Perks have existed in the English labour market as far back as the 12th century, where manorial records document tenants who completed their obligatory labour being given sheaves of corn as a perk. By the 17th century, Samuel Pepys (MP and diarist) was working for the Navy in a role where perks traditionally made the officeholder’s fortune. In many cases, the office itself was poorly paid, but it was attractive for the perks it provided.
These arrangements existed within a relatively stable social context, where people shared an expectation about what was appropriate behaviour. The modern grey area of perks is anything but transparent, and these fuzzy boundaries lead to claims of corruption and scandal. And perks will often need to be counted into ‘pay’ when considering inequality issues, so they can aggravate problems in pay structures.
Who among us has a way of justifying any of this within established pay scales? Has the time come to formally abolish the perk?
If we feel people can legitimately command a high wage or package, why not put that on the table and make our pay systems transparent? Let’s make it plain to everyone, however senior, what expenses can and can’t be claimed, and stop using ‘expenses’ as a hidden part of pay.
Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy. Tel: 08452 303050 Fax: 08452 303060 Website : www.irenicon.co.uk. You can follow Annabel on twitter – http://twitter.com/AnnabelKaye