some companies run their own buses so their employees do not have to worry about traveling to-n-fro the office. Others, offer passes for metros, busses or any other mass/ public transport to ease the financial burden of the employee.

Reimbursement of fuel charges - For executives who use their own vehicle many companies offer to reimburse the fuel expenses for commuting to-n-fro office.

Company car - A company car is normally offered to the elite group of employees in a company. Sometimes this would include driver (chauffeur driven) who would also be paid by the company, and sometimes this would be left as per the choice of the employee. When the company car is offered, its maintenance, fuel cost and insurance would be taken care of by the company as well.

Accommodation or reimbursement of rental charges - this is one of the most commonly available fringe benefits. Sometimes this accommodation is rented on behalf of the company in posh areas; sometimes these are company-constructed townships where other facilities are part of the deal such as parks for the children, schools, medical facilities, crche, gym, jogging grounds, swimming pool, etc.

Medical bills reimbursement or free medical care for employee (sometimes extending for the family as well and/ or children) - keeping in view that medical expenses have been escalating at an alarming rate, this particular fringe benefit is a favorite of all employees. Some companies extend the benefit (within a fixed lumpsum amount) to the spouse and children of the employee as well.

Medical insurance cover - Many companies pay part of full of the medical insurance of the employee saving them a neat amount every year. This provides a great deal of relief for those who have a low remuneration.

Lower interest or interest free loans - one among the more beneficial perquisites are interest free loans (or lower than the market loans) for employees for different needs such as consumer items, car, house, college expenses for children, wedding of children, etc.

Discounted meals - this fringe benefit is another very common offer, almost taken for granted in some places. Employees are usually given discounted meal coupons at the office cafeteria or given a fixed allowance for meals of their choice

Free meals - it is often that the company offers meals to all its employees (sometimes in different grades according to the designation of the employee) in the office mess.

All expenses paid vacations - this is one of the most sought after and rare fringe benefits. Some companies especially in the hospitality industry offer all expenses paid vacations to their employees. The vacation includes the family of the employee.

Vacation travel reimbursement (free airline tickets/ discounted airline tickets; same for railways and busses) - sometimes the fringe benefit covers the to-n-fro travel cost, while in some other cases there is a fixed amount calculated as a percentage of the remuneration (salary) offered to the employee annually.

Cell phones - the majority of companies that need to be in constant contact with their employees - particularly marketing, sales, promotions - offer this perquisite.

Reimbursement of cell phone expenses - those companies, which do not offer cell phones, usually reimburse the bills of employees cell phones if and when they have to interact with clients on behalf of the company over the mobile phone.

Clubs memberships/ gym facilities - many companies require that their executives are part of the exclusive clubs of locality they belong to since the who-is-who of the society would frequent these places and the social mingling would benefit the company's image.

In-house gym facilities - very often companies establish their own gym facilities, which are made available to all the employees, or a particular group of employees.

Child care - it has been found that often people find it difficult to leave young children at home in the care of baby sitters, who are in the first place very expensive and secondly unreliable. Hence, many employers either pay for child care or have a crche on the premises, which takes care of this problem.

Transfer allowance when transferred from one city to another - most often the costs incurred for a shift of residence is borne by the company. However, there are cases where it is the employee's responsibility to join the new place of work and the company has nothing to do with it. Hence, this is counted as a fringe benefit.

Gifts in cash or kind during festivals - in order to bond with the employees and win their goodwill, many large companies offer gifts during Christmas, Easter and other non-Christian festivals (as the cases may be). These gifts are personal and either in the form of cash or kind.

Concert/ events passes/ tickets/ hampers - depending on what type of company it is, many share with their employee entertainment perquisites. Suppose it is a chocolate factory, it offers chocolate gift hampers occasionally, suppose it is an airline, it offers all year discounts, etc.

Higher study leave with pay - there is a lot of stress on adequate educational qualifications and many companies encourage their employees to pursue higher studies and specialization training courses whenever possible. For this purpose, they permit the employee to take leave with pay so they could pursue their studies without any financial constraint.

Higher studies/ training tuition fee payment - some companies even offer to pay the tuition fee for such studies, provided these are beneficial to the position the employee occupies and/ or the company would benefit out of a thus-qualified employee.

Life insurance - just as the medical benefit, this too is a fringe benefit that would assure the employee that his/her family would be taken care of in case of any unforeseen accident. This may also includes accidental death and death insurance.

Flexi hours - this is a great boon for working mothers who have small babies to take care of and need to nurse the infants. It is also great for people who live far away from the office premises.

Special leave with pay (maternal, paternal, medical, bereavement, etc) - this is a benefit that can be availed only under certain circumstances. Nonetheless, the employee feels gratified that the option is available if the need ever arises.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, the beauty with the fringe benefits is that often these are at the discretion of the employers. They could come up with anything under the sky if they wanted to. The law usually imposes the minimum wages - anything extra is up to the negotiation power of the candidate and the disbursal will of the employer.