CHS Careerist: Non-Salary Benefits

May 22, 2013

Dear Belle,

When you wrote about asking for a raise, you mentioned asking for benefits instead of a salary increase.  Can you talk more about that?  I don’t even know where to begin or what to ask for instead of money.  

Thank you, Miranda

Many employers are willing to negotiate benefits as well as or in place of salary.  In a down economy, it is probably easier to negotiate perks instead of cash.  Here are some of the things I have negotiated for when a bump in salary wasn’t an option.

Mobile Plan.  If your employer issues you a mobile phone, you may be able to convince your boss to let you use that phone as your personal cell.  This can save you $1,200 or more per year.  However, if you choose to go this route, you will need to treat the phone as your employer’s property and be cognizant of what apps your download and how you use it.

Flexible Scheduling or Telecommuting.  A friend, who works on the Hill as an LA, negotiated a certain number of working days in the district every year.  It benefits her because she is able to see her family on her trips, and it benefits her boss because she is able to meet with constituents who are not able to travel to D.C. and see the state of things on the ground.

I know other women who have negotiated work-from-home days where they can telecommute.  And I’ve heard of women negotiating different hours for themselves, so instead of working 9-to-6, they work 10-to-7 or 8-to-4.

Educational Costs.  Many employers offer money to help cover your student loan payment.  If you work on the Hill or for the government, student loan reimbursement is available to you, though there are caps on how much you can receive.

If you would like to go back to school, some employers are willing to pay part or all of your tuition in exchange for an extended work contract.  A friend who works at a trade association received 50-percent of her legal education costs in exchange for five years of work (including the four years she was going to school part-time).  You can also negotiate for classes to help improve your writing, learn how to use a new technology or build other skills.

Vacation Days.  For me, having an extra week of paid vacation each year is worth its weight in gold.  Many of my friends have negotiated to have as much as 20 days a year of vacation.

One of my neighbors negotiated a week off at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Labor Day in addition to five flexible days.  She had worked for her company for 11 years as an executive assistant to one of the senior partners.  The lesson?  Make yourself indispensable.

Does anyone else have examples of non-salary compensation that can be negotiated?  Perhaps your industry has something specific, for example an attorney negotiating a year-end bonus.  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. Jill says:

    Highly, highly, highly recommend the book “Women Don’t Ask” as it outlines all the things men ask for in negotiations. It’s based on research so it’s not a touchy-feely book, but really great stories to support the researcher’s findings.

  2. Anon says:

    I wanted more managerial and leadership training, so I asked for access to an executive coach. We had her develop a 6 month plan and several of us in our department were able to have a combination of group and individual coaching.

  3. Liz says:

    Related to your mobile plan option: I have a personal phone, but my company pays for my data plan. Not a huge sum, but it adds up.

  4. Lindsey says:

    401k match and funding your HSA account (or at least matching, pre-tax) are two big hidden ones I can think of.

    • Elizabeth says:

      The HSA is one I recently discussed with my boss, they now match my contributions into it (and this year I’m planning to use it for Lasik in August)

  5. Nina says:

    I think the only big one you didn’t hit on Belle is retirement. An increased 401k match is as good as a raise, imo.

    To expand on technology ask about providing a kindle or other tablet. Saves paper and the company can write it off. Think about subscriptions your work could reasonably pay for – journals in your field, NYT, premium access to whatever favorite news site.

    I also know longtime employees of certain companies have negotiated better reimbursement policies like travel advances, per diems instead of submitting receipts, and upgraded airfare on international trips. (I mention longtime employees because there is an extra trust factor here)

  6. Lynn says:

    Agree, you might even have better luck negotiating benefits. That has been my experience, anyway.

    This is neither here nor there, but Belle–I just saw the article on HuffPost about your Jeopardy song! So cute! There are definitely worse things that could happen to you on the Internet.

  7. S says:

    At a previous job, asking for extra vacation days seemed like a genius idea to me until my dad, a small business owner, cautioned that employers may not interpret that the same way employees do (I believe he used the word “lazy”). Just something to be aware of for those considering this route.

    • Belle says:

      I think that def. depends on the employer. Much harder at a small business to take the extra time. But when you have recesses built into your schedule, I’d be happy to give an employee some extra days.

    • M says:

      I agree that it depends on the company culture. At one small business I worked at, I accepted a lower salary but negotiated more time off because I was also enrolled in school. I would take days off of work each semester during mid-terms, finals, etc. My coworkers, many who had been with the company for 10+ years, grew resentful of the “special treatment” I was getting. Their salaries were certainly much more than mine but days off are visible to everyone when salary usually isn’t so it.

  8. DCQuarterlife says:

    I negotiated an office into my deal. I didn’t want to be stuck in open office or cubicle farm. I wanted my own office and got one. That makes work so. much. nicer.

  9. MJ says:

    Title bump is a big one- in my non-profit setting, a stronger title can sometimes sub for (or combine with) a pay raise to help you move up internally or externally.

  10. lm says:

    I got my office painted. I know of others that have gotten money for their children’s educations costs. Think creatively. What can your office provide more cheaply than you can buy on the open market?

  11. Maria Pate says:

    How about a clothing allowance? We give it to all our staff, male and female!

  12. Megan says:

    If you work on the Hill, staff trips are a good compensation. We can’t pay more, but being able to take a trip to Taiwan, China or Turkey may be a good perk/educational opportunity. As the staffer, you just have to ask.

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