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Beyond Your Salary: A Guide to Employee Benefits

Navigating Employee Benefits

Choosing a new employer can be quite the process. There is more to know and understand than just your salary and schedule – your benefits package should always be considered when selecting a new employer. We sat down with our very own Human Resources Generalist, AJ Lawson, to discuss how to navigate the sometimes overwhelming process of making benefits decisions.

Research First

Even when just exploring potential job opportunities, it’s a good idea to research the benefits. Ensuring you understand all that you’re entitled to going into a specific job can help you narrow down employers and determine what’s best for you (other than just the salary). Research online or contact different Human Resources departments and see if someone could give you a brief overview of what’s offered to employees.

Once you’ve landed a position, access the company’s benefit guide as soon as possible. While you may not find yourself wanting to curl up and read it from cover to cover, a brief skim through will provide a more detailed look and give you a head start on determining questions you may have.


When it comes time to actually enroll in your company’s benefits - the sooner the better! Though the deadline varies between employers, most typically allow up to 30 days from your start date to sign up. This may seem like plenty of time to enroll at your leisure, but keep in mind that most benefits won’t take effect until the following month, and providers will need time to receive your information and get it into their systems. Plus, the earlier you get everything done, the more flexibility you have if you change your mind and need to alter your benefits.

Use Your Resources

Before deciding on your own, it’s best to sit down with an H.R. Specialist to go over all your options to figure out what is best for you and your life stage. Benefits packages can be a little tricky if you are not familiar with all the terms, coverages, and plan options. Remember, a Human Resources Specialist is intended to be a resource!

“With new employees, there’s a lot of information thrown at them, from the first day of their new hire paperwork to training and everything in between, and then they have benefits to discuss,” Lawson said. “Once you are able to SEE how it works, it’s a lot easier to follow the utilization [of benefits].”

Understanding All Your Options

While benefits differ from employer to employer and depending on the size of the company, there are some that are typically offered, such as retirement plans and medical insurance. For these plans, employers usually pick up the bulk of the bill, meaning employees only have to cover a small portion on their part. Some other benefits include dental and vision insurance, dependent/spouse insurances, short- and long-term disability insurance, life insurance, supplemental plans, pension plans, and more. Again, benefits vary, so be sure to check with your employer before setting your sights on something that might not be available. The cost equivalents of insurances and retirement savings may even outweigh potential paychecks. For example, medical insurance can make or break a job decision, so be sure to get all the information you can so you can adequately compare your options.

Supplemental plans, though not as commonly seen in the workforce, can help cover things such as hospitalization, critical illnesses, cancer, and more. Supplemental plans are for those unforeseen circumstances that you may never plan on happening, but you’ll be happy you have supplemental insurance to cover the out-of-pocket costs associated with medical emergencies.

“It’s like car insurance – you pay for medical insurance expecting to get a physical every year, whereas you purchase car insurance not expecting to get into a wreck. Same thing with supplemental, say with the cancer or critical illness plan, people think ‘I’m not going to get cancer’ so they typically bypass the benefit,” Lawson said. “However, they are fairly inexpensive plans, and when you really look at the overall benefit, I think a lot more employees would jump onboard.”

Remember that declining certain coverage within the time limitations set by your employer and/or the providers may mean having to wait until the following calendar year’s open enrollment if you change your mind.

In Closing

“Ultimately, your employer just wants what’s best for you. One of the biggest benefits is having access to benefits themselves and resources about those benefits. At the very least it’s nice to know what’s offered and available should you choose to take advantage of anything available to you.”

By CAMPUS USA at 20 Jul 2017, 16:27 PM

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