As companies continue to cut back health care benefits and salaries, it is well worth the time to research potential or current employers to learn about their employee benefit plans. While employee benefits may seem attractive, the stipulations vary from company to company and take some investigation to discover their true value.
Most commonly, employer-sponsored benefits include health insurance, retirement plans and tuition assistance. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than two-thirds of American workers had access to retirement and health care benefits in 2008.
Government employees are 20% more likely have access to paid retirement benefits than those in the private sector. This could make working for the government more appealing to employees who are looking to take advantage of retirement benefits, namely a 401K plan.
A 401K allows employees to invest part of their salaries without paying tax. The money invested in a 401K is available to the employee at any time but is subject to a penalty if the employee takes money from the account before he or she turns age 59 ½. Employees older than 55 can withdrawal from the 401K account without paying a penalty.
In addition to a 401K plan, most employers offer health insurance to fulltime employees who work past a probation period of 90 days. But the cost of health insurance has been rising at alarming rates costing employees on average $1000 per year. Since 2000, premiums for employer-paid health insurance have risen four times faster than workers' salaries. This information was reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust.
The rising cost of health care makes researching a potential employer even more important. Yes, the employer may offer a 401K plan and health benefits, but at what cost to the employee?
If you are single, the cost of health insurance may force you to think twice before starting a family. Many companies offer different types of health insurance requiring patients to see specific doctors or receive prior authorization before scheduling appointments with specialists. Also, one way employers have decided to defray the cost of sponsoring medical insurance is to increase the deductable each employee must pay before their insurance coverage kicks in.
In addition to retirement plans and health insurance, many employers offer tuition assistance to employees who continue their education. However, there are stipulations that vary from company to company. These restrictions may include requiring the employee to study a certain topic, attend a specific program and receive a certain grade before the employer will refund the tuition.
Most companies pay the tuition retroactively, after the employee shows proof of completing the course with a satisfactory grade. This means that if the employee can't afford to pay for the tuition up front, he or she may have to take out a loan to cover education expenses.
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