smiling person on laptop
Westend61/Getty Images

When you’re job searching, you generally expect companies to offer some kind of health insurance and retirement plan. But there are a lot of other creative perks and benefits on tap these days. More than a third of companies bumped up their benefits game in 2019, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Why? It’s a tight job market, and companies need to attract and keep great talent. (Ahem, that’s you!) Here are some fresh options you might find in employee plans now:


1. Volunteer Time Off

Volunteer time off (a.k.a. VTO) gives employees the chance to take paid time off work to pursue a volunteer opportunity. About one in four companies offer this perk, according to SHRM data. Some companies also give employees money to donate to the charity of their choice, or match employee donations.


2. Student Loan Assistance

About three-quarters of Americans with student loan debt feel stress related to their debt load on a daily basis, according to a survey conducted by Laurel Road, a digital lending platform and brand of KeyBank that offers student loan refinancing. And employers are trying to help, via programs that help workers repay their student loans or refinance them with a third-party lender to make payments more manageable—or both. Though student-loan repayment benefits are still something of a rarity, they’re definitely on the rise: According to SHRM, 8% of companies offered this type of benefit in 2019, up from 4% in 2018.

“Offering refinancing is actually an incredibly easy way for employers to help their employees save more over the life of their loan, without getting tripped up by complexities that come with contributing to payments directly,” says Alyssa Schaefer, Chief Marketing Officer of Laurel Road. “It not only helps alleviate the burden of debt, but also validates to employees that they are working at a company that aligns with their values and understands their pain points.”


3. Fertility Assistance

Trying to have a baby can be super pricey, and some companies have stepped in to help with the costs, with coverage ranging from basic fertility treatments to in vitro fertilization to egg freezing. (In 2019, 19% of companies offered IVF coverage, and 2% covered egg freezing for non-medical reasons.) And more progressive companies include LGBTQ employees and single parents by choice in these benefits as well.


4. Travel Stipends

Sure, unlimited paid time off (an increasingly popular benefit) sounds great. But imagine if in addition to enjoying those unlimited vacation days, you also got a bonus check to help with travel. Not a dream: Some wanderlust-friendly companies actually give employees cash for travel or reimburse certain travel expenses.


5. Pet Health Insurance

More than 1 in 10 companies now offer pet health insurance, meaning you can put your dog on the policy and have costs covered when he gets into your chocolate stash. “I also see pet bereavement days and pet adoption leave,” says Matthew Burr, a human resources consultant in Elmira, NY. “They call it ‘pawternity’ leave.”


6. Investment Retirement Advice

Sure, you have a 401(k). But are you doing the right things with it? And are you saving enough? More than half of companies now offer investment retirement advice as an employee benefit.

“You also see more financial wellness counselors outside of just retirement planning,” Burr says. “How do you budget? How do you manage daily expenses?”