What is an employee perk stipend?

Unlike traditional perk programs that only offer a select number of options, stipends give the choice to the team.

 min. read
February 16, 2021

An employee perk stipend is a recurring sum of money given to employees to spend on perks.

Unlike a traditional perk program that might only offer a select number of vendors or services, stipends put the money and choice in the hands of the individual. 

For example, while one employee may prioritize their health and wellness, another would sooner use their stipend towards new home office equipment. With this type of perk program, both outcomes are possible, giving each individual the power of personalization. 

These programs are becoming increasingly popular as they improve both the process of offering perks for businesses and, ultimately, the experience for employees.

Quick Hints:
  • A stipend is a dedicated allowance for employees to use on perks.
  • Stipends provide employees the power to choose, prioritizing certain perks over others.
  • Businesses can allocate a set number of dollars per month towards perk categories.

What are some examples of perk categories?

Popular categories include: health and wellness, continuous learning, family, food, and travel. 

These categories are up to any one business to decide, but could align with your company’s values or mission. Alternatively, employees can be given complete freedom over their perks, permitted to purchase whatever they want which falls within budget.

What are the advantages of an Employee Perk Stipend?

We’ve come a long way since ping pong, foosball and free beer was enough to satisfy the average workforce. And while these features remain a fun way for certain people to blow off steam, they aren’t for everyone. 

Contemporary work culture is evolving, and as more teams continue to go remote, businesses need employee perks that address everyone’s needs. This means access to perks outside of the office and a flexible enough program that each team member can find obvious value.

Let’s take a look at five advantages of an employee perk stipend:

1) Stipends are Employee-Driven

Rather than roll out a standard one-size-fits-all employee perk program, stipends give people the perks they want and need.

This type of program creates a personalized experience, empowering employees to use their perks how they see fit. As a result, this will lead to a more engaged workforce.

2) Perk Stipends Attract Top-Tier Talent

Considering that 4 in 5 employees want benefits or perks more than a pay raise, it’s clear that these sorts of programs are becoming more desirable to prospective employees.

“As the U.S. economy continues to expand and job market confidence continues to rise, there is no doubt it is a job seeker’s market. This is a clear signal to employers that in order to compete in today’s labor market, it’s not just about salary and compensation, employers should be communicating clearly about non-traditional compensation.” (Glassdoor, 2015)

In a nutshell, an optimized employee perk program will attract talent of different demographics, industries and occupations.

3) Perks Produce a Happier, More Productive Workforce

Any successful business knows that employee happiness is critical to their bottom line. One study found that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than their unhappy coworkers. 

4) Perks Stipends Are Easy to Manage and Administer

Unlike a traditional perk program that will require HR teams to put in their hours selecting a handful of “appropriate perks,” stipends are easily managed and administered through perk management tools. This will save your team time and effort looking for those perfect perks that may not even exist. 

5) Stipends Are Fair and Flexible

What good are Friday beers to someone who doesn’t drink? What if someone doesn’t have the energy or interest to engage in these types of events at all? How do employees who work at home pour themselves a beer?

Employee perks should be easily accessible to everyone, without penalizing certain people who live at home or who are at different points in their lives. Stipends even the playing field, providing everyone the same opportunity to redeem their perks. 

Quick Hits
  • Perk stipends create a personalized experience, resulting in a more productive workforce.
  • Stipends attract new talent to your team, as many prospective employees are looking for perks over additional pay.
  • Employee perk stipends are easily managed through automation tools such as PerkUp.

What kind of perks can people spend their money on? 

Assuming that a custom perk program has been put in place providing employees free reign to purchase what they want, when they want, there is really no end to the possibilities. Here are some examples of what employees may purchase with their stipend:

Health and Wellness:
  • Peloton subscription
  • Virtual yoga classes
  • Apple Watch
  • RMT
  • Gym memberships
  • Acupuncture
 Remote Work Stipend:
  • Office equipment
  • High-speed internet
  • Cell phone 
  • Groceries, delivery, and fresh food kits
  • Coffee, teas, and other beverages 
Continuous Learning: 
  • Books
  • Online classes & courses 
  • Seminars, conferences
  • Mentorship programs
  • House cleaning services
  • Dog walking 
  • Childcare services
  • Fertility benefits

With such a wide range of options, it’s no wonder why so many businesses are beginning to offer their employees these sorts of programs. From Salesforce to Microsoft, Basecamp to Airbnb, all allocate a huge number of dollars per month to different perk categories.

Does an employee perk stipend go towards a group health benefits program?

Short answer? No. 

Perks should not be confused with other offerings that many employees consider table stakes at this point. For example, group benefits such as dental, health and vision are not included in these types of programs. 

While we’re here, it’s important to remind ourselves what an employee perk stipend is not:

  • Perks are not group benefits such as vision, dental or health.
  • Perks are not the same as ping pong tables, foosball or Friday beer.
  • Perks are not a part of company hygiene factors like mission, values, fair pay and vacation.
  • Perks are not equal to company culture, but rather a part of it.

Key Takeaways

  • As work culture continues to evolve, so do the requirements for employee perks. Stipends solve many of the problems associated with traditional programs.
  • Employee perk stipends provide a number of benefits for both employee and employer, as they are both easy to maintain and administer.
  • Stipends cover a number of categories, including health and witness and remote work, but do not encompass things such as vision, dental or health.