New Zealand businesses are offering more perks and incentives to attract and retain their workforce in a tight job market. From public transport subsidies to extra parental leave and staff discounts, employers say it is essential they offer the right incentives to get the right staff.

Bupa has increased its workers' paid parental leave by 12 weeks for primary carers and two weeks for secondary carers. It will also provide 20 days paid domestic violence leave.

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Bupa people director Kate Dee says the extra leave has been provided on the request of the company's 4000 employees, who staff 48 care homes, six rehab sites and 33 retirement villages across New Zealand. "Our people told us parental leave is important to them," Dee says.

"There are many opportunities and benefits [potential employees] take into consideration. The more you can offer, the best chance you have in attracting quality applicants."

More parental leave also increases employee retention rates and reduces training and recruitment costs — and a happier, supported workforce results in "longer, healthier, happier lives for our residents", Dee says.


For Merivale Care Home caregiver Bianca Archibald, the extra paid leave will be a big help. Archibald is pregnant with her first child and is due in early April.

"Pregnancy is a stressful time with lots going on, so it's nice not to have to worry about the extra support. Just to know that it's going to be okay and sorted is great and a real bonus," Archibald says.

The country's 55,000 care and support workers won a $2 billion pay equity settlement that gave pay rises of between 15 and 50 per cent — about $100 a week — in July 2017.

The minimum wage is also set to increase by $1.20 to $17.70 in April — the largest increase in the adult minimum wage in New Zealand history in dollar terms.

Despite the bigger wage bill for a company such as Bupa, Dee says it is important to continue investing in staff to attract and retain them.

"People have more choices these days on who they want to work for. It's a competitive market and these types of benefits are what people are looking for."

Vodafone says it's not enough to simply say "good on ya" to workers.

Among the perks the communications giant offers are a free smartphone and plan, which its permanent employees receive on their first day. Whānau are also offered discounts on mobile and broadband plans. It also offers annual flu shots, free Southern Cross health insurance, a 24/7 counselling service, and permanent workers of more than 15 hours a week also get life and disability cover.

Every employee also gets a "Your Day" to do whatever they like, and workers can also volunteer at a charity of their choice for up to two weeks, and still be paid.

New parents can ease back into work through a phased plan, and they also get a top-up of the Government's paid parental leave so they keep receiving their full salaries.

"We also offer two weeks of paid paternity/partner's leave to employees supporting their partner in those first weeks," Vodafone says.

On-the-job e-learning and industry training also contributes to NZQA-accredited qualifications.

Employees get discounts from more than 70 retailers across New Zealand.

Strategic Pay's Craig Cameron says incentives come in many shapes and sizes, yet all aim to improve worker performance and achievement. And it can be tricky to decide which type of incentive is right.

"In certain businesses such as not-for-profits or the public sector, bonus schemes can be very rare. This may be because the culture of what these enterprises do doesn't match up with the idea of incentives. For businesses in the private sector, incentives have long been considered a fantastic option. Yet, businesses can still run into problems if incentives aren't structured the right way or targeting the right areas."

He says a good incentive plan will depend on what the company is trying to achieve: for sales roles, where the focus is on targets and goals, a commission structure may be effective.

Incentives have to be measurable and not discretionary, or they can be meaningless.

"If someone receives a bonus and they aren't really sure why they got it, it can introduce levels of expectation that aren't actually true," Cameron warns.

"Regardless of what the incentive is rewarding, the plan needs to be structured and intelligent. It also doesn't have to be about just the individuals, as there might be the opportunity to have measures for company and individuals. This way there is a focus on the company completing certain targets and goals, but also individuals are encouraged to carry some of the weight. No one superstar can carry an entire company, but it's still key to reward these top performers in some context.

"The policy connects with one of our strategic pillars of being 'a place that people love to work'."

A survey by Hays Recruitment last year showed health insurance, carparking and bonuses were the most popular perks on offer.

Its report shows that 43 per cent of employers offered health insurance, 36 carparking and 29 per cent paid bonuses.