42 employers that boosted their benefits in 2019

Hewlett Packard Sign
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Inc. signage stands at the entrance of the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Monday, May 22, 2016. Photographer: David Paul Morris/

From student loan repayment to paid parental leave — so far this year companies in a variety of industries have taken ample opportunity to expand their benefits. Employers are expanding benefits packages as a strategy to remain competitive in an extremely tight labor market.

Industry giants Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase in March finally announced the name of their joint healthcare venture Haven — and a new mission: to simplify health benefits for their employees. A host of companies including Bloomberg, Diageo, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and J.M. Smucker Company boosted their parental leave benefits offerings.

Among some of the hottest perks this year were student loan repayment benefits — which were added by employers including Advance Financial and Travelers Insurance. But still, a relatively small number of employers (about 8%) offer these benefits.

What other employers added new or interesting benefits this year? The following is a look at 42 companies that made big changes to their benefits packages.

Advance Financial
The financial services company added both a student loan repayment and a paid parental leave benefit. Advance Financial will repay up to $12,000 of each employee’s debt over six years. Its program, through provider Gradifi, also includes options for employees to refinance or consolidate their student debt and receive counseling on how to eliminate the rest of their debt.

In addition to the new student loan benefit, employees, both men and women, who have been employed at the Nashville-based financial services company at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours, are eligible to receive up to six consecutive weeks of paid parental leave following the birth, placement or adoption of a child.

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AIG added a surrogacy reimbursement benefit and boosted its adoption reimbursement benefit in an effort to appeal to its increasingly diverse workforce.

The finance and insurance company reimburses U.S. employees up to $13,800 of eligible surrogacy-related expenses per child. Eligible expenses include agency fees for the cost of locating and managing a surrogacy, legal fees for negotiation of a surrogacy contract and domestic travel fees associated with the surrogacy arrangement. The company also increased its adoption reimbursement per child to $13,800 from $7,500.

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Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway & JPMorgan Chase
The three companies revealed the name of their joint healthcare venture Haven — and a new mission: to simplify health benefits for their employees.

The three companies revealed more information about their venture on a website, more than a year after announcing they would form an independent healthcare company for their U.S. employees.

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Aramark now gives its 130,000 hourly employees access to free college tuition. The food service, uniform and facility giant’s efforts are part of a $90 million investment made earlier this year in wage and benefit increases and additional training and development. Eligible employees can apply for the tuition program beginning in October with enrollment for the spring 2020 semester.

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Media giant Bloomberg expanded its fully paid parental leave program to 26 weeks from 18 weeks for primary caregivers. The new benefit, is gender neutral, a growing focus among employers.

Under Bloomberg’s updated policy, primary caregivers, regardless of gender, will have 24 weeks full paid leave, plus 10 transition days, meaning the employee will have one day off per week for 10 consecutive weeks immediately following an employee’s return to work.

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Blackbaud revamped its financial fitness program earlier this year. The software company offers its financial fitness program through Bank of America. The program includes in office training through four modules that focus on financial security, utilizing financial wellness benefits such as 401(k)s and HSAs, setting savings goals and transitioning to retirement. The program also includes the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a Merrill financial adviser.

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CSAA Insurance
AAA insurer CSAA Insurance Group allows full- and part-time employees to use up to 4% of their employer-matched retirement benefit to pay down their student debt.

Once workers contribute 2% of their salaries to their 401(k), they can choose to direct the remaining 1% to 4% of their 6% employer-matched funds toward paying down their student loans. The benefit is offered through student loan repayment plan provider Tuition.io, the company says.

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The restaurant chain announced in June that its crews can earn up to a month’s pay in annual bonuses.

To receive the bonus, Chipotle’s 2,500 global locations need to meet sales and output goals as a team, according to a company statement. The benefit is offered quarterly; crews who qualify receive checks for an average week’s worth of pay. Individual restaurants can potentially earn the bonus each quarter, and a month’s worth of extra pay. The chain has paid more than $700,000 toward worker bonuses.

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The law firm offers workers a breast milk shipping benefit through provider MilkStork. Staff at the law firm, including lawyers, professionals, paralegals and business services will be able to access Milk Stork at no cost while traveling on business.

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Diageo boosted family-friendly benefits for its more than 30,000 global employees. The beverage company — which manufactures liquor brands including Captain Morgan, Ciroc and Baileys — will give female employees a minimum of 26 weeks of fully paid maternity leave following the birth, adoption, surrogacy or foster placement of a child. The company also added a minimum of four weeks of fully paid paternity leave, although some markets, including the U.S., are increased it to 26 weeks.

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In March, the fast casual restaurant chain rolled out Bravely to a portion of its workers. Bravely is a mobile app, launched in 2017, that allows workers to have confidential conversations with third-party professional coaches. So far the tool is being used by more than 125 of Dig’s salaried workers.

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DoorDash signed on to use a new app, Stride, which gives freelance workers the ability to access insurance and other benefits. Max Rettig, head of policy at DoorDash says the new app will provide their more than 700,000 independent workers access to new financial wellness benefits.

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Fiat Chrysler
The automaker partnered with student loan benefit provider CommonBond in late January to provide a student loan refinancing benefit, which allows employees to replace existing loans with a new, lower interest rate loan.

Fiat Chrysler U.S. salaried employees with student loan debt, as well as employees with federal government-backed Parent PLUS loans, are now eligible to refinance these loans through the program with preferred terms.

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Fingerpaint, a marketing agency located in Saratoga Springs, is now offering full-time employees $100 per month toward paying down the principal balance of their student loans. Fingerpaint employs about 250 people, and 60 workers are already taking advantage of the benefit which is offered through Gradifi.

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Hannaford Supermarkets
The supermarket chain, which operates 181 stores throughout the Northeast, is providing qualifying full- and part-time associates with six weeks of fully paid leave during the first 12 months following the birth, adoption or legal placement of a child.

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The company, which is known for its direct mail service for shaving products, started matching 50% of the first 4% of employees’ salaries, or 2% maximum, for its more than 300 U.S. workers in January. All regular full-time and part-time employees are eligible for the benefit, which is being offered through provider Betterment for Business.

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The Hartford
Nearly 17,000 eligible U.S. employees at The Hartford will soon be able to pay down their student loan debt, thanks to a new benefit the company is releasing early next year. The financial services company will pay up to a lifetime total of $10,000 toward workers student loan debt, contributing the funds directly to loan providers each month.

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Hewlett Packard Enterprise
The tech giant’s more than 60,000 global employees now have six months of paid parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child — an increase from its previous offering of roughly 12 weeks of time off. HP Enterprise’s new policy is paid at 100% of employees’ salary and is available to both mothers and fathers. The company now allows new parents to work part time for up to three years as they transition back to work.

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Horizon Media
Horizon Media is now offering its 1,200 employees access to on-site childcare at the company’s New York location. The media agency, which has 2,000 employees spread between offices in New York and Los Angeles, is providing workers subsidized full-time care for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old, and fully subsidized emergency back-up care.

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Like its competitor DoorDash, Instacart has invested in a the app Stride to help cover benefits for freelance workers. Using Stride’s benefits platform, gig employees will access health, dental, vision, life, accident and disability insurance. They also can utilize perks such as prescription discounts, online doctor visits, checking and savings accounts, free mileage and expense tracking, tax assistance and filing, and discounts and deals on products and services. The new platform is now widely available to employers.

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J.M. Smucker
Starting next year the Ohio-based manufacturer, which is most well-known for its jams and peanut butter, is adding new benefits including 12 weeks of paid parental leave, more vacation time and one day of bereavement leave following the loss of a pet.

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The global food, petcare and confectionary giant partnered with mobile app BetterUp to revamp its employee coaching benefit. BetterUp provides virtual leadership development to employees by allowing them to chat one-on-one with a coach. So far, about 1,800 global employees are participating in the program, and that number is expected to jump to 2,500 next year.

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MassMutual added a slew of benefit offerings, including coverage of gender identity procedures, expanded fertility benefits and more paid time off to bond with a new child, grieve a death, take care of a loved one and volunteer. The company added the benefits in January for all of the company’s 7,500 full-time and part-time employees, is a volley in the life insurance giant’s appeal to attract a more diverse talent pool.

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Montefiore St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital
Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital teamed up with Tuition.io to offer the organization’s 1,500 employees a new student loan repayment benefit. As part of the Hudson Valley, New York-based hospital system’s new benefit, employees will be able to convert their unused paid time off into employer contributions toward paying down their debt.

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Noodles & Company
Noodles & Company is teaming up with the financial app Even to rollout a new suite of financial wellness benefits for employees. The fast-casual restaurant chain will help its nearly 10,000 team members with early pay access, budgeting and saving money. The benefit will be offered via Even’s financial wellness app.

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Ocean Spray
Ocean Spray began waiving behavioral health copays for its roughly 2,000 employees beginning this summer as part of its campaign to better address mental health. The company, which makes cranberry drinks and sauces, already gives employees access to no-cost behavioral telemedicine sessions that they can use for counseling services.

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Papa John’s
The pizza chain is offering a tuition reimbursement education program, Dough & Degrees, in partnership with Purdue University Global, to its roughly 20,000 corporate employees. The program covers 100% of tuition costs for undergraduate and graduate online degree programs. Employees can enroll in any of Purdue Global’s online associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, including business, information technology, cybersecurity, accounting and finance.

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The courier service is offering gig workers free occupational accident insurance, new healthcare options, as well as access to free online college courses and professional certifications.

Under the new benefits, couriers will receive accident insurance that covers up to $1 million of coverage for medical expenses incurred from a covered injury sustained on active delivery. The insurance will cover temporary and total disability payments, as well as death and survivor benefits stemming from an accident.

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Sprinkles Bakery
Sprinkles Bakery added an instant access pay benefit. The company — famous for its cupcake ATM — has added DailyPay, a tool allowing workers access to their earning before payday, for its 650 employees. Sprinkles hopes the DailyPay benefit will address employees’ financial needs and help its workforce better cope with unexpected expenses that might fall in between pay periods.

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The coffee giant has bolstered its fertility benefits, in addition to a number of other offerings. Starbucks now reimburses for surrogacy and intrauterine insemination not covered by health insurance. Workers will receive reimbursements of up to $10,000 per qualifying event, with a lifetime maximum of $30,000.

In September, the company updated its employee assistance program with a new long-term initiative that includes an enhanced employee assistance program and mental health training for store managers, which will begin in the second quarter of next year.

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Sun Life
Sun Life, a Toronto-based financial services, life insurance and benefits provider, expanded its paid family and medical leave benefits for all of its U.S.-based employees, giving workers more paid time off and the option to take time to care for non-family members.

The employer also is offering a “chosen family” benefit, which will allow the employee to care for someone who may not be blood related. The new program covers approximately 3,500 employees and goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

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The salad chain expanded its paid parental leave policy. Sweetgreen updated its offering to give new mothers and fathers five months of fully paid leave after the birth of their child. The benefit also extends to adoptive and foster parents.

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Target expanded a number of family-friendly benefits, including paid leave and caregiving benefits, to the 350,000 full- and part-time hourly employees at its stores, distribution centers and headquarters. The Minneapolis-based retailer offers workers 20 days of backup child care or elder care through Target’s partnership with Bright Horizons network.

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Travelers Insurance
Travelers is offering a new benefit to help its employees tackle student loan debt. Beginning in 2020, employees of the property/casualty insurer who are using the Paying It Forward Savings Program toward their student loans will also qualify for the company’s 401(k) plan matching program.

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UMassFive College Credit Union
The credit union's new student loan repayment benefit uses change from employees’ personal purchases to pay down the interest of student loans. All 125 UMassFive employees have access to the benefit through its digital platform and app. The benefit is offered through loan repayment vendor FutureFuel.io.

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Beginning next year, employees of the insurance company can transfer up to five days, or 40 hours of carry-over paid time off into a payment against student debt through a new program managed by Fidelity Investments.

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VF Corporation
Maternal, paternal and adoptive parents working at the maker of Lee, North Face, Vans, Wrangler and other brands will have access to eight straight weeks of paid leave. Employees at the company’s retail locations and corporate office are eligible, so long as they work over 30 hours a week and have been with the company for over a year. VF has about 30,000 U.S. employees.

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Starting next year, workers at the nation’s largest employer will have access to expanded telehealth benefits including a new tool that pairs employees with a local doctor. The pilot will give workers access to physicians in eight specialties such as primary care, cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, obstetrics, oncology, orthopedics and pulmonology.

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XPO Logistics
The transportation and logistics company rolled out a new paid parental leave policy this year for 47,000 eligible workers, giving primary caregivers six weeks of leave and secondary caregivers two weeks. The leave, which provides 100% pay for parents of a newborn or adopted child, can be taken intermittently.

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The online retail giant is offering more than 1,500 employees access to online acoustic and electric guitars, bass and ukulele lessons, thanks to a partnership with Fender Play, an app that provides a step-by-step guide for users to learn an instrument.

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