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Inflation beaters? How work perks can help your budget

Business / news
Inflation beaters? How work perks can help your budget
Kiwibank agile coach Loren Rose Graafland got back to work much faster than she expected.

Loren Rose Graafland thought once she had her first baby she would take a chunk of time off work and build her family. 

In reality, she returned to work at Kiwibank in January this year, one of many New Zealand workers grappling with the rising cost of living and with a hole in her earnings after taking maternity leave.

It wasn’t just the regular pay packet that helped Rose Graafland make the choice to return to work. She says the benefits offered by her employer were the trigger to head back to work - although not straight to the office.

She’s working three-days-a-week, with one day in the office which she says is the “best of both worlds”. The flexibility of being able to come back only three days and with two at home was very attractive, Rose Graafland says.

Kiwibank topped up her government-paid parental leave to her full salary for 26 weeks while she was off and it paid a one-off baby bonus of $1000 to new parents.

Now that Rose Graafland is back working she is eligible for four-weeks paid baby bonus leave from the bank which she can use in the year after returning to work. Through her employer she also has Southern Cross health insurance and life insurance along with serious illness insurance, with the option of adding family members to her health insurance at a discounted rate.

One of the best staff perks for working at a bank is lower interest rates. Rose Graafland doesn’t currently have her mortgage with Kiwibank, but says she could take advantage of this staff benefit when her home loan is up for renewal.

“They've also recently introduced a supportive leave policy to cover things like sickness, bereavement, things like that, which in these winter months has been invaluable. We pick up all kinds of germs at daycare, so not to potentially use up all your sick leave, or having to take unpaid leave, to care for your child is really important,” Rose Graafland says.

In an environment where everything is getting more expensive, anything you don’t have to pay for is a win and employers are recognising benefits are desirable to entice new recruits or ensure workers come back.

A Goldman Sachs report from June says in an inflationary environment a key tool for employers to use is upgrading compensation and also benefits.

It says inflationary pressures are likely to remain and its corporate partners are beginning to implement benefit solutions to "help employees gain increased clarity and confidence in their financial lives". Through these optimised benefits, employers can demonstrate they understand the pressure employees are facing in the current climate, it says.

We can already see the impact of the pandemic on our household finances.

Statistics NZ March quarter data showed New Zealanders spent nearly every dollar of their income, and the ratio of saving to disposable income approached zero. Household net worth also fell in the March quarter, dropping by $42.3 billion or 1.7%.

Petrol prices are high, grocery prices have leapt and the most recent consumer price index inflation number landed at a 32-year high of 7.3% for the year to June.

Greg Thompson, national director of business advisory services and tax at Grant Thornton, says the buzz around benefits is tied to retaining workers in an inflationary environment.

“You maybe haven’t done [benefits] before because it was a pain, dealing with fringe benefits tax and the different tax rates and things like that. But now employers might be thinking, ‘actually, what needs to be done?’”

Fringe benefit tax is levied where a worker gets a benefit from their employer like use of a work vehicle when they’re not working. That cost is paid by the employer, and fringe benefit tax takes in a decent wedge of tax income, more than $607 million in the year to June 2021, with that predicted to rise for the year ended 2022.

Accountant Terry Baucher says two key work benefits for workers are a car and parking. 

“In an inflationary environment those two are really handy. But putting a value on it is really difficult.”

What is the value of a free work car, or parking? Parking is very tricky to quantify, Baucher says, but the Automobile Association has a guide which steers you in the right direction for your free wheels. It estimates the cost of running a small car for a year is $5000 and if that small car runs for about 14,000 kilometers a year your fuel bill could be about $2100 annually. So it’s a decent saving if you don’t already own a car and have that sunk cost, to have a work one for your use. Note: this AA article was written in November 2021.

But there are other benefits which aren’t taxed. 

For example, staff at supermarkets get a discount to shop in store. Countdown offers its workers a 5% discount when they shop where they work, and a further 5% discount on all fresh and own-brand products. A spokesperson for the supermarket says it often hears from its workers about how much they value the discount, "especially given the inflationary environment we are in".

Foodstuffs says it doesn’t have blanket staff in-store discounts due to its co-operative structure but those who are directty employed by the corporate Foodstuffs business get benefits including private healthcare, discounts on things like fuel and gym memberships, training and education programmes, free parking and subsidised cafes.

Thompson says because these discounts take the cost back to wholesale they aren’t captured by fringe benefits tax.

The benefits are flowing thick and fast with even your streaming needs catered for. TVNZ now advertises on its job ads a binge perk, a new broadband and mobile benefit so you’ll will be able to work from anywhere "and be free to stream and binge watch with no limits”.

The state-owned broadcaster also offers new employees $350 to help set up a home office, a $350 annual wellbeing allowance and discounted Southern Cross health insurance.

Bonita McCarthy, head of reward, property and HR operations at Vodafone, says benefits are an integral part of rewarding employees, retaining its team and attracting new talent.

The telco offers its staff fully paid health insurance, sick and bereavement leave from when an employee starts and higher KiwiSaver employer contribution rates and generous parental leave.

“Benefits will only achieve this intent if they are valued by employees, so earlier this year we asked our people whether our current offerings were still fit for purpose. As a result of this feedback, we’re looking to co-create a new approach to benefits that will offer greater choice for employees, which aligns with our promise of freedom.”

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From what I'm seeing the upsides here seems to be the result of working for a huge corporate more than anything else. For most smaller employers looking to offer 'perks', there's fewer options that don't incur absurd levels of FBT.


Huge corporates, particularly the ones in the banking, retail and energy sectors, also have the financial resources to attract and retain talent with more perks.

This is a global phenomenon where corporations in well-placed sectors are enjoying bumper returns and probably expanding market share at the expense of smaller players. The latter does not apply in the NZ markets since small players hardly exist in well-placed sectors.


good of a bank that made $125,000,000 profit giving a $1000 baby boost to a tiny number of its employees ---   pretty sure that most cafes, healthcare providers, fruit growers would be delighted to offer that and a lot more if they were making $125 million a year profit !!! 

For context -- ACC just gave all its healthcare providers a 2cents increase in mileage rates -- the first increase in almost 15 years -- 2 cents!   So healthcare companies have had to absorb all the increases in fuel, WOF, Insurances, servicing, tyres, brake pads etc -  for 15 years  and now we got 2 cents --  and are supposed to be able to offer more perks ... 

Its one thing for cafes, tourism or even some fruit growers to go under -- hugely damaging for employees -- but if your older adult, healthcare and homecare services go ---  then what! -- Currently over 1000 empty older adult beds in NZ down to lack of staffing -- in many cases rest home residents have been sent back home to families who simply have neither the space or ability to cope --  

Its a crisis of epic proportions -- meanwhile we create over 1000 new backroom jobs at health NZ -- but not a single extra burse or doctor role ......  yep thats the actual health reform FACT!  ps  who do you think will fill those 1000 roles --  yes thats right exhausted frontline managers desperate to get out of their current hugely overworked overstressed roles on the coalface! 



ACC NZ, under its current constitution at least, carries itself as a financial services company. We used to joke about ACC being a two-tiered workplace during my consulting days going back a few years.

The upper tier were a small yet powerful set of corporate moneymakers: actuaries, fund managers, forensic accountants, equity analysts, contract managers, etc.

The lower tier were the majority of hired staff who looked after the plebes of NZ, or at least were supposed to but had little backing from the senior leadership who overwhelmingly favoured the upper tier.

I guess ACC has upped the ante ever since.


WFH, at least for 2-3 days a week, is one of the best 'inflation beaters'. Big savings on transport costs, and less temptation in terms of eating out and coffees. 


Two of my kids changed jobs this year at least in part for wfh flexibility.  Another would be in great position to wfh but managers say NO. Probably won't be there long. Note the new jobs came with substantial pay rises as well. Lower costs higher pay and both couples could happily survive on one income despite mortgage and kids.


Large corporates are grappling with the best approach to WFH. I wouldn't be surprised to see more corporates demanding staff return back to the office 4 or 5 days a week. The big chiefs love to see the office full, regardless of productivity. These same big chiefs are happy to change their business models so that there is as little face to face service offered to customers - but apparently staff need to work face to face to be "collaborative" and "productive".  


It depends...that makes WFH flexibility a source of competitive advantage for companies who offer it. Why would staff choose to work for management stuck in its old ways, when they can get better working conditions elsewhere?


The main benefit of perks that gets taxed to the employer and not yourself is the fact that WFF does not abate.


How long until IRD decides this WFH thing is a fringe benefit that we should be taxed? Any punts?

My work says there should be no allowances for heating, power etc for WFH because we're saving on public transport. Given my commute cost is $13 per day, that checks out, but for people closer to work, the benefits of not paying for transport may be outweighed by the aforementioned costs.


got to luagh --  i had an email from one of my teams --  moaning that they were using their own toilet paper and coffee and asking about perks as other companies are doing all of them --( reality one company does one thing - another company does another etc -- in their heads every company does everything else)    They wanted compensation and free coffee cards etc =  This is s community team that travels from client to client providign home supports -- and gets paid for the travel time --  they have a company vehicle and home is considered their base to save them driving to the office each day to collect a vehicle --  so although not technically or for FBT purposes a commute vehicle -- in essence it is --  but they are missing out on the perk of free nescafe and toilet paper that the residential staff get  who all commute to the facilities each day on their own $$  -   Ps these staff who were not able to work during the lockdowns as some of these healthcare services were not deemed essential -- all got paid 100% of their wage by us during the lockdowns -- and 100% if they had ot isolate because of a family member beign positive - !     

If negotiations dont go well -- they will be driving to the office every day to collect their vehicles -- where they can shit for free the free nescafe we will provide them to make up for the $100 a week they will pay in fuel costs to get there ......  it will end badly! 



It's almost like your workplace is dictating how you should spend your net pay.

What's it to them how much your commute would theoretically cost?