Questions to Ask About Employee Benefit Packages

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After rounds of interviews, you have a job offer on the table. The position is exactly what you’re looking for, the salary is more than you expected, and you’re ready to accept. Before you say "yes," consider the employee benefits package.

Employment benefits can comprise 30% or more of your total compensation, so it's important to know what will be included in your coverage. Here’s how to get the benefits information you need.

Investigate Benefits Coverage

It is much better to be fully informed before you accept a position than it is to have an unpleasant surprise later on. For example, if you're not married and want to cover your partner, will your health insurance plan insure them? Perhaps, if domestic partner coverage is provided and if you meet the requirements. Some employers or insurance companies require unmarried domestic partners to file an affidavit through their human resources department.

Health Insurance

Employer-provided insurance plans can have waiting periods of up to 90 days. So, if you're leaving one job for another, you may need interim coverage. If you’re leaving a covered employer, you can opt to continue your health care coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Or, you can purchase a policy through your state’s health insurance marketplace via HealthCare.gov

Losing health insurance coverage for any reason is considered a qualifying life event under the Affordable Care Act. This means that you can buy health insurance at any time and not just during the annual open enrollment period.

Individual and Family Sick Leave

When you have small children or elderly parents or are otherwise a caregiver, you will need to know how generous the sick time policy is. Some employers provide sick leave when either you or a family member is sick and allow time off for doctor's visits. Others aren't as flexible.

Holiday Pay

Some companies provide time-off for holidays, others expect you to work. If you are required to work on a holiday, you may or may not be paid extra. It depends on the organization you work for.

Vacation Pay

Vacation leave also varies depending on the organization you work for. Some employers offer a generous amount of vacation or flex time off; others don't.

Review Benefit Options

There are many different scenarios, as you can see, so it's important to review what benefit coverage is provided and to decide whether the employee benefits package is one that meets your needs.

A great salary isn't always going to be enough to compensate for an employee benefit plan that doesn't offer what you need.

In general, there are employee benefits questions you should ask about to ensure that your overall compensation plan is right for you and for your family. Also, ask specific questions based on your needs and on the criteria that are important to you.

Questions to Ask

  • Does the employee pay for health insurance coverage? If so, how much for individual coverage and/or family coverage? Is the premium deducted from my paycheck? How much is the deductible?
  • Can I review a summary of the health insurance plan options? What restrictions and limitations are there? What about pre-existing conditions? When does coverage begin?
  • How much sick time and vacation time are provided? Does the company offer paid holidays? When do benefits start to accrue?
  • What type of retirement plan is there? How much does the company contribute? Is life insurance provided?
  • Does the company offer short-term and long-term disability coverage?
  • Are there educational and training benefits? If so, are they available for my family, as well as for me?

Never ask these questions during the interview. Wait until you have a job offer to discuss employee benefits, either with human resources or the person who is offering you the job.

Next, take some time to review the benefit plans so you can make an educated decision based on the benefits information provided by your prospective employer.

How to Make Your Decision

  • Review the benefits offered. Are the programs what you need?
  • What benefit costs are you responsible for paying? How much will this cost on an annual basis?
  • If you have a family, is the workplace family-friendly? Regardless of whether you have caregiving responsibilities, will the company culture support your work-life balance? 

Finally, make a decision on whether to accept the position based upon the entire compensation plan, including salary, fringe benefits, and additional perks that may be offered or negotiated.

That way, you're accepting or rejecting the job based on overall compensation rather than just one facet of it. And, most importantly, you won't have any unexpected costs or benefits issues when it might be too late to do anything about it.