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From the coalface: Perk schmerks

By Greg Pankhurst

Companies have increasingly been offering their employees a range of free additional benefits. Sometimes these are quite valuable; however, in many cases they seem to be more spin than substance and are designed to increase the perceived value of the package while minimising the cost to the employer.

Even worse, these perks are frequently offered in lieu of salary increases, so they aren't actually free at all. Here's our critical assessment of a few such perks.

- On-site childcare: On the surface a brilliant offering for the parents of young children, but in some instances the waiting lists are so long that your child hits puberty before a spot becomes available. Are you willing to transport your child each way on your commute? Is the service subsidised?

- Gym memberships: Will you actually go to the gym? If not, it's worth zero. Where is the gym? Will you be able to visit at weekends? You also need to understand whether it's free or just a discount. Remember, a flexible membership at one of the big gym chains costs only $100 a month.

- Training: Certainly a benefit that can be a great career builder, but how accessible is it? Is it reserved for the top 1 per cent of performers? Do you need to have been there for a minimum length of time before you can go on training? Is it formal with a recognised certification?

- Share options: This can be a minefield, particularly in a volatile economic landscape. Typical issues include the option price being set too high, long windows before the options can be exercised, and the tax ramifications of exercising the options. It's important prospective employees do some investigation and critically analyse both the dollar value and worth to them.

Greg Pankhurst is a director at Balance Recruitment.

Published: 22 September 2012

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