Outside of starting salaries, corporate cultures, and other work perks; employee benefits are something that all professionals must take into careful consideration when conducting a job search. Because there are so many different types of benefit plans, such as medical, life, retirement, and voluntary products out there, it can be difficult to put the total compensation offered by an employer into perspective. This is why it’s important to carefully evaluate the competitive employee benefits package and understand how they can best help you reach your personal health and financial needs.
As you traverse a job search, here are the most common elements that employee benefit plans include:
General Employee Benefit Coverage Limits
When considering the benefits offered by a new employer, think about the monthly or pay period costs that you will be responsible for and what the employer agrees to cover. Even if the premiums are deducted from your paycheck pre-tax, this can impact your annual salary and take home pay. Be sure that you understand how much of a cut this will be.
You’ll also want to note the annual out of pocket deductible, which could be as high as $10K per person for a high deductible health care plan until you know how much your insurance will actually pay medical costs. You will want to know when coverage dates start, when they end upon resignation, and if there are any penalties of waiting until the annual open enrollment period instead of upon hire.
If you have medical coverage currently, you may want to see if the job offer comes with a better plan or if you are better off waiting to utilize your annual out of pocket deductible this year. This can be especially important if you anticipate an expensive medical procedure coming up or the birth of a child.
Understand Medical and Voluntary Plan Rules
Each medical and voluntary plan will have its own special set of coverage and usage rules. There are also many different plan types, such as Health Maintenance Organizations and Preferred Provider Options. You may be able to use the same doctors and health care centers you have now if they are in network. But if they aren’t, you may be asked to choose a new primary care provider and switch to a new health care network.
Keep in mind that some plans may be limited in the types of services offered, such as routine care vs. mental health care. Some plans offer free preventative care to cover things like mammograms, flu shots, and more. Not all plans include access to discounted prescription benefits. Before you accept these benefits, consult with the human resource director to get more information on plan limitations, and rules.
Get Information on Company Matched Retirement Plans
When deciding on taking a job or not, understanding if the company offers any kind of financial planning benefits like a retirement savings plan, stock investments, disability insurance, and other forms of financial protection. Some companies match employee donations dollar-for-dollar (free money!), while others put a portion of the company earnings into a special account for each employee.
Consider the percentage requirements for retirement plans and if this is voluntary or a mandatory program. Some companies require that all employees participate in retirement savings plans, deducting as much as 5 percent of the gross salary each month to fund this. Also, in your job search, be mindful of how much the company matches contributions and what the cut-off is.
Learn About the Paid Time Off Benefits
Most companies want to maintain a healthy and happy workforce, so outside of regular medical benefits, they will offer additional perks such as generous paid time off policies. This is something you should look at to see if you have to wait to use this benefit or if the paid days off are immediately available to you. Consider also if you will have any special needs for time off this year, such as a pre-scheduled vacation or taking maternity leave, before accepting a job offer.
A word to the wise — be sure to measure any benefits offered by a potential new company against those offered by your spouse’s plan. You may be better off switching over to that plan due to costs or coverage benefits.