Starting next year, U.S. employees at insurance company Unum Group will have a choice: The company will put money toward their student loans, if the worker gives up five paid vacation days.
The new perk is a creative twist on an increasingly popular benefit. Confronted by a tight labor market and ever more indebted applicants, about 4% of big companies surveyed by the Society for Human Resources Management say they’re helping their employees repay their loans with cash payments of up to $250 a month.
The deal for Unum’s 8,500 workers, though, is different: Cash for debt in exchange for unused vacation days. Each day is worth an employee’s hourly rate for an eight-hour day. Parents who share responsibility for a child’s loans also qualify to cash in.
(Related: Time Is the Most Popular Perk: Unum)
“We thought it was a more creative method,” said Carl Gagnon, who runs financial well-being programs at the Chattanooga-based insurer.
Unum estimates that around 30% of its U.S. workforce will take advantage of the benefit. On average, Unum employees carry $32,000 in debt, with payments of $350 a month, according to the company’s internal research. How much workers can earn for their vacation days depends on their salary, but the company estimates an average of about $1,200 a year.