Job Doc

We just got notice that there will be a change to our benefits package and I’m a little bit upset about the changes. How can I bring this up with my employer? Elaine Varelas examines

Benefit packages are key for employees. They can be a substantial part of overall compensation and changes to those benefits can be a cause for concern. Elaine Varelas examines what you can do if there are changes to your benefits and what steps to take if those changes are worrisome.

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Q: Our company announced this month that there will be significant changes to our benefits, and this made me pretty upset. How can I voice my opinion? And should I consider looking for a new job?

A: Clearly you recognize that benefits are an important part of your full compensation plan’s value. Companies recognize how critical benefits are to employees, and they face the ever-increasing costs of those benefits. Healthcare, 401K contributions, transit reimbursements, childcare support, life insurance: all of these may be part of your benefits package and they can add up to 30% of the compensation provided by your organization. Often, these additional benefits are overlooked when people look at their full compensation from the company, especially when people think about changing jobs.

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Before you decide to leave your job, it is vital for you to sit down and calculate the cost of these benefits, including what they would be if you were to pay for them out of pocket and what the costs would be if a new employer didn’t offer all the benefits your current employer provides. You weren’t specific about what sorts of changes are happening at your company but most of the time, a change in benefits means an increase in health-care premiums. There are a few ways for you to get involved, and you should let your employer know about your concerns whether the change is healthcare specific or something else.

First, talk to your manager about what is driving the sudden change in benefits. Is it increased costs due to the healthcare costs from the provider? Is the company passing these increased costs along to employees? Are they decreasing contributions or changing the investment opportunities for your 401K plan? Is it reducing the employer contribution to anything, or eliminating an offer most employees don’t use? Have a detailed conversation with your manager about what’s driving the change and why the company is making the decisions that it is. If your manager doesn’t know, have them arrange a meeting with HR for you and other employees who might want more information.

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It is important for you to ask what is driving the change. Is it driven by the healthcare company providing services to your organization? Is it based on company size or the demographics of its employees? The changes can be legally mandated, or policy mandated. Looking deeper into the why(s) becomes important as you examine what can be changed. These regulations could be on the federal level, and they can also vary by state and region, as well as by occupation. Additionally, the range of benefits and financial value can differ greatly. Uniforms are considered a benefit at some organizations, where tuition reimbursement could also fall into the same benefits bucket for others.

If you find many of your colleagues feel the same way about the changes to your benefits, you can go to HR to let them know how you feel about changes while (as always advised) remaining professional and calm. Some companies have done a great job asking for employee input and have invited employees to be part of an investment committee to make decision about options within a 401K plan, and even having employees help select and decide on which kinds of policies should be included with the organization’s benefits package. For example, an employee group chose a high deductible plan which, at face value, looked worse for employees. But with the employer making a greater contribution, the premium was lower. Providing transparency and getting employee representation made this benefit change successful as opposed to a reason for outrage. Before you react with anger, react with curiosity. Find out what’s driving the changes, who is driving the changes, and offer to get involved in learning more. You may still choose to leave and join an organization where the benefits offered are more meaningful to you, but you’ll know and understand more about how these decisions get made by involving yourself in the process.

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Companies benefit from communicating these changes to their employees as soon as they can – even in the discussion stages which can include gaining employee input and understanding how employees will be impacted. No information should be a surprise and information about a change in benefit without an explanation sets employees up to suspect a company has ill motivations for the changes. Encouraging open dialogue and a line of communication should employees have questions or concerns is critical for retention and building engagement.

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