Understanding Your Employee Benefits

Whether you’re just starting out at a job or have been there a while, there’s one thing that you should know: your employee benefits. Your employee benefits add so much value to your compensation. But if you don’t understand your employee benefits, you might not get the most out of what they offer. Here’s a quick guide to understanding your benefits at work.

Understanding Your Employee Benefits

What does it cover?

When you start a new job, you’re likely going to get a ton of paperwork related to your employee benefits. If you’ve been at the job a while, you might have put all that paperwork away and not really looked at it since. But it pays to take a look and review your paperwork!

You want to know exactly what your employee benefits cover. Employers offer different benefits. Here are some things that you want to see if your employer offers:

  • Health insurance

  • Dental coverage

  • Vision coverage

  • Disability insurance

  • Sick leave

  • Vacation time

  • 401(k)

  • Pension benefits

  • Tuition reimbursement

  • Life Insurance

All of these things can add to the overall compensation of your job. You want to know exactly what your job covers so you don’t miss out on any free money.

When does it begin?

You also want to know when your employee benefits begin. Many employers have a 90-day probation period before benefits are available to the employee. This is important to note, especially when it comes to understanding health insurance.

If you’re without health insurance for three months and get sick, what will you do? What can you do?

If you don’t have the information on your employee benefits or don’t know when they will begin, talk to the Human Resources professional in your office. They should be able to offer this information and answer any questions you might have. If they can’t answer the question, they should be able to lead you in the right direction.  

Understanding health insurance

There have been so many changes and there are so many plans, that understanding health insurance can be confusing. Typically, you can choose from an HMO or PPO.

According to MedMutual.com, “When it comes to health insurance, you have your choice of several plan types. Two you’ve probably heard of are a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO). Generally speaking, the difference between HMO and PPO plans includes the size of the plan network, ability to see specialists, plan costs, and coverage for out-of-network services.”

Using an HMO, you must work with care providers in a specific network. PPO plans offer more flexibility. There are pros and cons, so consider if you have someone you like going to currently. Are they under the HMO plan or will you need a PPO to go to your desired doctor?

Seeing a doctor you like is key, so you want a plan that can support that. When you have a health insurance plan in place, you want to know what your co-pay will be for standard things like a doctor’s visit or getting blood work. You also want to know what are your maximum out-of-pocket costs.

You also want to know your health insurance deductible. According to HealthCare.gov a deductible is, “the amount you pay for covered health care services before your insurance plan starts to pay. With a $2,000 deductible, for example, you pay the first $2,000 of covered services yourself. After you pay your deductible, you usually pay only a copayment or coinsurance for covered services. Your insurance company pays the rest.”

When it comes to understanding health insurance, it’s crucial to your know health insurance deductible. You’ll want to have that amount in an emergency fund, just in case!

Disability coverage

If something were to happen to you, you want to know if you’re covered by your job or not. Your employer might offer disability coverage. You should understand if that’s offered or not and how much it covers. You might want additional coverage outside of your employer if the plan doesn’t cover that much or if there’s no coverage at all.

Life insurance

Another employee benefit is life insurance. Life insurance is an amount of money that is paid upon death to specific beneficiaries. So, let’s say you were to pass away. If you name your husband or mom your beneficiary, they’ll get the life insurance money in the event of death.

If you’re the main breadwinner or sole income earner, life insurance is key to protect your family. Even if you’re single, it can help with burial costs and anything else related in the event of death. Not fun stuff to think about it, but it’s best to be prepared!

For life insurance, know how much it is for. Your employer may offer a small sum of money for life insurance that may not suit your family. In that case, you may need additional coverage to make sure costs are covered.

Tuition reimbursement or student loan benefits

Some employers will pay you to go back to school. The rising cost of education makes this benefit attractive. So ask your employer about tuition reimbursement or paid educational opportunities.

Additionally, your employer may offer student loan benefits as well where they pay a portion of your student loan debt. If that’s the case, see how you can get the process started.

What to do checklist

So if you’re trying to figure out your employee benefits and are having difficulty understanding health insurance and other benefits, here’s a quick checklist:

  1. Check health insurance options: HMO or PPO?

  2. Know health insurance deductible

  3. Know health insurance copay

  4. Is there a 401(k) match? If so, how much?

  5. How many vacation days are paid?

  6. How many sick days are paid?

  7. Do you have access to vision, dental and disability coverage?

  8. Is there tuition reimbursement or student loan payment benefits? If so, how much?

  9. Is there a life insurance policy? If so, how much?

  10. When do benefits begin?

  11. Are there any additional costs on your part?

Getting started with that can help you understand what is covered and what is not. You want to get the most out of those employee benefits, so start by knowing what options you have available.