Questions to Ask About Employee Benefit Packages

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You have interviewed with a company where the position sounds great, the salary is more than you expected, and the job offer is on the table. Before you say "yes" though, it's important to consider the employee benefits package. Employment benefits can comprise 40%, or even more, of your total compensation package, so it's important to know exactly what benefits you will be provided with and to get enough benefit information to ensure that the coverage is what 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 him or her? Perhaps, if domestic partner coverage is provided. However, some plans only cover same-sex partners, not opposite-sex partners. Even though this sounds discriminatory, and it's certainly not fair, a federal court has ruled that it's legal.

Employer-provided insurance plans can have waiting periods of up to 90 days. So, if you or anyone in your family, have health issues, you will need to inquire about when coverage would go into effect. If you're leaving one job for another, you will need interim coverage, most likely through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

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 yourself or a family member is sick and allow time off for doctor's visits. Others aren't as flexible.

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.

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.

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 restricts and limitations are there? What about pre-existing conditions? When does coverage begin?
  • How much sick time, vacation time, and holidays are provided. When do benefits start to accrue?
  • What type of pension 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 are available for my family, as well as for me?

One important caveat is never to 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.

Making a 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?

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.