What Is a Total Rewards Package? | Virginia Employee Benefits Partners

Total rewards packages refer to the compensation and benefits plans that companies offer. This phrase, however, extends beyond mere salary or wages and traditional benefits, like health insurance, to provide both recruits and employees with a rundown of what makes the employer special. Some in Human Resources might regard the total rewards package as the starting line for employee value proposition (EVP).

Here are the different components of a total rewards package:


Compensation, which may refer to wages or salary, is the obvious main feature of the total rewards package. People get paid for their work, so they can afford housing, food, and the basic necessities of life. The money you’re paid to work may include the chance for bonuses and other merit-based rewards, in addition to salary or wages.

Basic Benefits

The most well-known benefits include health, vision, and dental insurance. People have come to expect some form of medical insurance for full-time employment in the United States. In fact, most rely on this benefit for their healthcare because private insurance is astronomically expensive without group membership, and the United States does not have a public option.

Retirement Plans

Offering 401(k) or IRA plans have also become the norm. Companies previously rewarded loyalty with pensions that could help people survive after employment ended. However, nowadays, pensions have been replaced by these other retirement plans, which rely on sometimes volatile markets. There are penalties for taking the money out of such accounts before retirement.

Paid Time Off (PTO)

Paid time off is not a given in every job. However, it refers to the time people are allowed to take vacation, recover from illness or injury, and celebrate holidays while still getting paid. This can include vacation days, sick days, and bank holidays.

Nowadays, some companies are getting creative with PTO. They may include shared days off, where the entire organization takes a break and gets paid. Or they might have unlimited PTO, which means people do not have to accrue or earn days based on seniority. Rather, they can take off when they need to without limit. In those cases, however, employers use an honor system to ensure people do not take advantage of the system.

Family Leave

This is key for new parents, those tending to loved ones who are ill or elderly, or those facing a longer-term illness themselves because they can take time off for care. However, family leave does not have to be paid. Approved family leave requires employers to hold the position for the person, but they do not have to be paid during that time off. It depends on whether they company offers pay for family leave. Many do pay for maternity leave for up to three months, and many others are offering paternity leave now, too. Assessing employment law is a necessity in these cases. And job applicants must do their due diligence when vetting potential employers if they think they may need leave at some point.

Learning and Development and Career Paths

Employees are seeking opportunities to learn, grow, and develop in their careers while on the job. Therefore, more employers are trying to offer training, classes, reimbursement for tuition or coursework, mentorship, leadership development, and other opportunities to gain skills necessary for raises and promotions. It will also help the individual and the employer remain relevant as the skills gap becomes more of a problem in the future of work.

Mental Health and Wellness Programs

For decades now, people have looked to their employers for gyms or gym membership. But now everyone is thinking beyond physical health to mental health as well. As a result, access to mental health help, employee assistance programs (EAPs), classes on mindfulness or yoga, apps for stress management, and more are on the table. Many employers are responding with a wealth of benefits related to wellness and well-being.

Free Food

Providing free lunches, snacks, or special occasion treats has been a hallmark of American companies. Many of the tech giants have campuses that provide services from dry cleaning to dental work, and free food in the cafeteria is a given. As employers try to convince people to return to the office in this post-pandemic era, they try to lure them with bagels or pizza or even other more gourmet options.

Work-Life Balance

Flexibility in where and/or when people work is going mainstream. As the gig economy gains steam, people expect to have more flexibility in their scheduling. Offering remote or hybrid work schedules, understanding when someone must pick up their kid from school or go to a doctor’s appointment, and allowing people to execute asynchronous work during off hours are benefits that impact work-life balance.

Ultimately, the total rewards package a company offers is the first sign of its relationship with employees. It tells the story of how talent is valued by an organization. It usually requires more than just money to satisfy recruits and employees.

By Francesca Di Meglio

Originally posted on HR Exchange Network