Cash is king but big wheels still put parking space high on list of perks

THEY enjoy big salaries and almost always have their own parking space, but what perks really count for senior executives?

''Benefits aren't what people take a job for, but in a very competitive market they can be what gets you over the line,'' said Christine Deveney, a principal in the executive remuneration division at Mercer, the international HR advisory firm. ''They show people you are actively looking after them.''

Large bonuses and free car spaces are just some of the ways of showing hardworking execs they're being looked after.

And while most companies try to keep the perks on offer within guidelines, there is always wiggle room for valuable new hires savvy enough to negotiate their own terms, Deveney said. So what are the ''extras'' most in demand?

1. Money

More cash - or the chance to acquire some, in the form of an annual bonus, shares or options - will always be the biggest lure for big earners, said Kym Quick, the chief executive of Clarius, the executive headhunters.

''There's very little you can actually offer people that's very creative, especially for listed companies,'' Quick said. ''Companies don't have the capacity to pick up the tab for other things like school fees, because of fringe benefits tax.''

2. Holidays

Extra annual leave, or the chance to ''buy'' some, is high on the wish list for many. An extra week a year comes standard for those at account-director level and above at Sydney research house Millward Brown.

Senior staff also have the option to ''buy'' an extra two weeks - giving them seven in total - enough for an extended family holiday to Europe.

3. Parking space

Hen's teeth - seen one lately? CBD carparks are almost as rare a commodity but senior executives expect that a space will be found for them, preferably under the building in which they work. In some Australian cities, especially where public transport is limited, car spaces have an (off-) street value of anything up to $10,000 a year - a relative snip in the scheme of a $500,000 package - but one which employers are expected to wear. ''[Senior executives] would have an expectation of getting that - they'd be shocked if the employer was not offering it,'' the executive headhunter Geoff Blades said.

4. Flexibility

Demarcating office and home life has become increasingly difficult for many executives whose working day doesn't compress into a neat 9-to-5 window. Being allowed to work from home some of the time can help redress work/life imbalance, and more senior folk are demanding the right to do so be written into their contracts, for at least one day of the working week.

Other firms go further again by allowing senior staff to choose not only when they'll do their hours but also from which city and country. Technology vendor Citrix allows senior executives to choose their location within the Asia-Pacific region, rather than compelling them to move their family to the firm's Hong Kong hub.

5. Relocation

For those senior executives who can't swing a deal working out of the virtual office, taking a new job can mean moving to a new city or country. Picking up the tab to the tune of up to $40,000 for relocating staff is standard practice for most corporates, but when it comes to very senior hires, the bill can balloon to as much as $200,000 for an interstate move.

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This article Cash is king but big wheels still put parking space high on list of perks was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald.