Benefit Packages at Work

By: Sarah Nelson and Brittani Field

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Introduction to Benefit Packages at Work:

A big portion of an employer's compensation cost is the employee benefits. These benefits are important tools in recruiting and retaining employees. A good benefits package is something you need to look at before taking a job.

Employee benefits are required by law for employers to provide their employees. These benefits are available to the employees and their family that can include healthcare insurance, vision care, dental insurance, life insurance, paid vacation leave, sick leave, personal leave, child care, fitness, a retirement plan, and other benefits.

It is important for you to understand what benefits you currently have and not wait until you need to use them.
Employee Benefits News

Two Categories of Employee Benefits:

In today's work environment the two broad categories of benefits offered by employers are:
  • Mandated Benefits: Benefits required by law.
    • Social Security
    • Unemployment Insurance
    • Workers Compensation
  • Optional Benefits: Benefits that most employers choose to offer their employees.
    • Heath Care Insurance
    • Disability Insurance
    • Life Insurance
    • Retirement/Pension Plans
    • Flexible Compensation
    • Paid Leave/Vacation Time
    • and more


Before Accepting a Job:

Before you accept a job, no matter how good it may seem, you need to review the benefits package.

Some questions you need to ask yourself before accepting a job is:
  • Do the benefits offer what you need?
  • Are you responsible for paying for some of the benefits and how much does it cost?
  • Is the work place family friendly, if you have a family?

Some questions you need to ask your employer before accepting a job is:
  • Is health insurance coverage payed by the employee? If there is, then how much for family coverage and/or individual coverage? Is the health insurance premium deducted from my paycheck, and how much is the deducible?
  • Is the a health insurance plan option summary available for viewing? Are there any restrictions and limitations? Are there conditions that are pre-existing? The coverage begins when?
  • How much provided time is there for sick time, vacation time, and holidays? When do the benefits begin to accumulate and when can they be received?
  • What are the different types of pension plans? The company contributes what amount? Is there a provision of life insurance?
  • Is there an offering of disability coverage, both long term and short-term?
  • Are there benefits for training and education? Also, is myself and my family available for them?
  • Is the plan mandatory?

*Wait until you have a job offer before you discuss employee benefits, never ask these questions during the interview. After you are offered the job you can talk about employee benefits with the person who is offering you the job or Human Resources.

The percent of which benefits where considered "very important" to employees:
Employee Benefit
Percent Rating
Retirement Annuity (Pension Plan)
91%
Thrift / Savings Plan (401k / 403b)
89%
Employee Healthcare Benefits
89%
Retiree Healthcare Benefits
87%
Life Insurance
71%
Long-Term Care Insurance
63%
Health / Wellness Programs
53%
Flexible Spending Accounts
45%
Tele-work / Telecommuting
40%
Child Care Subsidies
31%

The percent of which benefits are most commonly offered in the workplace today:
Benefit Type
Employers Offering
Life Insurance
90%
Vacation Pay
77%
Holiday Pay
76%
Medical Care
71%
Retirement Plans
60%
Education Assistance Programs
49%
Non-Production Bonuses
46%
Employee Assistance Programs
40%
Healthcare Reimbursement Accounts
32%
Dependent Care Reimbursement Accounts
30%
Wellness Programs
23%
Job-Related Travel And Accident Insurance
22%
Employer Assistance For Childcare
15%
Fitness Centers
13%
Long Term Care Insurance
12%
Adoption Assistance
10%
Stock Options
8%
Subsidized Commuting
5%
Flexible Workplace
4%
Employer Provided Personal Computer
2%


Mandated Benefits:

  • Social Security:
    • Social Security can provide you, your spouse and other eligible members of your family with benefits.
      • Almost everyworker in America has Social Security as part of their retirement plan.
        • How do Retirement Plans work?:
          • When you work and pay Social Security taxes they give you back "credits", that apply towards your Social Security benefits.
          • You need 40 credits to retire, which can be accumulated through the number of years that you work.
          • If you stop work before you have the required amount of credits to qualify, they remain on your Social Security record. If you go back to work, you can add more credits towards qualification.
          • Retirement benefits cannot be payed until you have the required amount of credits.
        • What if you become disabled?
          • The Social Security Disability insurance program pays benefits to you and certain family members when you become disabled if you worked long enough and have paid Social Security taxes.
        • What happens when I die?
          • If you are working and paying into Social Security, some of the Social Security taxes you pay goes toward survivors insurance.
          • When you die, members of your family could be eligible for benefits based on your earnings.
    • Learn more about Social Security
  • Unemployment Insurance:
    • When a worker becomes unemployed through not fault of their own and meets certain requirements they can file for unemployment benefits.
      • The purpose is to provide assistance to the unemployed worker, their family and the business community.
      • The workers past employers will be charged for the benefits.
    • Learn more about Unemployment Benefits
  • Workers Compensation:
    • When a worker becomes injured in the course of employment Workers Compensation is a form on insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to the employee.This is in exchange for the employee waving his right to sue their employer for wrongful negligence.
        • This is known as "the compensation bargain."
      • Different jurisdictions have different plans.
        • Provisions can be made in place of wages for weekly payments. (form of disability insurance)
        • Compensation for economic loss
        • Reimbursement or payment of medical and other expenses. (form of health insurance)
        • Benefits that are payable to the dependents in case of worker being killed during employment. (form of life insurance)
      • Learn more about Workers Compensation

Optional Benefits:

  • Heath Care Insurance:
    • Health insurance protects you and your family from being put in a financial crises in the result of illness and accidents.
      • Getting Health Insurance thought your employer has many benefits.
      • When you get insurance thought your employer you will have "group" health insurance.
        • Who pays?:
          • The monthly premiums, that many or may not cover the full cost, are taken out of your paycheck each month.
          • To make it more affordable for you sometimes the employer will voluntarily pay a portion of the monthly premium.
        • How does group health insurance work?:
          • Every year your employer will offer an "open enrollment" for a plan.
          • You can include children up to age 25 and your spouse in they are in school.
          • Every month the premiums come out of your paycheck.
        • Why should I get insurance through my employer?:
          • It is significantly cheaper to go though your employer than get a health care insurance plan on the open market.
        • What is COBRA?:
            • COBRA stands for:
                • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act
          • What can COBRA do for me?:
            • For a limited amount of time under certain circumstances, such as involuntary or voluntarily job loss, reduced work hours, tradition between jobs, divorce, death, and other life events employees and their families who might have lost their health benefits can continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan.
              • Employers with 20 or more employees are usually required to offer COBRA coverage and to notify their employees of the availability of such coverage.
          • Learn more about COBRA
        • What is HIPAA?
            • HIPAA stands for
              • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
          • What can HIPAA do for me?
            • HIPAA provides protection for people who lose their jobs and their health coverage.
              • For health coverage that is insured, HIPAA may be complemented by State laws that offer additional protections.
          • Learn more about HIPAA
        • Types of Group Insurance:
          • HMO: You can see only certain doctors. This the least expensive plan and you pay a co-pay.
          • PPO: You can see a wide range of doctors. A more expensive plan and you pay a co-pay.
          • Indemnity Plan: You can choose any doctor. This is the most expensive plan and you pay a co-pay and 20% of the bill.
          • How to choose the plan that is right for you.
  • Disability Insurance:
    • Does your employer offer a Short-Term Disability plan (STD) or Long-Term Disability (LTD) benefit plan?
      • People who work and have disabling medical conditions, such as arthritis, must be attentive to the details of their benefits.
        • STD: When you are disabled from work through injury, illness, or the birth of a child for a three to six months short-term disability, or sick leave, starts as soon as you are unable to work.
        • LTD: After the short term disability expires, the long-term disability policy pays you a percentage of your salary, usually 50 to 60 percent, depending on your policy. You will then receive benefits for two to five years or until you turn 65.
      • Learn more about Disability Insurance
      • How much Disability Insurance should I buy?
  • Life Insurance:
    • Life Insurance protects you and you family is anything happens to you if you die.
      • Do I need life insurance?
        • You only need it if people are depending on you.
          • Two types of life insurance:
            • Term: You generally pay premiums on a monthly or annual basis and your family is protected for that "term". Term is less expensive.
            • Whole-Life: Offers level premiums and life insurance protection for as long as you live, provided that premiums are paid as required to keep the policy in force. Whole-life is more expensive but forces you to save.
      • Learn more about Life Insurance
      • How to choose the right Life Insurance
  • Retirement/Pension Plans:
    • Pension Plan:
      • A type of retirement plan.
      • Usually tax exempt.
      • For the employers future benefits the employer makes contributions toward a set aside fund.
      • So the employee can receive benefits when they retire, this pool of funds is invested on the employees behalf.
      • Two types of pension plans:
        • Defined-Benefit plans: The employer guarantees that the employee will receive a define amount of benefits.
          • This is regardless of performance of the underlying investment pool.
        • Defined-Contribution plans: The employer makes pre-defined contributions for the employee.
          • The investment's performance is was the employees final amount of benefits he will receive.
    • 401K:
      • A type of retirement savings account.
      • They are defined contribution plans.
        • The contributions are deducted from paychecks before taxes.
        • Then contributions are taxed when a withdrawal is made from the account.
        • Sometimes a portion of the employee's contribution may be matched by employer depending on the program.
    • Learn more about Retirement Plans
    • Types of Retirement Accounts
  • Flexible Compensation:
    • With the flexible compensation benefits, employees may establish spending reimbursement accounts for Health Care or Child Care.
    • The program not only allows employees to have a more personal choice in the benefits they choose; but it also allows employees to pay for those benefits with before-tax dollars rather than after-tax dollars.
  • Paid Leave/Vacation Time:
    • Many employers have gotten rid of "sick leave" and "vacation time" as employee benefits and have replaced them with "paid time off".
      • "Paid time off" is a bank of hours from which employees can draw from.
      • Usually every pay period employers credit additional hours to their employees "banks."
      • With a PTO plan, employees are usually given 30 days of paid time off.
    • The number of vacation days that are paid for as a function of how much time that has been spent with a company:

Length of Service

1 Year
3 Years
5 Years
10 Years
15 Years
20 Years
25 Years
Paid Vacation Time (Days)
8.9
11.1
13.6
16.2
17.8
18.6
19.3

"Benefit" Vocabulary and Acronyms:


AD&D - Accidental Death and Dismemberment
C.O.B - Coordination of Benefits
COPES - Coordinated Outpatient Education and Intervention Services
EAP - Employee Assistance Program
EBO - Employee Benefits Office
EOB - Explanation of Benefits
JBC - Joint Benefits Committee
LTD - Long-Term Disability
PCP - Primary Care Provider or Physician
PPO - Preferred Provider Organization
QSC - Qualified Status Change (a life event allowing a change to plan elections outside of the Open Enrollment period)
TIP - Traditional Indemnity Plan
UCR - Usual Customary and Reasonable