You are here: Home Work Issues Work: Benefits ... Summary
Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.


Employers offer a great variety of benefits. With an overview of the types of benefits offered, you can determine ahead of time which are important to you. Then you can look for an employer with those benefits at a minimum.

As a general matter, following are the benefits being offered by employers. Click on the links for information about each benefit. 

For subjects to consider to determine whether a particular benefit applies to you, and is affordable, click here.

Some Matters To Consider When Reviewing Benefits

Before you look at the substance of an employer's benefits, consider whether they will apply to you. Look at the following:


Larger employers in particular may provide different benefits for different classifications of employees. For example, employees who work on the factory floor versus executives. 

What classification does the job fall into?

Full-time Or Part Time Employee

  • Most employers only offer benefits to employees they consider to be full-time employees. The definition of "full-time" varies from employer to employer. As a general matter, employees who work thirty (30) hours or more per week are full-time.
  • A minority of employers offer benefits to part-time employees. If part-time employees are eligible for benefits, the benefits are generally less than those offered to full-time employees.
  • It is not unusual for employers to offer different benefits for different classes of employees. For example, top executives may receive more benefits than people who work in a plant.

Probation Period

  • Does the employer impose a probation period? If so, how long? The probation period is the period of time between the date of hire and the date benefits become effective. For example, an employer offers health insurance to new employees, but not until 30, 60 or 90 days after the employee starts work. The 30, 60 or 90 day period is the "probation period."
  • A probation period gives you time to examine the employer's benefits and decide which ones you want to enroll in.
  • During a probation period you have to look elsewhere for health insuranceFor example, if you have continued health coverage under COBRA from your previous employer, you need to continue it until the new coverage starts at the end of the probation period.
  • A probation period doesn't count with respect to HIPAA, the federal law which limits an employer's right to impose a new pre-existing condition exclusion in a health insurance policy in certain circumstances. The date of hire becomes the enrollment date for purposes of determining whether you have been without creditable health insurance for more than 63 days. This becomes important if you are considering letting your previous health insurance lapse until the new employer's coverage starts -- which we do not recommend. (If money is an issue, see How To Deal With A Financial Crunch). If you nonetheless want to let your previous coverage lapse and are relying on HIPAA to eliminate a new pre-existing condition exclusion, contact the new employer's insurer to confirm that their practice is to consider the date of hire the important date with respect to a pre-existing condition exclusion -- not the end of the probation period.

How Much Will You Pay For A Particular Benefit?

  • There is no legal requirement that employers provide benefits or, if they do, the portion the employer pays, if any.
  • Most employers pay at least a portion or many employee benefits. The amount paid by the employer depends on many factors, including management philosophy, insurance company requirements, union contracts, geographical location, type of industry, and size of the pool of potential workers in your geographic area. The question remaining for you is how much you will be expected to pay for each benefit, if anything.

Group Life Insurance

Many employers offer life insurance to employees.

  • Usually the employer will pay for a base amount of coverage, such as $10,000, $25,000, or, often, "One times your annual earning rounded to the next higher thousand."
  • This coverage usually comes with a rider called Accidental Death and Dismemberment which doubles the death benefit in the event of accidental death.

Some employers offer supplemental life insurance which is an amount of life insurance above the base amount of coverage.

  • The employee is generally required to pay the entire premium for supplemental life insurance. If you have a serious health condition and heirs you care about, it's worth considering.
  • If offered, supplemental life insurance is usually a range of amounts, such as "$10,000 increments to a maximum of $50,000" or "an additional one, two, or three times your annual salary."
  • Supplemental life insurance coverage is frequently offered without any questions about your health. There may be a maximum above which health questions and possibly even a physical exam will be required.

If you sign up for life insurance when you are first eligible, there will probably not be any health questions asked. However, if you wait to sign up later, or even try to increase the amount of the benefit, there will likely be health questions that could keep you from getting the coverage.

Life insurance for your dependents is occasionally available on an optional basis.

  • The amount is usually low, rarely more than $5,000 or $10,000 on a spouse and less than $5,000 on each child.
  • There are no medical questions about you or the dependent who is being covered.
  • The beneficiary is always the employee.

NOTE: Keep in mind that life insurance now can provide a living benefit or cash from a loan or sale while you are alive. These reasons add to the traditional reasons to have life insurance to suggest that you maximize the amount of life insurance - and take it with you when you leave a job. To learn more, click here.

To Learn More

More Information

Life Insurance

Group Health Insurance

Most people get their health insurance from their employer. Small companies may only offer one health insurance plan while larger companies tend to offer a selection of plans from which each employee may choose.

Under the federal law known as HIPAA, employees and their dependents cannot be refused coverage under an employer based group health plan because of an existing health condition, so your health will not affect whether you and your dependents will be able to enroll.

If you don't take the health insurance when it's first offered, you may be subject to a much longer waiting period before your pre-existing condition is covered.

If more than one health insurance is offered, take the time to figure out which plan is best for you. You may be able to change plans once a year during a period known as an Open Enrollment period during which no health questions are asked. Until then you're stuck with whatever choice you make. With a health condition, a year can be a very long time.

When you look at health plans:

  • Keep in mind your health condition, and the health condition of any other people who will be covered as dependents
  • Look at such critical matters as access to quality doctors and treatment
  • Look at how much you will have to pay. In most cases, the employer pays the bulk of the premium and the employee pays a part of it -- in addition to any amounts that may be due under the policy such as co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance. In some parts of the country and in some industries it is common for the employer to pay for the employee coverage and the employee pays all or a large part of any dependent coverage.

For more information, see the articles in "To Learn More."

Dental Insurance

Many employers offer a dental insurance plan as part of a health package which may be either an indemnity-type plan that allows you to go to any dentist or a prepaid-type plan that requires you to use a dentist from their list of dentists.

  • Dental plans emphasize preventive and restorative care and usually require you to pay a share.
  • You are generally required to pay a larger share for tooth replacement and dentures.
  • Orthodontia, if covered at all, is only partially paid by the plan.

To learn about dental insurance, click here.

To Learn More

More Information

Dental Insurance

Long Term Care Insurance

Many employers offer Long Term Care insurance as a choice in their package of plans. Long term care insurance covers the cost of caring for you if you need assistance over the long term. Read about this insurance to help you decide if this is a benefit that makes sense for you. Particularly consider what could reasonably happen because of your health condition or family health history.

Although a few employers are offering a true group plan, most Long Term Care plans offered through employers are individual plans that the employee pays for through either payroll deduction or with the money provided in a Cafeteria Plan. The advantage of purchasing an individual plan is that you can take it with you if you leave the employer.

The disadvantage is there may be questions about your health.

To learn about Long Term Care Insurance, click here. 

Accidental Death or Travel Accident Insurance

This benefit pays a large amount of money in the event an employee suffers an accidental death.

  • Some coverages will pay if the employee dies in any accident.
  • Some only cover if the employee dies while traveling on business.

Since these policies only pay in the event of accidental death, the coverage cannot be used in financial planning for the future.

These policies are generally not considered either an important benefit or one that should be "budgeted for." There's a reason why this coverage is very inexpensive -- the odds of an accidental death in a covered situation are slight. Still, you may want to explore getting this coverage. There are generally no health questions asked.

Retirement Plans/ Savings Plans

Many employers offer tax deferred or tax sheltered retirement plans. The employer will contribute varying amounts to the plans, and many permit the employee to make contributions as well.

There are many types of plans from defined benefit pension plans, to defined contribution plans such as profit sharing or 401(k) plans.

When looking at a plan, one of the main features to look for is whether the employer pays the entire contribution, or you are also expected, or have an opportunity, to contribute.

If you become disabled, you can probably take money out of the plans without penalty.

For more information, see Retirement Planning.

To Learn More

More Information

Retirement Planning

Income Replacement Programs: Sick Leave, Short Term Disability, Group Long Term Disability

Most employers offer a range of benefits to cover all or a part of your salary if you become unable to work.

Sick Leave

Most employers offer time off in the event of illness.

  • Each employer determines the number of days of sick leave allowed per year, whether and to what extent the sick days are accumulated and related rules such as whether a doctor's note is required, whether partial days can be taken, how much notice is required and to whom.
  • Some employers will offer a set amount of sick days at the beginning of each calendar year, such as ten days of sick leave. In such a plan, an employee will be able to take up to ten work days off during the year for illness.
  • Other employers offer a set number of days per month or a period of months.

Some employers allow all or a certain number of unused sick days to be carried over from year to year. Others don't permit any carryover.

If you anticipate needing more time off than permitted under an employer's sick leave, see Paid and Unpaid Time Off and Family and Medical Leave Act.

Short Term Disability

Many employers offer short term disability coverage for illnesses that require more time off than allowed as sick leave.

  • Sometimes these programs are insured and at other times they are self-insured by the employer.
  • The plans usually have a waiting period that requires using all your sick leave days before the plan starts to pay benefits.

Short term disability benefits seldom cover an employee's full salary. Rather they tend to cover a percentage such as 60% or 66 2/3rds of your salary. These plans often have a dollar maximum.

Benefits typically last from three to twelve months. For employers offering Long Term Disability coverage (see below), the period of the short term plan is generally set to cover during the waiting period until the long term disability coverage starts replacing income.

Five states (California, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) plus Puerto Rico require short term coverage for most employees of private industry. See Disability -- State Mandated Plans.

Group Long Term Disability

Generally these plans provide an income of 60% of your compensation if you become disabled. Some large companies offer less of a benefit, say 50% of salary, and allow employees to purchase an additional 10% to bring the benefit to a total of 60%.

If offered:

  • The employer usually pays all the premium for long term disability insurance.
  • There is generally a waiting period of six months from the time an employee becomes disabled and the time the long term disability payments start.

Long term disability income replacement coverage is almost always provided without any health questions asked if you sign up when you are first eligible so your health condition is not important. However, if you wait to sign up later, or even try to increase the amount of the benefit, there will likely be health questions that could keep you from getting the coverage.

Some larger employers will let employees choose to pay long term disability premiums with after-tax dollars. This may seem like a good deal for an employee with no health history, but it can be important if your chance of becoming disabled is greater than average. If you pay with after-tax dollars, all the income you receive under a disability income policy is tax free.

To learn more, see Group Long Term Disability.

Vacations And Holidays

Paid Holidays: Most employers offer time off with full pay for the major national and some local holidays.

  • Employers typically offer 8 to 12 days off per year for such holidays as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, President's Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Paid Vacation: Most employers allow employees paid time off for vacation. Each employer sets the rules and the number of days for such time off.

  • A typical vacation schedule will allow employees who have completed one year of service to receive a vacation of ten paid work days off each calendar year. The amount of vacation time usually increases the more years an employee stays with an employer.
  • Sometimes, vacations will be prohibited or restricted during the employer's busy season if there is one.
  • Employers set their own rules on whether or not vacation may be accumulated and carried over from year to year.
  • Vacation generally "vests." This means that unlike sick leave and paid holidays, if you leave your employer for any reason including to go on disability, you are entitled to receive compensation for accumulated and unused vacation time.

Additional Compensation: Stock Options, Deferred Compensation

Stock Options. Some employers grant stock options, often just to management and executives.

  • Stock options are a right (but not the obligation) to purchase the employer's stock some time in the future at a pre-determined price.
  • This can be a windfall if the market value of the stock is considerably above the option price when you want to sell it. If the stock has not gone up, there is no downside to the employee because the employee has not paid anything.

Deferred Compensation: Some employers offer various methods of deferring compensation, usually for the purpose of reducing an employee's taxes. These plans are usually only offered to highly paid executives. They can either be tax qualified or non-tax qualified.

Miscellaneous Benefits

Employers may offer a wide range of other benefits including the following:

Education Reimbursement/Subsidies. Some employers offer to pay for the cost of employee education. These subsidies are usually only available for pursuing education that is related to the employee's work.

Prepaid Legal Services: A few employers offer pre-paid legal services.

  • These programs generally provide employees with estate planning, adoption, and other legal assistance in civil matters.
  • They typically exclude any criminal law assistance.

Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs): These programs provide assistance to employees who are either having emotional problems or substance abuse problems or need general help such as moving into a new neighborhood. With respect to emotional or substance abuse problems, EAPs typically offer short term counseling as well as confinement for detox if necessary.

Other perks and incentives: Employers may offer a wide range of other benefits as incentives to attract and keep quality employees. For instance, employers today have been known to offer:

  • Subsidized child care either in-house or at private facilities.
  • Subsidized meals in company food service facility.
  • Discount purchasing of the employer's products.
  • Subsidized or free parking.
  • Financial incentives to use public transportation.
  • Subsidized exercise either in a company gym or private gyms.
  • Holiday bonuses ranging from cash to free turkeys.

How To Learn About A Prospective Employer's Benefit Plans Without Disclosing Your Health Condition

When trying to learn about a potential employer's benefits, the first step is to a look at the employer's web site, if there is one. Most large employers describe their benefits on their web site. If you had previous health insurance, and the gap between jobs is no more than two months, you don't have to be concerned about whether the new employer's health plan excludes coverage for previous health conditions or includes a waiting period for coverage. For more information about this subject, see HIPAA.

If the web site isn't helpful, contact the employer's Human Resources department and ask for a description of the benefits that go with the job which you are considering. So an employer doesn't think that if you apply for a job, you are only looking at the benefits (and not what you can contribute to the company), it is preferable not to use your own name. If the job is unique so there are likely to be few applicants, try to describe the job by its type so you learn about the benefits for that job level instead of the specific job.

You can also ask any people you know who are or were employed by the company.

If all else fails, you can apply for the job, but not accept it until you learn about the company's health benefits.