If there’s one things Singaporeans love, it’s free stuff. So why is that that so many people here aren’t using the benefits their companies give them as part of their employment packages?
Other than their salary and leave entitlement, which are frequently indicated in their employment contract, many are not aware of the exact terms of their other benefits. For instance, few people bother to read the medical insurance policy the company takes out on their behalf—raise your hands if you’ve read yours and we’ll give you a cookie.
Here are four benefits that many Singaporeans receive at work, but that many don’t actually use.
Medical and dental care
It’s in your company’s best interests that you are kept healthy enough to continue working, so many employers offer to pay for their employees’ healthcare or dental care. This can come in the form of a company doctor who can be consulted at the company’s expense, an annual medical allowance or a certain number of free checkups per year.
You would think that with the high cost of medical care in Singapore, people would be scrambling to go for checkups and seek treatment for minor ailments. Not so. One of my previous companies gave out free health screenings, but many employees declined the offer. “I’d rather not know if there’s something wrong with me,” was a common refrain.
Courses and skills upgrading
Many companies are very willing to send their employees on courses that will help them do their jobs better and upgrade their skills. But the HR manager at your office isn’t going to surf the internet to find courses that will benefit you—you’ll have to source for your own educational opportunities and then propose them to your boss.
A friend of mine who was working for a bank managed to get her boss to sponsor digital marketing classes. Another who was working for a Swiss company convinced her boss to pay for her French lessons on the pretext that French was one of the official languages of Switzerland, go figure. You never know until you try.
No matter how boring your workplace might seem, HR probably has in place some sort of employee bonding programme. This might amount only to an annual dinner and dance. Other firms have a budget for outings and activities designed to motivate employees. One office I was at sponsored muay thai classes, while many companies are now conducting yoga lessons to help their employees keep stress at bay.
Often, companies organise company events only intermittently because planning takes time, and those at the top are often clueless as to what their employees are interested in. Join your company’s social committee or volunteer to organise an event, and you might be able to do the things you want for free.
Always wanted to see the pandas at the River Safari? Persuade your boss to hold this year’s Family Day there. Want to try that new dim sum restaurant at Raffles Place? Suggest that the Chinese New Year lunch be held there. Think you’d like to learn ballroom dancing? Suggest that the company sponsor ballroom dancing lessons as part of a health and wellness initiative.
Transport and meal allowance
If the employees at your workplace are routinely expected to leave the office late at night or work over dinnertime, any humane employer would offer transport and meal allowance to those leaving after a certain time. Check the company’s handbook if you’re unsure if such a policy exists, as it will rarely be mentioned in your employment contract.
Make sure you make a transport and meal claim whenever you’re entitled to. You might also want to plan your work such that you get to enjoy claims more often. For instance, if you’re entitled to buy dinner and take a cab home on the house after 3 hours of overtime, instead of doing one hour of OT every day for a week, consolidate your excess work into one or two days so you can enjoy a good meal and escape the clutches of the MRT on those days, and then relax on the remaining days knowing you’ve cleared the bulk of your excess work.
Which company benefits do you make use of? Tell us in the comments!
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