The fringe benefits you offer can be an important factor for hiring and retaining your team.

Fringe benefits are important to your employees. Wage levels often don’t differ much between companies, so the fringes you offer can be an important factor in hiring and retaining workers.

Major fringe benefits such as health insurance are expensive. But if you’re willing to be creative, you can design other attractive benefits at low or no cost. Often these benefits are tax-free to your employees. The exact benefits will depend on the size of your work force and the nature of your business. But here are some ideas to consider.

* Flexible schedules. If the nature of your business allows, offer flexibility in working hours. Canvass senior employees for suggestions on changes. Consider ideas such as closing earlier on summer Fridays to give employees a longer weekend. Make up the time with slightly longer hours on other days.

* Personal leave days. Offer eight hours of paid leave every two months for employees to take care of personal business.

* Transportation benefits. If you’re in a metropolitan area, help your employees solve their commuting problems. Work with your local transit authority to offer free bus passes. Consider offering subsidized parking or even van pools in major urban areas.

* Company discounts. Give employees discounts on your own products. Negotiate discounts with other businesses – health club memberships, for example.

* Provide employees with a free monthly health newsletter, with updates and tips on health care issues. Many hospitals and charities publish such newsletters as part of their marketing efforts.

* Arrange lunchtime seminars on topics such as basic financial planning or health issues. It’s not difficult to find professionals willing to speak for no fee as part of their business development.

David Bradsher, CPA