Employee Job Benefits You Didn't Even Know You Had
Are You Walking Past a Fortune in Savings?
If you work for a medium-to-large sized company, there is a good chance that you are not reaping all of the benefits provided to you by your employer. Many companies offer a number of benefits and perks that employees just aren't aware of. In tough economic times, it pays to learn about what benefits and money-saving programs are available to you!
How Do I Learn About these Benefits?
- Check out your employee manual and corporate employee website.
- Check out the lunchroom bulletin board at work. Oftentimes HR will post notices, business cards, and brochures on available programs there.
- During open benefit election (or if you have a life change such as marriage, divorce, death of a spouse or the birth/adoption of a child, that allows you to re-evaluate your benefits), pay close attention to all of the options available to you.
- Go to your Human Resources department and ask them about what benefits are available.
- If appropriate, ask your supervisor what s/he knows about benefit programs.
Discounts on Consumer Products & Services
Many companies will offer "employee discounts" on their own products and services. But some will go even further and, through special arrangements with other companies, offer employees a variety of discounts on all sorts of consumer goods and services.Unfortunately, discounts are some of the most underpublicized benefits in any office, so you may have to do a bit of digging to find out what is actually available. Corporate-employee websites are oftentimes good sources for this information.
- Health club memberships: Globalfit is a network of health clubs that offers huge discounts to employees of participating companies. Some companies will also make private arrangements with a nearby club.
- Cell phones
- Consumer electronics such as computers
- Magazine subscriptions
- Office supplies: Some of the large office supply companies will allow client's employees to order supplies at deep discounts for personal use. In some cases office supply companies deal in tables, chairs, bookcases, and other furniture, so this can actually be a big money saver.
- Warehouse club memberships: You can save big on membership fees for warehouse clubs if you join through your office.
- Credit Union and Banking Services
Long and Short Term Disability + Long Term Care
While we all hope it never happens,there will be times when health problems will keep us from being able to work. Fortunately, many companies offer insurance that will pay us all or part of our salary while we are unable to work.
Short term disability insurance is typically used by people who need to spend several weeks, or a few months, away from work. It may pay all or part of one's salary: In some cases it will pay full salary for several weeks, then partial salary for the rest of the allotted time. In combination with the Family Medical Leave Act, this can be a good way to both save your job as well as meet your financial obligations whilst ill.
Long-term disability insurance is designed for people who are permanently disabled or who will be disabled for a very long time. This sort of insurance will cover partial salary until one reaches social security age.
With both forms of disability insurance, one will typically be able to keep their health insurance coverage.
Warning: I have known people who have lost their jobs due to absenteeism as a result of illness because they did not understand their disability insurance benefits (oftentimes confusing them with social security disability benefits, and standards, which are very different). Had these people become certified for disability while they were covered under these programs, their situations would be very different today.
If you are ill or disabled (and this includes mental/emotional issues) and you are having difficulty working, you need to speak to your human resource department as well as your physician about using your disability insurance benefits. Don't wait until it is too late.
Long term care insurance will provide you with the money to help pay for nursing home/rehabiliation care, in-home nursing services, and, in some cases, will even provide cash payments to family members who care for you in your home.
Legal and Financial Services
Did you know that there are pre-paid legal services? These basically work like health insurance with basic legal services fully covered and deep discounts on more complex matters. Some companies also offer financial planning service plans, which can help you plan for retirement, saving for a home, or other financial concerns.
Both legal and financial services plans are typically "add-on" services for which you can enroll during your company's benefit enrollment period, which is usually at the end of the calendar year.
Public Transit Passes
I am always amazed when I see a colleague (who regularly takes public transportation) purchase a singleton ticket or even a multi-ride pass at the rail station. Why? Because that colleague could be saving money, and time, by paying for his/her transit via a pre-tax payroll deduction and having his/her passes mailed to their home.
Like the flexible benefit, the cost of the transit pass is paid in pre-tax dollars. You do NOT get taxed on that money. In some cases, this could save you several hundred dollars per year!
Employee Assistance Programs
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are, as their name suggests, services that assist employees with personal/family/work-related issues in a confidential manner. Services offered by Employee Assistance Programs may include:
- Short term and emergency counseling, as well as mental health assessments and referrals.
- Support and referrals for social services, including elder and child care.
- Financial counseling and planning assistance.
- Relocation assistance.
- Substance abuse assessment and treatment.
- Legal services, consultations, and referrals.
If your company offers an EAP, it is likely available to all employees as part of their compensation. One does not need to enroll or pay anything extra for this service. To use the service, just call the toll-free number provided to you by your HR department (it may also be included in your company's employee manual).
Incidentally, the services offered by your Employee Assistance Program are typically confidential: Your employer won't even know that you have contacted the EAP unless you give the EAP permission to contact your employer.
Health Care and Insurance Add-Ons
You may be surprised to learn that your company and its insurance provider provide you with additional health benefits over and above your health insurance. For example, your health insurance plan might offer the following services:
- Wellness/health coaching
- Chronic disease management programs
- 24 hour nurse hotlines
- Mail order discount prescription drug programs
In addition, your company may also offer additional programs such as Health Advocate which provides assistance with finding medical care, untangling and challenging insurance claim issues, and coordinating care between multiple practitioners.
Flexible Spending Accounts: Health Care, Child Care, Dependent Care, Adoption
Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are a way for employees to have a pre-set amount automatically deducted from their paychecks to pay for health care (including over-the-counter drugs, contact lenses and solution, and other medical/health equipment and devices) and dependent care (i.e. child care and senior care). Once you purchase qualifying goods and/or services, submit your claim to the FSA management service, and you will be reimbursed.
The great thing about FSAs is that the money that goes into these accounts is pre-tax dollars: You do NOT pay income tax on this money! This can represent a huge savings, particularly if you have children or elderly parents in some form of care, or if you have to spend a lot on medical/health supplies.
You will typically select the amount of money that you want placed in your account each year during your annual benefit election period. Keep in mind that FSAs are "use it or lose it" dollars: If you don't file claims for your purchases, you will forfeit those funds. So be sure to save your receipts and submit your claims on time!