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Ali Camerson receives tips on pouring beer from fellow Molson Coors employee Jeff Armstrong.Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

Exploring exotic destinations, cruising the high seas and studying the finer points of beer sound like exciting leisure pursuits, not the sort of thing you'd enjoy while on the job.

But many of Canada's Top 100 Employers offer their own unique benefits in addition to such common incentives as topped-up maternity payments, fitness programs and retirement guidance.

Here are a few of them:

Pet benefits at Ceridian Canada

You could say it was a pet peeve of Ceridian employees that led to the introduction of an innovative perk at the Winnipeg-based HR solutions provider – an animal insurance subsidy plan.

Ceridian "has every benefit that you would expect an employer to have" for its nearly 1,400 employees, from dental to disability plans and a fully paid company pension program. This helps to both attract and retain employees, says Cande Dandelé, executive vice-president, HR solutions.

The pet health insurance coverage was added after employee focus groups and surveys showed the company which programs employees valued most, and whether any improvements were needed.

The pet plan, developed in conjunction with benefits consultant Strata Consulting, pays for up to 80 per cent of veterinary costs, which are also discounted for employees.

Among Ceridian's other initiatives is a program that allows co-workers to nominate employees for a chance to win a company-paid vacation to a sunny destination.

L'Oréal Canada puts the ooh-la-la in labour

One of the world's leading cosmetics and personal-care companies, L'Oréal Canada Inc., encourages its 1,200 employees to travel outside their workplace to learn the "L'Oréal culture."

So aside from providing benefits and perks liked topped-up parental leave, a subsidized onsite daycare and "summer" Friday hours all year long, the subsidiary of Paris-based L'Oréal Group sends employees to Paris and New York for international training.

The company attracts about 80 per cent of its employees straight from colleges and universities – and this young work force needs to be constantly challenged, explains Marjolaine Rompré, director of learning for development. "The fact that we invest heavily in their development is extremely pleasing to Generation Y," she says. "It's one of their top wants."

L'Oréal Canada's head office, distribution centre and manufacturing plant are in Montreal, and they have a sales office in Toronto and sales representatives across the country.

At the international seminars, employees from across the country – in marketing, sales, skin and hair care, and every other area of the company – learn various aspects of the fashion and beauty industry. In Paris, participants usually stay a few extra days to network with others who work on the same brand.

"We also focus on a fun work environment," adds Ms. Rompré. "We have all kinds of fun initiatives people appreciate – every year we have winter tire clinics, we have a dry cleaning valet service … and draws to get Canadiens tickets and concert tickets."

Molson Coors Canada brews beer smarts

Joining one of the oldest and largest breweries in Canada puts employees on the road to an MBA education like no other. Here, MBA stands for Molson Beer Academy, a program that teaches each worker all about brewing, the industry, and the company's brands.

Jeff Armstrong, director of sales training, says in addition to tuition subsidies, a mentoring program, career-planning services and referral bonuses for its more than 3,000 employees nationwide, Molson Coors runs multiple programs to help foster an appreciation for both the company and the brand.

"Ideally, those folks who have the 'beer gene' and a passion for beer inside them will seek us out and want to be a part of the next 225 years of Molson Coors Canada brewing excellence," says Mr. Armstrong.

This fall, the Molson Beer Academy will be rebranded as Love Of Beer Day, a full-day session for all employees to celebrate "beer reverence," with the goal of making employees "true beer ambassadors."

"It is a full day of beer education and fun, hosted by a cast of beer specialists," explains Mr. Armstrong. "Participants rave about the tasting sessions, Beer 101, that explore styles and ingredients, and, of course, the tour of the brewery."

RBC employees have cruise on rewards radar

Royal Bank of Canada rewards staff year-round with special benefits and programs, but employees can also set their sights on an annual perk that takes them to exotic places: a luxury cruise. Every January, 700 top-performing employees are chosen for the week-long cruise convention.

"The RBC nomination program recognizes teams and individuals who build points up over the year and redeem them for merchandise," explains Per Scott, Toronto-based vice-president of human resources. "The cruise is part of a bigger program that recognizes people's work and efforts."

RBC's 79,000 full-time employees, including about 57,000 in Canada, get a range of benefits and incentives, including health coverage, retirement-income and -planning help, performance and new-employee-referral bonuses, discounted and waived fees on banking services and products, and flexible work options.

But Mr. Scott emphasizes that retaining good employees goes beyond offering a competitive salary and other financial benefits.

"You have to recognize people throughout the year. You have to say, 'Thank you, great job, you made a difference,'" he says.

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