How to Tell if You’re Not Getting Enough Benefits – and What to Do About it

How to tell if you’re not getting enough benefits – and what to do about it

how to tell if you are receiving enough benefits at work

Benefits form a big part of the total compensation picture. In fact, they make up more than one-third of total employee compensation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A surprisingly big piece of the total pie, isn’t it? It illustrates how important paying attention to your benefits is, especially over time.

Good benefits – health care, family leave, tax-deferred savings plans for retirement or health care accounts – can add significantly to your financial well-being. Are you getting what your co-workers get? Are you getting the standard of what employees receive – or more?

One way to know if you’re getting enough benefits is to know what benefits employers are required to provide for employees and what benefits they are not required to give, but may provide.

What Employers Must Provide

what benefits employers must provide

Both Federal and state governments require that employers provide certain benefits to their employees. Most of these are tax-related. Here’s a list of the benefits that are mandated:

  • Health Insurance. Employers with more than 50 employees must offer health care insurance at “minimum essential coverage” to almost all employees (95%) who meet the eligibility requirements. This was mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

  • COBRA. COBRA, which stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, mandates that employers with 20 or more workers provide 18 months of health care insurance at the group insurance rate after termination of employment.

  • Social Security Taxes. Employers must pay into the Social Security system at the same rate as their workers

  • Unemployment Insurance. Employers are required to pay unemployment insurance to the state. This is used to fund unemployment benefits.

  • Workers’ Compensation. Employers must carry workers’ compensation coverage for their employees in case of a work-related death, injury, or health issue. This system is slightly different for military personnel, with veterans who have sustained disabilities while serving their country receiving financial assistance from the VA disability compensation program. Stone Rose Law are military veterans lawyers, who can help veterans get an insight into what benefits and compensation they may be entitled to and will fight on their behalf to get them what they have earned.
  • Disability Insurance. According to social security disability law, disability insurance covers non-work-related illness or injury and covers payments of a portion of employees’ salaries. It is not required by U.S. law, but is required of employers by state or territory law if you live in California, New Jersey, New York, Hawaii, Rhode Island and the territory of Puerto Rico.

  • Family Leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that employers grant 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a one-year period. Family leave is restricted to three types of leave:

  • For birth and care of a child or an adopted or foster care child

  • For care of an immediate family member (child, spouse, parent) with a serious health issue

  • For care of the employee’s serious health issue

What Employers May Provide

what benefits at work employers may provide

In addition to mandated benefits, employers may provide the following types of benefits:

  • Paid Holidays. Many companies have paid holidays off. There are six holidays that almost all employers provide, but the average is actually nine. If you’re getting less than that, it’s worth asking for more.

  • Paid Family Leave. Some employers pay for all or part of the government-mandated 12 weeks. If yours doesn’t, this is a great perk to negotiate.

  • Retirement Plans. These can be pensions, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or other savings plans. Often employers will match employee savings in company IRAs at a rate of around 3%, although some companies have very generous plans. Here’s how to tell if you have a lousy 401K so you know when to ask for more.

  • Sick Leave. Employers are not required to grant paid leave for an illness, but many have a policy. Some accrue days or partial days through the year; others have a standard policy of defined days per month. See what others are getting and if you’re not at the same level, consider asking for more.

  • Dental Insurance. These are sometimes part of health insurance plans or separate policies at a discount. In general, any insurance policy obtained through a group such as a company is less expensive than insurance obtained as a single individual. Talk to your company rep to see if this is an option for you.

  • Life Insurance. Companies may offer life insurance policies to their employees. You may be able to get a cheaper rate through the company, so ask if it’s a possibility for you.

  • Tax-Deferred Health Savings Plans. A tax-deferred health savings plan lets you place part of your pretax salary in a savings plan. The pretax amount may be used to pay for health insurance premiums, co-pays or other out-of-pocket health expenses. Check with your company to see if an HSA is possible for you.

  • Tax-Deferred Commuter Savings Plans. Though it’s not as common, some employers maintain accounts that let employees contribute pretax dollars to an account for commute costs. These can be train or bus passes or other public transport costs.

What To Do If You’re Not Getting Enough Benefits

what to do if you're not receiving enough benefits

What should you do if you’re not getting enough benefits? It depends on the category of benefit. If an employer is required to provide it and does not, you can consult an attorney. They are trained to negotiate with employers who might not be giving the benefits they are required to give. They also stay abreast of all changes and can counsel you on compliance with regulations like the Affordable Care Act.

If a benefit is not required by law, there are ways to negotiate it. Many employers are very receptive to increasing benefits, for example, if they know that similar companies provide it. If you know of mentors, colleagues, family, or friends that work in a similar industry and have benefits you think fair – paid family leave or a matching IRA – gather your facts and talk to your employer.

Another way to gain an overview of what your industry provides is to read job postings. Keep a list of the benefits mentioned. Again, your employer will be more receptive if it’s clear what the industry standard is.

Be sure to craft an argument from your employer’s perspective. Take the company’s needs into account. Paid or partially paid family leave, for example, is a benefit that appeals to many women, since women usually bear most of the responsibility for a baby’s care and care of sick family members. Your employer might be persuaded to grant this benefit if you argue that the company’s ability to attract and retain top-flight women as employees would be improvement if paid leave was offered. Similarly, a tax-deferred commuter savings plan can be supported by the argument that supporting public transport is a way to support more environmentally conscious initiatives.

Want to make sure you are getting the fullest amount of benefits possible? First, know what is mandated by law. Second, know what is available in many companies. Third, know what companies in your industry offer. Then, negotiate with your company for the best benefits you can get. It’s in your financial self-interest!

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum