What is a perk? Definition and examples

A perk is a desirable extra that comes with a position or status, as in “perks of the job.” The term is an altered, shortened version of perquisite. Some organizations distinguish between perks and benefits.

father with baby as example of parental leave perk

Paid parental leave is a common perk that employers offer. Image pixabay.

Cambridge Dictionary describe perk as “an advantage or extra thing, such as money or goods, which you are given for doing your job.” They class the word as a business term.

According to Merriam Webster, the term is short for perquisite, which comes from the Middle English for “property acquired by means other than inheritance.” The origin is perquirere, which is the Latin for “to search for thoroughly.”

Examples of perks

Working either as a volunteer or for a wage often comes with desirable extras. The following sentences list some examples:

Volunteering with Table Tennis England comes with several perks. One of these is the opportunity to win free tickets to special events.

Employees of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford enjoy a subsidized canteen with good food and a superb view of the river Avon.

Outdoor apparel company Patagonia, Inc. offer their employees environmental internships. This is in line with their commitment to sustainability.

A pension is one of the perks that presidents of the United States receive when they retire. Continued secret service protection is another.

Benefits and perks: Is there a difference?

Some organizations distinguish between benefits and perks. However, a quick browse of the Internet also reveals that there is no hard and fast rule. In many cases, the terms appear to be interchangeable.

Where a distinction occurs, it is in that benefit is more tightly defined. In support of this, some refer to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics definition. This states that benefits are “[n]onwage compensation provided to employees.” The Bureau goes on to refer to five categories of benefit:

  • Paid leave: including vacations, holidays, sick leave
  • Supplementary pay: for example, overtime and shift premiums
  • Retirement plans
  • Insurance, including health, life, and disability insurance
  • Legally-required benefits, such as Medicare and workers’ compensation

‘Nice to have additions’

Robert Half (RH) distinguish between benefits and perks. The global human resource consultancy define the latter as “nice-to-have additions to an employee’s salary and benefits package.” These additions are the “icing on the cake” that can sway employees to value one employer more than another.

According to RH, the five most common perks that employers offer are:

  • Flexible scheduling and telecommuting
  • Paid parental leave
  • Discounts for employees, from 5% off coffees-to-go to big ticket items
  • Free or subsidized food and beverage
  • Paid time off for volunteering

There also appears to be a rise in employers offering wellness programs. These include financial as well as physical wellness and stress management. The support ranges from part to full payment of costs.

RH conclude that “a strong benefits and perks package is crucial for keeping your best people around.”