Negotiating for Workplace Benefits

Improve a job offer by thinking beyond your salary.

It’s a job seeker’s market. The Great Resignation, which began in April 2021, has seen Americans leave their jobs by the millions, often in search of greener pastures. It has also produced a labor crunch, often leaving employers desperate to fill positions across industries. As a result, employees are in a good position to negotiate for higher salaries and workplace benefits with new or prospective employers. 

Before you hit the negotiating table, here’s what you need to consider:

Know what you’re worth

If you’re competent, reliable, and easy to work with, then you’re a valuable asset for your current or new employers. Go into your negotiation with a clear understanding of what skills you bring to the business. Be ready to frame salary and benefits as an investment in these skills and even as tools that will increase your productivity by allowing you the flexibility to manage your schedule or providing resources for career development, for example.

Know what’s available

Some formal benefits may be impossible to negotiate because your employer simply doesn’t offer them. For example, if your employer doesn’t have a tuition reimbursement program already in place, don’t expect to negotiate one into existence — at least not immediately.

Before negotiations begin, get to know what benefits are available. Ask a company about:

  • Paid time off. This includes vacations, personal days, sick leave, and parental leave. 
  • Tuition reimbursement. Some companies will pay for a portion of tuition or other education-related expenses, particularly if it’s relevant to work.
  • Reimbursement for other expenses. If there are specific expenses, such as childcare or the cost of commuting, that you incur on the job, see whether your employer offers support for them. For example, they might offer to pay for a monthly pass for public transportation.
  • Equipment budgets. If you’ll be using your own tech devices for your job, ask if there’s an annual budget for upgrades on hardware and software. 
  • Remote work options and flextime. Find out whether your employer currently accommodates work-from-home arrangements or allows employees to decide when to start and end their workdays.
  • Signing bonuses. Research whether signing bonuses are common in your industry. If they are, they can be a way for your employer to sweeten a job offer even when they can’t increase your salary.
  • Stock options or other equity compensation. If your employer has an equity compensation plan in place, you may be able to negotiate for a greater number of shares. Employees offer equity compensation in part to incentivize employees to work hard for their company. The idea is your hard work will help the company grow potentially increasing the value of your shares. Asking for more equity can demonstrate your commitment to the job.
  • Severance packages. Look up standard severance packages in your industry and see how your employer’s package compares. As a rule of thumb, employees often receive two weeks of severance pay for every year of employment. Some experts suggest asking for as much as four weeks’ worth of severance pay for every year of employment. 

Ask about a defined contribution retirement plan and health insurance options when considering a new job, but know that the terms of these plans are not usually negotiable. 

Get more out of your benefits

If it’s starting to look like your employer has run out of room in their budget to expand your benefits, focus on items that don’t require more money in the immediate future. Improve your quality of life by pushing for flexible scheduling options. Increase the value of your resume by upgrading your job title. You may even wish to focus on your severance package, which doesn’t cost your employer anything immediately. However, it helps ensure job security and that you’ll be taken care of should your employer need to let you go.  

Be sure to consider how increased benefits might affect your financial plan. For example, will a signing bonus or salary increase allow to boost retirement savings? Or will vesting stock options bump you into a higher tax bracket in certain years? Your financial advisor can help you integrate your new benefits package into your financial plan.  


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