Benefits applies to positive aspects of employment that are not salary. Consumer reports estimates that only 80.6% of total compensation in the U.S. goes to wages and salaries. The purpose of the benefits is to increase the economic security of employees. Benefits can include, but are not limited to: (employer-provided or employer-paid) housing, group insurance (health, dental, life etc.), disability income protection, retirement benefits, daycare, tuition reimbursement, sick leave, vacation (paid and non-paid), social security, profit sharing, funding of education, relocation assistance, health and dependent care flexible spending accounts, retirement benefit plans (pension, 401(k), 403(b)), group-term life and long term care insurance plans, legal assistance plans, child care benefits, transportation benefits, and many other miscellaneous employee discounts like movies and theme park tickets, wellness programs, discounted shopping, hotels and resorts, etc. The bigger the company, the more likely it is that benefits exist.
"Perks" refer to benefits of a more discretionary nature. They can be given to employees who are doing notably well or have seniority. Common perks are company cars, hotel stays, free refreshments, leisure activities on work time (golf, etc.), stationery, allowances for lunch, and—when multiple choices exist—first choice of such things as job assignments and vacation scheduling. They may also be given first chance at job promotions when vacancies exist.
Where an employee exchanges (cash) wages for some other form of benefit, this is generally referred to as a 'salary sacrifice' arrangement and is fairly unusual.
Benefits are often excluded from the employee's gross income and are therefore untaxed. Some function as tax shelters (for example, flexible spending accounts, 401(k)'s, 403(b)'s). Fringe benefits are also thought of as the costs of keeping employees other than salary.
For a guide to getting the most out of your benefits, consult Consumer Reports.
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