There was a time when tech contractors had to settle for meager benefits when compared to their “permanent employee” counterparts, but that’s no longer the case.
Today, many agencies offer health and dental plans, paid time off, 401ks with company match, free training, and more to attract and retain roving professionals with in-demand skillsets. Plus, clients are giving flexible workers some of the same lavish perks provided to regular staffers.
“Most staffing clients don’t want to segregate groups of workers because it damages morale and teamwork,” explained Jim Goodmiller, managing director for the Technology Practice at Advanced Resources.
If you’re a contractor and not shopping around, you could be leaving valuable benefits on the proverbial table. Here are some of the free services and perks that contractors should be asking for.
Health and Wellness
Employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent (FTE) employees are required to provide health coverage; however, some agencies go above and beyond the minimum.
“Our contract employees get to choose from the same health insurance plans as I do,” noted Judi Wunderlich, co-founder of the WunderLand Group.
If you’re a contractor, look for an agency that contributes to premiums and offers a choice between HMO or PPO plans and add-on coverage for dental, vision and disability. You may even qualify for “free stuff” such as telemedicine, fitness trackers, yoga classes and gym memberships. In addition, many clients will let you participate in onsite health screenings, health education classes or intramural teams while you’re on assignment.
By the way, companies are obligated to provide a healthy and safe work environment, so many bosses are able to request ergonomic office chairs or adjustable desks for contract workers, as well as state-of-the-art desktops or laptops.
Paid Time Off
Receiving one week’s vacation pay and/or paid holidays is fairly standard for agency contractors. However, progressive staffing firms offer PTO and bench pay to retain their highly skilled contractors between assignments.
Plus, you may even qualify for extra paid time off, sick pay or family leave, if you’re on a long-term assignment at a tech firm that has negotiated upgraded benefits with their staffing vendors. Again, not all benefit plans are equal; it pays to do your homework.
Career Advancement Services
The best staffing agencies have a vested interest in their contractors’ ongoing success, so they provide talent consultants, free technical and business training, and résumé and interview coaching. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also the potential for travel and relocation assistance, corporate housing, and visa help for consultants and contractors who accept travel assignments.
Moreover, many clients include contractors in “lunch and learn” trainings, speaker sessions, company university courses, or subscriptions to online training programs. Although a client may not pay for your training materials or certification exams, your boss probably won’t mind if you sit in on a class or presentation.
“Many staffing firms host appreciation events for their tech contractors,” Goodmiller added. “They are eligible to receive awards which they can add to their résumé.”
Retention and Referral Benefits
Many agencies offer sign-on bonuses to contractors with hot skillsets. In addition, you may be eligible for loyalty or retention bonuses, re-assignment bonuses, performance bonuses or pay-outs for referring a friend or colleague. If you finish a project early, a client may reward you with a bonus.
Discounts and Freebies
If you play your cards right, you can score freebies and perks from staffing agencies and their clients. For instance, many clients give contractors access to on-site gyms, laundry services, subsidized or free meals and snacks, free parking or shuttle service and some social activities. There may even be discounts from vendors such as airlines and hotels, transportation providers, restaurants and retailers, and entertainment venues.
Wunderland Group, for example, lets contractors buy discounted transportation passes using pre-tax dollars, while contractors at Advanced Resources are enrolled in PerkSpot, which provides employee discounts.
The thing is, staffing agencies and clients may not automatically let you know about these perks — especially if you seem willing to accept an assignment without them. While working on interesting projects with cutting-edge tools is still the top priority for contractors, you never know what perks and benefits you can score unless you ask.