Do you have questions about your workplace benefits?
Well, you are not alone.
Many employees just like you have questions about how their benefits work and which ones they should enroll in.
Because of that, I put together this Definitive Guide to Workplace Benefits. It’s here to help you learn what you need to know before you select your benefits.
So, let’s get started.
What are Workplace Benefits?
Workplace benefits are also known as employee benefits.
Examples of workplace benefits are things like medical insurance, dental insurance, group life insurance or other insurance benefits.
These benefits are the insurance programs you typically enroll in at work when you first become eligible or at open enrollment time when you have to renew those benefits for the upcoming year.
Of course, the best workplace benefits are the ones your employer pays for. But keep in mind that your employer can also use it’s group buying power to get you special pricing and underwriting offers from insurance companies that you might not get otherwise. They might arrange these special offers instead of contributing to the cost of those benefits.
In addition to the benefits you enroll in, workplace benefits are also the things you don’t have to enroll in like vacation time, paid time off and sick pay to name a few examples.
Below, I walk you through the open enrollment process and the workplace benefits you’ll most commonly see during enrollment time.
Where appropriate, I also take the time to discuss personal insurance option available to you outside of work.
Now that you know what workplace benefits are, let’s talk about enrollment time.
Eligibility, Initial Enrollment, Open Enrollment and Qualifying Events
When you are first eligible for benefits, you’ll get the chance to enroll in your benefits. Once you have completed your initial enrollment, you have to re-enroll in most benefits at open enrollment time.
Depending on when you are hired, it’s entirely possible you might complete your initial enrollment and then have to turn right around a week or two later and complete open enrollment.
Enrollment opportunities are also opened up if you have a qualifying event like if you got married or had a child.
Let’s talk about what to look for before you enroll in your benefits.
Getting enrollment information
Before you enroll in your benefits, most companies will provide you with some information. Here’s how that information might be provided:
- Benefit guide
- Open enrollment meetings
- Announcements via email or company intranet
- Face to face benefit counselors
- Self enrollment platforms
You’ll want to pay close attention to any meeting times and enrollment deadlines. If you miss your enrollment deadline, you’ll be out of luck until next year unless you have a qualifying event that allows you to make a change.
You’ll also want to make note of any changes in the benefits from the prior plan year.
Next, let’s start breaking down the types of benefits you’ll have to choose from.
Health Insurance Benefits, Wellness Programs & Other Services
Health insurance pays for covered medical expenses, while other wellness programs promote and treat your health and well being.
- Types of medical insurance plans
- Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
- Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
- Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)
- Point of Service Plan (POS)
- High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)
- Continuation of Health Coverage (COBRA)
- State insurance programs
- Prescription drug coverage
- Wellness programs
- Biometric screenings
- Health risk assessments
- Tobacco cessation programs
- Athletic facilities
- Other services
- On site health clinics
- Healthcare price transparency tools
Here are some of the main questions I ask when I look at the health insurance plans available for employees I work with:
- How much is the annual premium for each plan?
- Can I get a summary of benefits for each plan?
- What is the deductible for each plan?
- What is the co-insurance percentage?
- What is the out of pocket maximum for each plan?
- How much does it cost to buy down the deductible?
- How do the deductibles work for family coverage?
- What is subject to the deductible?
- Can I cover my spouse?
- Is there a tobacco surcharge?
- Are there discounts for completing wellness screenings?
- Can I save money by using an onsite clinic for lab work, routine doctor visits and prescriptions?
- Is there a list of no cost medications?
- Is the employer contributing to a health reimbursement arrangement or health savings account?
- Do I know if I will use the health insurance? If so what will I use if for.
- Are my doctors and pharmacies “in-network.”
Once you have those answers, it’s time to sit down and figure out which plan is best for you.
Healthcare & Dependent Care Spending Accounts
No matter how good your health insurance benefits are, you’ll still have some out of pocket medical costs. When you do, you might have the option to pay for these expenses with employer contributions or your own pre-tax contributions. Options for dependent care spending may also be available.
- Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA’s)
- Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s)
- Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSA’s)
- Dependent Care Spending Account
- Medical Savings Accounts (Archer MSAs and Medicare Advantage MSAs)
Other articles about spending accounts:
Here are some other articles I’ve written to help answer your questions about health and dependent care spending accounts:
Dental Insurance Benefits
Taking care of your teeth is what dental insurance benefits are all about.
- Dental insurance
Vision Insurance Benefits
From eye exams, to eyeglasses to contacts, vision insurance help employees pay for the costs of eye care.
- Vision insurance
Life Insurance Benefits
Life insurance provides a death benefit to a beneficiary when an insured that is covered under the policy dies. Below I’ve listed the types of life insurance that might be made available to employees at work either under the terms of a group term life insurance contract or an individually owned contract.
- Basic Group Term Life Insurance
- Supplemental Group Term Life Insurance
- Dependent Group Term Life Insurance
- Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D)
- Permanent Life Insurance
Even though life insurance is a pretty simple concept, many employees still get confused about what their life insurance options are both at work or on their own on an individual basis. Most employees know they have something at work but aren’t sure how much or what type it is.
It’s not also not uncommon for those responsible for administrating the life insurance programs for an employer group to not know all the details about how they work. This sometimes includes not just the human resources professionals but also the agents who put these programs in place.
Here’s a collection of resources to help you get a better understanding of life insurance provided at work.
- Definitive Guide to Life Insurance
- 8 Problems with Group Term Life Insurance
- 6 Reasons Employees Enroll in Permanent Life Insurance
- Why It’s Not Always Easy to Buy Life Insurance on Your Own
- Are Your Group Insurance Rates Attained Age or Issue Age?
- Group Life Insurance Conversion and Portability Explained
If you are off work due to an injury or sickness, disability insurance can help.
- Short term disability insurance (STD)
- Long term disability insurance (LTD)
Medical Gap Plans
Critical illness and specified disease insurance pays you money in the event an employee is diagnosed with a critical illness or specified disease. Accident insurance pays benefits directly to the insured for covered services related to an accident, while other indemnity insurance programs offer payments for other medical services not covered by health insurance plans.
- Critical Illness Insurance (CI)
- Accident Insurance (AI)
- Hospital Indemnity Insurance (HI)
Articles about critical illness you can read here on my site:
- Definitive Guide To Critical Illness Insurance Policies
- Nine Reasons To Buy A Critical Illness Insurance Policy
- Guide To Accident Insurance
- Eight Reasons 24 Hour Accident Insurance Coverage Is Best For Your Employees
- Is Hospital Indemnity Insurance Worth It?
Long Term Care Insurance Benefits
Long term care insurance is a little understood insurance benefit that some employers choose to offer their employees.
- Long term care insurance
Employee Assistance Programs
Employee assistance programs can provide help for you during difficult times by providing counseling or other services.
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s)
Saving Money, Retirement Plans and Financial Planning
Saving money for emergencies, for retirement and planning for the future.
- Section 125 plan
- Direct deposit
- Premium direct deposit
- Savings bonds
- Social Security
- Retirement plans
- Stock options
- Financial consulting
Paid Time Off, Sick Pay, Workers Compensation and Family Medical Leave
Paid time off and medical leave provide time off when you need it while sick pay, workers compensation help employees with time off for fun or when they are sick or hurt and can’t work because of it.
- Vacation pay
- Paid holidays
- Paid time off (PTO)
- Sick pay plans
- Workers compensation
- Family medical leave
Other Workplace Benefits
In addition to insurance benefits, there are a number of other benefits that employers offer to their employees. Here are a few additional workplace benefits you might see offered.
- Benefit statements
- Purchasing programs
- Home & auto insurance discounts
- Prepaid legal plans
- Employer sponsored identity theft protection
- Pet insurance
- Educational assistance
- Achievement awards
- Adoption assistance
- Dependent care assistance
- Employee discounts
- Transportation (commuting) benefits
- Cell phone
- Moving expense reimbursement
- Unemployment insurance
- Meal plans
- Flex time
After Enrollment is Over
Once you’ve enrolled, you’ll want to make sure you’ve confirmed you’r benefits selections.
The above guide to workplace benefits is a good foundation for the types of programs that employers might choose to offer their employees and how they work.
Let me know in the comments if I helped you understand your benefits better or if you have questions I might be able to help with.