In Kind Benefits as Partial Payment of Wages: A review of laws around the world

In kind benefits are an important part of remuneration for many workers around the world. Yet, how to value in kind benefits as partial payment of wages is controversial. Richard Anker and Nicole Anker review the national laws in 162 countries to understand when these benefits can legally be considered a partial payment of wages, how the monetary value of these benefits is determined and what restrictions countries impose regarding inclusion of these benefits as partial payment of wages. This paper develops guidelines for valuing in kind benefits in living wage studies so that the gap between prevailing wages and a living wage can be determined.

Abstract

In kind benefits are an important part of remuneration for many workers around the world. Yet, how to value in kind benefits as partial payment of wages is controversial. Employers think that it is only fair that they get credit for something that is costly to them and of value to workers. Workers, on the other hand, feel that employers often abuse how they value in kind benefits as well as that in kind benefits unfairly limit their ability to spend their earnings as they see fit. The motivation for this paper was to develop guidelines for valuing in kind benefits as partial payment of wages in living wage studies so that the gap between prevailing wages and a living wage could be determined. Thus, this paper provides important input to the recently published book Living Wages around the World: Manual for measurement (Edward Elgar Publishing) and living wage studies being done for the Global Living Wage Coalition with whom the authors of this paper are working closely. This paper reviews national laws in 162 countries concerning in kind benefits to understand circumstances when in kind benefits can legally be considered as partial payment of wages, how the monetary value of in kind benefits is determined under national laws, and restrictions that countries impose regarding inclusion of in kind benefits as partial payment of wages. This review of national laws is supplemented by a review of how in kind benefits are treated in International Labor Organization conventions and recommendations, laws and regulations of the federal government and five states in the United States, and collective bargaining agreements of six developing countries. This review is believed to be the most comprehensive review of national laws concerned with in kind benefits as partial payment of wages. Issues covered include: (i) when in kind benefits as partial payment of wages are allowed only in certain industries, occupations, or circumstances, (ii) types of in kind benefits that are allowed to be considered as partial payment of wages, (iii) methods used to value in kind benefits, (iv) when in kind benefits need to meet minimum standards to be considered as partial payment of wages, (v) ceilings countries place on the amount or percentage of pay that can be deducted from wages for in kind benefits, (vi) whether employers are allowed to reduce the cash wage to below the minimum wage when they provide in kind benefits, and (vii) whether employees have to agree (and if so if this needs to be in writing) before an in kind benefit can be considered as partial payment of wages.

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