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Career Corner: What Benefits To Look For
When you’re hunting for a job, there are a lot of factors to take into account. What are the responsibilities? Is it part-time or full-time? What’s the salary? Can this job give me the skills and knowledge I need to further my career?
Beyond those questions is another set of details that are very much worth looking into: what are the job benefits? “The benefits offered can significantly impact the overall job compensation package,” said Gina Pinch, Rio Salado College Faculty Chair of Business, Management, and Public Administration. The benefits a job can offer you can make or break your quality of life. These benefits can have a direct impact on your time-off, your health coverage, and your financial future.
As you continue your job search, keep your eyes peeled for these job benefits. Which of these are deal breakers are you? What benefits are crucial for your well-being? Knowing what you want in terms of benefits can help filter out employers who would be a bad fit for your personal and professional needs.
The bad news is that pensions are much more rare these days and hard to come by, but the good news is that many employers still offer retirement plans. A 401(k) takes a portion out of your paycheck to feather a nest egg of tax-deferred money that will grow over your years of employment. Some companies offer Roth 401(k)s, which have the added benefit that you won’t have to pay taxes on your Roth contributions when you withdraw them later in retirement.
Some employers offer matching contributions, which can be a very sweet perk. That means they’ll contribute a certain amount to your retirement based on your level of investment (an example of a match would be 50% for up to 6% of your salary).
Health, Vision, Dental, and Disability Insurance
Many Americans get their health coverage through their workplace. Most midsize to large companies offer some form of coverage. Find out what kind of group plans and coverage they offer. Oftentimes company health plans will offer tiers of coverage that you can pay into. Keep in mind that while most businesses offer some form of health insurance, that doesn’t necessarily mean they cover vision or dental, as well. Some health care plans don’t cover prescription medicine costs, either, so it’s good to look into that as well. More than 30% of companies with 500 or more employees offer some type of fertility benefits.
Another insurance benefit worth looking into is disability insurance (also known as disability income insurance). This insurance helps cover a portion of your income if you’re unable to work for an extended period of time due to an accident or serious illness. “Assistance program (EAP) is another good program many employees offer,” said Dr. Lily Davidov, Rio Salado College Faculty Chair for Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Risk Management & Insurance, and Small Business. “You might want to ask how you can contribute to this program, with the answer of how you can use it in case you need it.”
Paid Time-Off (PTO)
Aside from health insurance this is one of the most important job benefits to inquire about. PTO covers a wide range of allotted time: vacation, personal days, sick days. Find out what your employer offers. While many companies offer vacation and sick time, some places will not offer personal or mental health days. Also check to see if they offer bereavement time in case of the loss of a spouse, child, or parent. PTO helps you keep a good work-life balance in check, so don’t treat this as an afterthought while doing your research.
In addition to other forms of insurance prospective workplaces may also offer life insurance coverage at little or no cost to you. This can be a great way to make sure your loved ones are protected in case something happens to you. Keep in mind, though, that oftentimes companies make themselves the policy owners for life insurance, so if you leave that job you’ll lose that coverage. “Also check on accidental and dismemberment insurance offers,” Dr. Davidov suggested.
A healthy employee is a productive employee, which is why many workplaces are now offering wellness programs to encourage good health and habits. These kinds of perks can include gym membership discounts, on-site fitness classes, flu shots, free biometric screenings, and even health coaching. “Wellness initiatives help support employee’s physical and mental health and may lead to increased employee productivity, engagement and morale,” said Pinch.
Paid Breaks and Flexible Schedules
Employers have to give you breaks by law if you work a certain number of hours each day. They don’t have to pay you for those breaks, though, so finding a workplace that offers paid breaks can be a nice benefit. Another key feature to look for is flexibility in scheduling. Do you have some say in terms of the hours you work? Find out if there’s wiggle room that can accommodate your schedule if you have school or family commitments you need to juggle alongside your working life.
Remote Work Options
In addition to flexibility in your schedule, many employers are now offering full-time remote or hybrid (some days in office, some days at home) schedules. If your goal is to work from home (even part time) on a permanent basis, look for companies that offer this flexibility. Many companies that did not offer this type of schedule in the past have changed their practices due to the successful implementation of remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This schedule can work great for people who prefer working at home or want the ability to work from different locations. If, however, you really enjoy face-to-face interactions with your colleagues, but would still like the flexibility to work from home a couple of days each week – perhaps a hybrid schedule would be a great fit for you.
For employees who select a remote or hybrid work schedule, check to see if the employer offers any assistance with company equipment (computers, furniture, Internet access) to help with the cost of your home office.
Some companies may reimburse you for the price of public transportation, gas/mileage for going to meetings, or parking. This can help take the sting out of commuting. They may also offer incentives for carpooling.
Less common than most other work benefits, tuition assistance and sponsored professional development can be a great workplace perk. Check to see if future employers offer tuition assistance—some businesses form partnerships with schools to offer scholarships and reduced tuition for their workers. It’s also good to see if the company offers reimbursement or professional development funding to support your efforts at skill training and development. Professional workshops, conferences, membership to professional affiliations, and non-university courses may be fully or partially covered by this kind of benefit. It’s a win-win: you sharpen your skills while the business gets an employee with a broader and deeper range of talents.
Some companies offer profit-sharing as an added incentive for employees. These can include stock options and quarterly/year-end bonuses. Since these bonuses and stocks are contingent on the overall financial health of the company, it’s best to think of this as a “nice if it happens, but don’t count on it” benefit.
Paid Parental Leave
Companies across the country offer a range of parental leave options. Some places may offer months of paid leave; others a few weeks. If you’re planning on starting a family or adding to it, knowing what the company’s leave policies are is of vital importance. It’s also important to check if they have paternal leave; while many companies offer generous maternity leave packages, they may not offer comparable benefits for new fathers.
Identity Theft Protection Insurance
“Since 2006, many companies have been offering company-paid identity insurance,” said Dr. Davidov. “It is good to ask questions in case you may become a victim of identity theft. Questions to ask - up to how much of financial loss you will be covered? Will wage related losses be covered? Will you be provided a case manager in case your identity is stolen. Is any education provided to prevent identity theft?”
Nobody wants to think about losing a job while applying for one, but it’s always good to know if a company offers severance and benefits packages to workers in the event of downsizing.
Article by Austin Brietta