When applying for or accepting a new job, or even agreeing to stick with the one we’ve got, few of us ever really look beyond the salary. Is the new position better paid? Will this internal promotion mean more take home pay? Yes. Then it’s the right decision. But perhaps we should look a little further than the bottom line…

In these times, where pay rises are hard to come by and competition for jobs on the next rung of the ladder is tough, should we be looking at other ways and means to improve our lot? Employee benefits are often extra income in disguise. And while cold, hard cash still appeals, might you be better off – in every sense of the word – asking for increased benefits in other areas?

The benefits offered by employers vary depending on your position, the sector and market conditions. But there are several that are fairly standard in many positions. So, let’s take a closer look at some of these benefits and weigh up whether a new deal offering some or all of these might be better than an increase in salary.

Pension

If your position comes with the option of a pension, then it’s pretty much a no brainer to take it. Pensions are a tried and tested way of planning for your retirement. And the longer you have to let the interest build up, the more you get when it’s time to call it a day at work.

Tax advantages mean you get even more from the contributions you make, and employer contributions can often double or better what you’re paying in.It might be a case of deferred gratification but in the long run a pension is a very powerful financial advantage. And as it has become mandatory for employers to enrol you in a pension scheme in the UK, this is one key employee benefit that really makes a difference.

Life insurance and income protection

Nobody wants to think about the worst happening but burying your head in the sand is never a good idea. And putting a secure plan in place to protect dependants if it does is just common sense. After all, what else is all the hard work for other than to take care of your family?

Comprehensive life insurance will offer a lump sum pay out to your dependents, usually around four times your salary, and this is money that could be essential for dealing with difficult transitions.

Of course, not everyone has or wants a family, and sometimes we need to think about situations where it simply becomes impossible to work. If you are signed off long-term sick or have to deal with a life-threatening disease or condition, this is not the time to lose your income.

Income protection is a type of insurance that guarantees 80% of your salary if you are unable to work for six months or more. And with this happening to one in ten of us at some point in our working lives, it becomes a very useful employee benefit.

Assistance programmes

Happiness and well-being is never just about money. Yes, of course, a big pay rise brings extra security and freedom, plus a rare chance to treat yourself. But being content involves a whole range of other factors. There are times when we all need a little extra support, including counselling or advice on family or money matters.

Workplace problems and stress can be a major cause of depression and serious health issues, so having a secure and confidential safety net in place can be incredibly valuable. Employee assistance programmes can really help you to find the right balance.

Childcare

When kids enter the picture, it can really alter the course of your career. Suddenly you can’t put in all those extra hours and priorities can shift. Plus, the cost of childcare can often be prohibitively expensive, meaning you have to find other options. If your employer offers childcare support (often in the form of vouchers or on-site care), this can really help out with both money matters and your ability to commit to your work.

Healthcare plans

The NHS is a wonderful thing, as we all know. And knowing this safety net is in place is very reassuring. However, there are times when it pays to have faster and more streamlined access to healthcare. Employer healthcare plans, often including dentistry, give you access to costly but excellent health benefits such as private consultations, treatment and operations for you and your family. Again, this kind of benefit can be worth tens of thousands of pounds – money which you might not be able to afford, even with an improved salary.

Why a bigger salary helps

As you can see, a combination of some or all of the above represents more security for you and your family. Often the total value of these benefits far outstrips a simple pay rise. However, there are many reasons why a straightforward salary increase is also important.

First, it is psychologically rewarding to know that you are being increasingly valued for the work you do. Getting a pay rise for years of dedicated hard work feels like a much more significant pay off than a more comprehensive dental plan.

Second, a pay rise also gives you more control over how you use your increased standing in the business. Life insurance and employee assistance programmes are incredibly useful benefits but they don’t exactly help when you want a new extension or need to pay school fees. Increased spending power lets you decide how you can improve your overall work life balance.

Having a bigger salary also has potential benefits in terms of long-term financial goals. For example, if you want to get on the property market or upgrade to a bigger house, mortgage lenders won’t consider employer pension contributions. But they will look at your salary. And the more you earn, the more likely you are to be able to borrow.

As you can see, there are benefits to both, so it’s worth considering your individual position and circumstances before making a decision solely based on salary.