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With all due respect: Perk alert

Every Issue

Cite as: July 2015 89 (7) LIJ, p.102

Who really benefits?

I was interested to read recently that Chinese billionaire Li Jinyuan had been dubbed by people who should know better as “the best boss in the world” after he took 6400 of his employees on a four-day holiday to France.

China’s 24th richest person booked 140 hotels in Paris for the Tiens Group staff and then, clad in identical sky blue hats and T-shirts, they moved en masse to the Cote D’Azur, where Mr Li booked 4760 rooms in 79 four and five-star hotels in Cannes and Monaco.

If this sounds less like a wonderful perk and more like the vacation from hell you have me as your friend.

This got me thinking about perks. Who really benefits from them? Mr Li received the kind of worldwide publicity for his company that no advertising agency could spin plus a generous accolade.

Perk, derived from perquisite, has a dictionary meaning of “an incidental payment, benefit, privilege, or advantage over and above regular income, salary or wages”.

Many people tend to think of a perk as an unearned benefit given to an undeserving person – unless that person is you. So-called fat cats are a regular target for criticism and cartoonists love them because it gives them a chance to draw fat cats smoking cigars.

American companies seem to offer employees the most outrageous perks.

Google gives employees free lunch or dinner and its headquarters has a bowling alley, bocce and basketball courts, barber shop, massage parlour and laundromat. Employees enjoy perks like massages and yoga, a play room, child care assistance and $15,000 tuition reimbursement.

SC Johnson & Son, the makers of household cleaning products, has an on-site employee concierge who will pick up groceries, shop for the best deals on car insurance, take your car in for service and stand in line for concert tickets.

Scripps Health gives tuition reimbursement, concierge services, on-site massages and pet insurance.

This all sounds great and it is certainly clever PR for those companies. But I wonder if it’s just a ploy to get people to spend more time at work.

Sorry if I sound like an old Scrooge but my feeling is that perks are not all that they are cracked up to be.

Federal politicians are regularly flogged over their living away from home allowances, ComCars, gold cards and meaningless overseas study trips. But none of these could compensate your correspondent for having to live for half a year in Canberra, spending your days shouting at people across a soulless chamber, and waiting for the moment you get a few seconds on the 6pm news.

WADR is also not a fan of some business perks such as corporate boxes at sporting venues.

I’ve only been invited once to a corporate box at the footy. This perk consisted of eating pub food dressed up as something better, drinking warm chardonnay and being stuck in conversation with someone who wanted to sell my house. Meanwhile, outside the goldfish bowl the real footy fans were drinking beer, eating meat pies that had been prepared in Hades and generally having fun. No, they weren’t Carlton supporters.

Many people dream of having a job where there are lots of perks. I say be careful what you wish for.

Do you ever come across amusing incidents related to the law?
Then why not contribute to WADR? By email to edassist@liv.asn.au, by fax on 9607 9451 or by mail C/- LIJ, 470 Bourke Street, Melbourne 3000.

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