Employee Benefits 101


Whether you’re new to the job market, between jobs, or re-entering the workforce, you already have a lot on your mind. But while you’re figuring out which job, industry, company, and salary are right for you, take a few minutes  to consider a piece of the question many people overlook: employee benefits.

Benefits are one of the most important things to consider when you’re looking for the a job or evaluating an offer. Your assistance package is intended to help you stay healthy and financially obtain, and it’s a major part of your employer’s commitment to you. In fact, your benefits package could be worth 30% of your salary or more!
What are Employee Benefits?
Employee benefits are the compensation you receive from your employer in addition to your pay. There are dozens of types of benefits, but these are some of the most shared:

  • Paid time off such as vacation time, holidays, and sick time
  • Medical insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Vision insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Flexible spending accounts
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Retirement benefits such as a 401(k) plan and/or pension plan
  • Legal assistance plans
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Discount programs
  • Company cars

Who Gets Employee Benefits?
It’s up to each employer to decide which benefits they offer and, to some extent, who they offer benefits to. Most complete-time American workers have access to basic benefits such as paid time off, medical insurance, and a retirement plan. Part-time workers sometimes have access to benefits, but that’s much less shared.
Are Benefits Negotiable?
Benefits are definitely negotiable, and you should always include them in your evaluation of a job offer. If you ask the right questions, you may be able to get additional benefits that weren’t part of the original offer. If you can’t do that, you may be able to negotiate for more pay by comparing one company’s assistance package to that of another possible employer.
Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself (or a possible employer) when you’re looking at a job offer. Don’t settle for incomplete answers– as in any negotiation, the more information you have, the more successful you’ll be.
How big is the company? You should expect a larger assistance package from a larger employer, because large companies have more buying strength and their employees have a wider variety of needs. On-site day care, for example, is comparatively shared among large employers, but it’s very scarce among companies with fewer than 1000 employees.
however, very small employers (say, those with twenty employees or fewer) are often willing to add benefits for the sake of an individual employee. You might convince a very small employer to buy medical insurance for you, already if they don’t have a plan in place.
If you’re accepting a smaller benefits package by taking a job with a smaller company, ask for a higher salary or wage to compensate for what you’re giving up.

What plans do you qualify for? You may not be able to convince many employers to add a assistance plan just for you, but you can certainly ask for access to benefits that weren’t part of your original job offer.
Many companies list their assistance plans on their websites, already if the plans aren’t obtainable to every employee. Use the Internet to find out what benefits your possible employers offer, and find out which of those benefits they’re offering to you.
Federal laws require employers to be consistent in how they offer benefits, so you won’t have much luck asking for an exception to the eligibility rules. Your best bet is to find out if there are minor changes to your employment position which would give you access to additional benefits. A few additional hours worked per week or a slightly different title could make a big difference in your benefits.
How much will you pay for benefits? Depending on the employer and which plans you elect, your payroll deductions for benefits can be anywhere from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars per paycheck. Unless you want to risk a nasty surprise when you get your first check, be sure to find out in improvement what you’ll be paying.
This is another area where understanding your benefits can help you negotiate a higher salary. Try to get specific information about other employers in your area. If your possible employer expects you to pay more than average for your benefits, use that fact to your advantage.
If you’re comparing offers from two possible employers in the same industry and same area, you’ll probably find that their benefits are very similar. That’s because
companies who compete for employees don’t want their assistance packages to put them at a disadvantage. That doesn’t average that your cost for benefits will be the same at either company. Get information about employee contributions for benefits, not just a list of plans.
Will you be part of a union? Unions have much more strength to negotiate benefits than individual employees, but the trade-off for union members is that they have to take the union-negotiated assistance package “as is.” 
If you are in (or will be joining) a union, make sure you understand the benefits package you’ll be getting. If you want to make changes to it, you’ll need to speak to your union leadership and wait for the next round of contract negotiations.
No matter what sort of job you’re looking for or where you’re planning to work, understanding employee benefits will put you in position to get the best deal possible.

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