It is becoming increasingly common to offer nontraditional benefits, or benefit "perks," to employees. As companies struggle with the cost of traditional benefits such as medical and dental plans, offering additional perk-type benefits are intended to boost employee morale.

Employers sign up to offer the perk to their employees, and in turn their employees will receive a discount if they enroll in the service. It's a win-win all around: The employee wins by saving money, the service provider wins by gaining more business and the employer wins by increasing employee morale. The best thing about perk programs is that they are free to the employer. At a time when employers everywhere are struggling with benefit costs and having to make tough decisions to decrease benefits or shift more cost to employees, being able to offer a perk to employees without having to spend any money to do so is certainly appealing.

Some popular perk programs to consider are:

* Home and auto insurance programs. The home and auto insurance program allows employees to gain insurance coverage for homeowners, renters or automobiles at group discounted rates. Some employers may also allow employees to pay the premiums through the convenience of payroll deductions.

* Fitness center programs. As more companies place a focus on wellness, providing a fitness center discount is becoming a popular perk. If an employer partners with a fitness center to offer this perk, employees are able to receive a discount when joining just for being an employee of their company. Some employers may also allow employees to pay for their discounted memberships through the convenience of payroll deductions.

* Mobile phone discount programs. Mobile phone carriers are offering group discounts to employers that can save as much as 17% off their employees' monthly bills. With smartphones increasing in popularity, who wouldn't want to take advantage of this perk and lower their monthly bill?

* General discount programs. General discount programs offer discounts on things such as movie tickets, sporting event tickets, rental cars, theatre tickets and more. They are designed to help employees save money on family and recreational activities.

* Banking programs. Banking programs allow for your employees to receive discounts and special benefits such as lower loan and account fees.

* Travel assistance programs. These programs provide employees with assistance while traveling, including help with lost documents and luggage, obtaining medical care, providing travel information and more.

* Identity theft assistance programs. As identity theft continues to be a concern for employees everywhere, we are seeing a rise in the availability of identity theft assistance programs. These programs provide employees with assistance in cleaning up the problems that occur when your identity is stolen.

* Health discount programs. These programs offer discounts on health-related services such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, vision services and more.

If you are looking to beef up your benefit offerings while on a tight budget, offering your employees these types of perks may help get the job done.

Contributing Editor Christy Yaccarino, GBA, EHBA, HIPAAA, is a benefits manager for Ambrose Employer Group in New York City. She can be reached at christy.yaccarino@ambrosegroup.com.

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