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10 employee benefits to look for before accepting a job

An employee benefits package can help you take care of your health, feel valued in the workplace, and save you money.

14 minute read

If you’re currently on the hunt for a new job, you’ve probably got a mental checklist you’re going through to help you find a good fit. From salary to location to company perks, there’s a lot you’ve got to consider before committing to a certain company and position. As you’re searching for jobs and going through the interview process, don’t underestimate the power of employee benefits. A great employee benefits package can help you take better care of your health, feel more valued in the workplace, and save you money. Here are 10 employee benefits to look for whenever you’re evaluating a potential new job’s company benefits package.

What are employee benefits?

Employee benefits are indirect, non-cash compensation paid to an employee. Essentially, they’re perks or incentives employers offer, going beyond your annual salary to make your job more appealing. Some full-time employee benefits are required by law, including:

  • Social security and Medicare taxes
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Time off for jury duty
  • Time off to vote
  • Time off for or reinstatement after military service

Other employee benefits are required by law only for businesses that employ 50 or more full-time equivalent employees, such as family medical leave and health insurance. However, some companies choose not to offer those benefits and pay a tax penalty instead.

You should be able to expect at least the above mandated employee benefits from any full-time employment. But some companies really go the extra mile and offer additional benefits that can really pay off in the long run.

Types of employee benefits to look for

Many employers offer additional employee benefits to attract new talent and incentivize employees to work hard and stay long-term. These might include vision insurance plans, dental insurance plans, supplemental health insurance plans, pet insurance plans, paid leave, life insurance plans, retirement plans, and more. 

1. Health insurance benefits

Health insurance is the best way to protect yourself from having to foot the bill for high medical costs. It allows you to be able to afford a higher standard of care, treat illnesses or diseases that may arise, and be prepared in case of emergency. All Marketplace health insurance plans cover ten essential health benefits, including injury, illness, prescription medications, ER visits, and more.

Employers with 50 employees or more are required by law to provide their employees with some sort of health insurance, or else face a tax penalty. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every employer is required to offer excellent health insurance. It also doesn’t mean that all of your healthcare costs will be covered for free. You’ll still be responsible to pay out-of-pocket costs.

When evaluating a potential employer’s health insurance plan, consider the following:

  • Deductibles, including annual deductibles and per-office visit deductibles
  • Co-pays and coinsurance
  • Exclusions for pre-existing conditions
  • Medical exams or evaluations required before enrollment
  • Open or closed enrollment

The type of plan your employer offers will also have a big impact on out-of-pocket costs you’ll be responsible for and the doctors you can visit. Four common types of plans employers may offer include preferred provider organizations (PPO), health maintenance organizations (HMO), exclusive provider organizations (EPO), point-of-service plans (POS) and high-deductible health plans (HDHP) which may be linked to health savings accounts (HSA).1

PPO plans typically involve higher out-of-pocket expenses and higher premiums, with fewer restrictions on which doctors you can visit. HMO plans typically have lower out-of-pocket costs, often with no deductible and low co-pays, but only when you visit an in-network doctor or hospital. HMOs may require you to have a primary care provider and a referral to see a specialist. EPO plans are hybrid plans where a primary care provider is not necessary like in an HMO but the providers you see must be in-network. Out-of-network care is typically not provided in an EPO plan. POS plans are a mix between and HMO and a PPO-style policy, where you have more choices than an HMO, but you may need to select a primary care provider and need a referral to see a specialist. While a POS plan may allow you to see providers outside of your network, you will probably have to pay more to do so. An HDHP has a higher deductible than most health plans but it has a lower premium.

2. Dental insurance benefits

Dental insurance can help you save on the cost of routine dental coverage while also being prepared for any unexpected dental emergencies that might arise. Without dental insurance, the costs of routine cleanings, checkups, fillings, root canals, crowns, and surgery can really add up.

Though dental insurance benefits aren’t required by law, surveys have found that they’re one of the most sought-after employee benefits2. Still, only around 50% of employers offer dental insurance to their employees. Ask your potential employer if they offer dental insurance benefits.

If your employer does offer dental insurance benefits, consider out-of-pocket costs (such as deductibles, co-pays, and annual maximums) as well as coverage amounts.

The type of plan offered will affect your out-of-pocket costs as well as the dentists you can visit while still receiving coverage. The most common types of dental insurance plans are DPPOs, which usually involve higher out-of-pocket expenses and fewer restrictions on the dentists you can visit, and DHMOs, which have lower out-of-pocket costs and more limitations on the dentists you can see.

If your current or potential employer doesn’t offer dental insurance benefits, that shouldn’t necessarily be a dealbreaker. You can always purchase your own dental insurance directly from an insurance provider for a low monthly cost. (That’s also an option if your employer does provide dental benefits, but you’re not satisfied with the amount of coverage.) Learn more about direct dental insurance here. 

3. Vision insurance benefits

Vision care is an important part of your overall health, and many find that their vision starts to deteriorate as they age. Without vision insurance, the cost of regular eye exams, prescription lenses, frames, and contacts can be difficult to bear. Vision insurance helps you save on the cost of vision care, including eye exams, glasses, and more. 

Of course, if your potential employer doesn’t provide vision insurance benefits, that doesn’t mean you can’t still get great vision insurance coverage. For a low monthly cost, you can receive an annual vision exam for just $15 along with your choice of prescription glasses or contact lenses every 12 months. Learn more about purchasing vision insurance here.

4. Critical illness insurance benefits

Critical illness insurance is a type of supplemental health insurance. As high-deductible health insurance plans grow increasingly common, many Americans find it difficult even to afford their deductible. Supplemental health insurance can help you cover out-of-pocket costs your primary health insurance plan may not cover. Critical illness insurance pays out a cash benefit if you or a family member is diagnosed with a covered critical illness, such as heart disease or cancer. It gives you the flexibility to choose how you spend the money, whether on medical costs, experimental treatment, or non-medical costs such as rent or childcare.

Critical illness insurance isn’t a very common employee benefit, but it never hurts to ask. If your prospective employer doesn’t have critical illness insurance as part of its benefits package, you can still obtain a policy for yourself. Critical illness insurance is available for purchase directly from insurance providers at a low monthly cost. Click here to learn more about purchasing critical illness insurance.


5. Accident insurance benefits

Accident insurance is another type of supplemental health insurance that can help cover steep out-of-pocket healthcare costs and help you avoid going into medical debt. Accident insurance pays out a cash benefit if you or a family member experiences a covered injury, such as a broken bone, burn, or a concussion. Like critical illness insurance, you can choose how and where to spend your cash benefit.

Accident insurance isn’t a very common employee benefit, but it’s easy to obtain if your potential employer doesn’t currently provide it. You can purchase an affordable, comprehensive accident insurance policy directly from an insurance provider. Click here to learn more about purchasing accident insurance

6. Pet insurance benefits

Health insurance can cover you and all members of your immediate family – but it doesn’t cover your pets, no matter how much they feel like part of the family. As any cat or dog owner knows, the costs of owning a pet can get expensive. Veterinarian costs alone can really impact your finances. Pet insurance can help you save on the cost of taking care of your pet and make sure your furry friend gets the very best treatment available.

As of 2018, 11% of employers offered pet health insurance as a voluntary benefit3. If your prospective employer isn’t one of those, don’t worry. You can still obtain your own pet insurance directly from an insurance provider for an affordable price. Click here to learn more about purchasing pet insurance.

7. Retirement plans

Employer-sponsored retirement plans can be an excellent source of income once you retire. They are tax-advantaged plans to help you save for the future. Retirement plans are common, attractive employee benefits typically offered by many larger companies.

There are two main types of employer-sponsored retirement plans: defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans. Also known as pension plans, defined benefit plans offer a specific monthly benefit at retirement. Defined contribution plans don’t offer a specific payment upon retirement. Instead, you, your employer, or you both contribute to your individual account under the plan. One common example of a defined contribution plan is a 401(k) plan. 

Around 70% of American workers have access to employer-provided defined benefit plans or defined contribution plans4. Ask your potential employer about specifics of their employee-sponsored retirement plans. It’s never too early to start saving for your retirement.

8. Disability insurance benefits

Disability insurance pays part of your income if you can’t work due to sickness or injury. There are two main types of disability insurance policies: short-term policies, which may pay for up to two years, and long-term policies, which may pay benefits for a few years, until retirement age or until the disability ends.

Depending on where you live, disability insurance might be a required or a voluntary employee benefit. Businesses in New York, California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island are required by law to provide their employees with disability insurance benefits.

In 2018, 42% of private industry workers had access to short-term disability insurance plans and 34% had access to long-term plans5. Most employers pay the full cost of coverage for workers. Ask your prospective employer whether the company provides disability insurance benefits.

9. Life insurance benefits

Life insurance pays out a certain amount to the people you choose as beneficiaries, usually a spouse or children. This payout can be used to replace your income, cover debt, or pay for college for your children. It’s a good type of insurance to have if anyone depends on you financially.

There are two main types of life insurance: term life insurance and permanent life insurance. Term life insurance covers a limited time period. Your beneficiaries receive the payout if you die before the term expires. Permanent life insurance has a cash value that grows over time. Whole life is the most common type of permanent life insurance.

Around 60% of American workers have access to employer-provided life insurance benefits . Ask your prospective employer if they offer life insurance benefits.

10. Paid time off (PTO)

Companies that offer generous paid time off for holidays, vacations, and sick days know that employees need time outside work to relax, recharge, and recover. Some companies break PTO up into categories. Others offer a fixed PTO amount per year, which can be used to cover vacations, sick days, or other needs. PTO might be fixed or accrued over time. More often than not, you’ll receive more vacation days the longer you stay at a company.  

Ask about your prospective employer’s holiday, sick leave, vacation time, and PTO policy. Remember – even if the company already has a PTO policy set in place, this is one area you may be able to negotiate before accepting an offer. 

It’s important to find an employer that truly values you and your contribution. Generous benefits packages that include dental insurance, vision insurance, supplemental health insurance, retirement plans, and other excellent perks can improve your life even outside the office. They can help you take better care of your health, feel valued, and save money on necessary expenses. Throughout your job hunt, be sure and keep this employee benefit plan checklist in mind.


This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.

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Sources:

1. https://www.webmd.com/health-insurance/types-of-health-insurance-plans#1, accessed July 2020 2. https://hbr.org/2017/02/the-most-desirable-employee-benefits, 2017 3. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2018%20Employee%20Benefits%20Report.pdf, 2018 4. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ebs2.pdf, 2019 5. https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2018/employee-access-to-disability-insurance-plans.htm, 2018
Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.
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