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Acquisition and benefits?

Pattie Hunt Sinacole offers some guidance on possible benefits changes

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Q: When I was hired, I was promised a list of employee benefits.  My employer was bought by another company, who offers far less generous benefits.  We have been told that many benefits may change in 2022.  I accepted this role, partly based on the generous compensation package, and benefits were a big part of the reason I accepted the offer.  What can I do?

A: A company acquisition can be a challenge for all involved.  The acquiring company will often strive to integrate the new company, but this doesn’t happen quickly.  Often the goal is consistency across the consolidated enterprise.  Policies, procedures and practices will all be reviewed and some change is inevitable.  The acquisition could affect compensation, benefits, email addresses, how you approach customers or clients, management structure, etc.  Change is inevitable, and some of the changes may be small and insignificant or some may be broader and impact you directly.  This is hard to forecast.    

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Few companies have the same benefits year after year, even without an acquisition.  Companies typically assess employee benefits annually right before their open enrollment for benefits.  An employer may evaluate utilization, costs and the employment market to ensure that their benefits offerings are attractive to employees and candidates. 

Usually there is fine print which may give you a hint that the employer can change benefits at any time.   When we write or edit employee handbooks or benefits communications pieces, we often add a statement such as:  “ABC Company reserves the right to modify this handbook, amend or terminate any policies, procedures, or employee benefit programs.”

If you are concerned about possible changes to your employee benefits, it may be wise to raise your concerns now before any final decisions are made.  I would suggest communicating your concerns to your Human Resources Representative or direct manager in a professional and thoughtful way.   

With any merger or acquisition, there is almost always change.  In my experience, it is a mixed bag — some of the changes are a positive for employees, while there are negative changes as well.  Rumors can be unreliable and fuel anxiety.  It is better to ask a company representative, who has some subject matter expertise, for an update on any upcoming changes. 

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