Employee benefits are those incentives, amenities, or perquisites “perqs”) that employees receive above and beyond their basic salaries or wages. Certain benefits are required by law (such as overtime pay or excused absences under the Family and Medical Leave Act). Additional benefits or “benefit packages” are generally negotiated as employment terms and conditions between employer and employee. They may be negotiated individually between the parties or through labor-management contract negotiations affecting classes of employees as a whole. Importantly, if employees are represented by bargaining units within a union, they cannot negotiate directly with employer representatives for any change, addition, or deletion of a benefit (this statement does not relate to employee “choice” benefits packages, popularly referred to as “cafeteria plans,” discussed below).
An employee benefit may be something as simple as free soft drinks during working hours or as complex as stock options or profit sharing plans. Typicaly, benefits include such advantages as health and life insurance, paid vacation or time off, flexible work hours, holiday pay, and retirement or pension pay.