Ship your breast milk, stick yourself with pins: The new world of worker perks

One company ponies up so that traveling moms can ship their breast milk, another provides on-site acupuncture. A look at the latest enticements from a range of employers.

CBS News staff
4 min read

Not all employers are created equal, and that also applies to benefits and perks.

Take outdoor-gear store REI, whose employees get two paid days off called "Yay Days," which they can use to spend in an outdoor activity. Then there's Accenture, which is offering gender reassignment for their employees as part of its pledge to support LGBT rights (that's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). Facebook, meanwhile, provides $4,000 in "baby cash" to workers who have a newborn.

Companies are always tweaking their benefits and perks, but in some competitive industries employers are providing creative perks to help lure and maintain workers. Perks are clearly important to workers; three out of five people say it's one of their top considerations before taking a new job. Still, the basics -- such as health care, paid time off and paid sick days -- remain the most sought-after benefits from the employee standpoint, job site Glassdoor found in its new benefits report.

Should be Pinterest, right? Actually it's Twitter that offers employees on-site acupuncture as a perk.

Wavebreak Media Ltd./Corbis

"Benefits and perks do carry a monetary value. It's part of the overall compensation pie," said Scott Dobroski, career trends analyst at Glassdoor. "When employers make their employees' lives easier, it's a great way of retaining talent."

Of course, not every business offers basics such as retirement savings plans or parental leave. Forty-seven percent of businesses surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management lack paid time off plans, while only 21 percent provide paid maternity leave, according to its 2015 report (PDF). That may explain why the basics weigh so heavily on employees' minds. What many would consider standard benefits aren't a given in corporate America.

For companies that are at the top of their game, adding perks that go an extra mile can be a way to align their mission and philosophy with their workers' interests. For instance, Burton, a snowboard maker in Burlington, Vermont, provides season ski passes to its employees, as well as "snow days" to head to a ski area after a big snowstorm.

"It's cool to see if they have a mission or values of making this an enjoyable experience," Dobrowski said. "They are sharing this with employees."

Another theme that stands out among companies with the most interesting perks, he added, is the push into providing family benefits. Many of those companies are in the tech fields, where their young employees are starting to settle down and start families. "That's why you see Netflix making headlines with a yearlong maternity and paternity leave," he added.

Other companies have followed suit, adding generous family leave policies. That's a rarity in the US, which is one of only three countries in the world that doesn't guarantee paid maternity leave. (The other two are Oman and Papua New Guinea.) The next wave of extra-generous perks may be in the family area, Dobrowski said.

"We'll see more companies that are making it easier for families," he predicted.

Below are 20 top perks highlighted by employment site Glassdoor.

1. Netflix: One paid year of maternity and paternity leave to new parents. The company also lets parents return part-time or full-time and take time off as needed throughout the year.

2. REI: Two paid days off, called "Yay Days," per year to enjoy their favorite outside activity.

3. Salesforce: Workers receive six days of paid volunteer time off a year, as well as $1,000 a year to donate to a charity of their choice.

4. Spotify: Six months of paid parental leave, plus one month of flexible work options for parents returning to the office. The company also covers costs for egg freezing and fertility assistance.

5. World Wildlife Fund: Employees take Friday off every other week, also known as "Panda Fridays" at the nonprofit.

6. Airbnb: Employees receive an annual stipend of $2,000 to travel and stay in an Airbnb listing anywhere in the world.

7. PwC: Employees can receive $1,200 per year for student loan debt reimbursement.

8. Pinterest: Three paid months off for new parents, plus an additional month of part-time hours, as well as two counseling sessions to create a plan to re-enter the workplace.

9. Burton: Season ski passes and "snow days" to hit the slopes after a big snowfall.

10. Twilio: Employees who build an app for the communications company are offered a Kindle plus $30 a month to purchase books.

11. Twitter: Three catered meals a day, on-site acupuncture and improv classes.

12. Accenture: Pays for gender reassignment for their employees as part of their commitment to LGBT rights and diversity.

13. Walt Disney Company: Offers free admission to its parks, for employees, friends and family, as well as discounts on hotels and merchandise.

14. Facebook: Provides $4,000 in "Baby Cash" to employees with a newborn.

15. Evernote: Hosts classes through "Evernote Academy," which offers team-building courses like macaroon baking.

16. Epic Systems Corporation: Employees receive a paid four-week sabbatical to pursue their creative talents after 5 years at the company.

17. Adobe: Entire company shuts down for one week in December and one week over the summer.

18. Asana: Employees have access to executive and life-coaching services outside of the company.

19. Zillow: Pays for employees who are traveling to ship their breast milk.

20. Google: Provides the surviving spouse or partner of a deceased employee 50 percent of the late worker's salary for the next 10 years.

This story originally posted as "'Yay Days' and 'baby cash': The top 20 employee perks" on CBSNews.com.