Recession incoming? 5 clever employee benefits you can negotiate instead of salary

15 April 2023 Sharyn Waterworth

5 Employee Benefits To Consider In An Economic Downturn

If a recession is on the horizon, negotiating the salary you want may become more challenging.

In Australia, job mobility (i.e. the number of people changing jobs) is currently much higher than it was pre-pandemic.

And while the RBA believes the job market is going to stay much the same for the next few years, other experts believe we’ve hit a turning point and the unemployment rate is going to continue to rise throughout the year — which may mean employees won’t have as much sway with salary negotiations as they previously did because so many candidates are looking for their next role.

Recessions also cause companies to spend more conservatively — either in response to lower sales and declining profits or as a precautionary measure. Meanwhile, you may be ready for a pay rise or your long-awaited promotion.

It’s a challenging situation for both employers and employees, but there is a way through. Both parties need to rethink what they can offer and what they’re willing to accept. We often think money is the most important factor in a negotiation but there are other options we’d encourage you to consider.

Here are five clever employee benefits you shouldn't overlook, whether you're in the middle of negotiating a job offer, hoping to renegotiate with your current employer, or wondering how to recruit and retain talent.

5 employee benefits to negotiate (besides salary)

  1. Flexibility & working from home

We asked our network of candidates if their current employer allowed them to work from home. 61.50% of respondents said yes, and the ones that weren’t allowed overwhelmingly wished their employer would let them (78.41%).

In the same survey, we asked a similar question about flexible working hours. Of the candidates whose employers didn’t allow them flexibility, 77.27% wished they did.

When asked what this would look like, the main response was flexible start and finish times. There’s obviously an appetite for flexibility and autonomy which has only continued to grow after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The five-day working week itself is being called into question, with Labour and the Greens recently backing a four-day work week at full pay trial in Australia and with good reason. Reduced hours with the same productivity and output expectation have been shown to improve work-life balance, happiness, and reduce stress, and sick leave.

Are you interested in working from home and having the option to choose your own hours? If so, it’s time to start negotiating this employee benefit. In light of how many companies are turning to this new way of working, there's little reason for employers to resist the data.

To learn more about the benefits of working from home, visit our blog: Why some employees love working from home (and others don’t)

  1. Professional development

If you’re interested in furthering your career or learning new skills, professional development may be one of the employee benefits you’d like to negotiate.

Dedicating time to learning has been shown to improve mental health and your sense of purpose. In fact, one study showed learning improved self-esteem by 92%.

Companies usually have an annual budget for employees to spend on courses, certificates and conferences in areas they’re passionate about.

If self-improvement is an area you’d like to dedicate time to, you can negotiate how much your employer is willing to spend on your learning and development.

To sweeten the deal, let them know that companies who give their employees dedicated learning time 1 day per week see a 61% increase in productivity. It’s a win-win all around.

Have big career goals you’d like to accomplish this year? Visit our blog: How to achieve career success in 2023

  1. Health & wellness benefits

Health and wellness are an important aspect of everyone’s working lives. According to a study from HeadsUp, 1 in 5 Australians have taken time off work in the last 12 months due to stress, anxiety, depression or feeling mentally unhealthy.

If managing your health and wellness is important to you, talk to your employer about receiving a wellness allowance (beyond just a gym membership) as one of your employee benefits.

There are many ways to use this taxable benefit, including massage treatments and yoga classes — any form of wellness activity that enables you to rest and recharge should qualify.

Reducing employee stress ultimately pays dividends to employers — with the current price of untreated mental health conditions costing Australian companies billions every year because of absenteeism and compensation claims.

  1. Subsiding certain expenses

Think about what’s important to you and what would have the biggest impact on your life. If you’re a commuter and you pay for parking, ask if your employer could shoulder some (if not all) of the costs.

If you’re a parent, discuss childcare options. If you’re moving for work, discuss moving costs. Ask if your employer has any discounts with popular retailers, or if they can cover your professional membership fees.

The options here are endless — simply ask and start negotiating possible perks. Even if movement around salary is limited, these savings can have a big impact on your wallet.

  1. More leave

Full and part-time employees in Australia are given a minimum of 4 weeks of annual leave every year, but some companies are offering their employees more time to rest and recuperate.

For example, ANZ provides five days of extra paid leave to employees who have been with the company for three years or more. It’s also becoming more common for employers to give employees days off on their birthdays or time off for their mental health. Some companies have even introduced a scheme where employees can “buy” extra leave.

Leave reduces stress, which in turn reduces anxiety and depression, making your life happier and healthier. Annual leave is a powerful commodity — especially for parents who’d like to spend more time with their children or burnout professionals who simply need to hit the pause button.

It’s worth negotiating with your employer to find an ideal outcome — even if it’s just a few days extra. The effects of time away from work will have a significant impact on your overall mental state and well-being.

Looking for your next big career move? Visit our Jobs Board to find a role that suits you or contact us here.