Workplace Benefits

Employee Benefits: A Quick Guide

2 min read Sep 26, 2022

Employee Benefits: A Quick Guide

When you're starting a new job (or investigating your options at an old one), you'll want to be clear on the benefits your employer provides. Employee benefits encompass perks and services that can make a big difference in your experience of work—and your quality of life.

It’s important to learn what kinds of coverage are best for you and your family. We’re here to help walk you through it.

What are employee benefits?

Employee benefits are additional perks and/or kinds of compensation provided by your employer on top of your salary. These benefits most often include health, dental, and vision insurance, but can also include supplemental coverage, life insurance, paid time off (PTO), retirement accounts, bonuses, stock options, and more.

How do benefits work?

One of the first things you’ll do when starting a new job is review the available benefits packages. Depending on your organization, there may be multiple options to look over and consider. Employers often provide materials that outline the specific benefits offered and how each of the different options works.

After some consideration, you’ll determine which options are best for you and proceed with the enrollment process. Some employers have waiting periods for benefits to kick in for new employees, while some offer coverage that starts almost immediately. If you’re an existing employee that needs to make changes to your benefit, you'll either need to wait for a qualifying life event or the designated open enrollment period.

Mandatory vs. non-mandatory benefits

Employers are required by the U.S. Government to provide certain benefits, known as mandatory benefits. These include social security and Medicare taxes, unemployment and disability insurance, and worker’s compensation.

Additionally, companies with more than 50 employees are required to provide medical insurance, making it a mandatory benefit in this case.

Any further benefits offered are considered non-mandatory or elective benefits. These include all of the benefits employers actively choose to offer employees, such as other types of insurance, PTO, mental health support, and others.

Enrolling in workplace benefits

It’s important to know exactly what to look for and understand before enrolling in any benefit program. Here are some questions to ask yourself ahead of signing up for coverage:

  • What are your benefits package options?
  • Who do you contact for questions about employee benefits?
  • What is the enrollment process like?
  • Where do you find your proof of insurance documents or cards?

Determining your needs

First and foremost, you’ll have to decide whether or not you even need the offered benefits. For example, if you’re under 26 years old, chances are you’re enrolled in your parents’ health, dental, and vision insurance and won’t need to sign on for these particular benefits quite yet.

Your employer may also offer multiple plans to choose from for health, dental, and vision insurance. Be sure to read all of the policy details for each plan before committing to one.

Sign up for benefits

If you're starting a new job, once you determine whether you need certain benefits and which ones are most crucial to you and your loved ones, you’ll often be able to enroll near the time you started. If you’re signing up later in your employment, you’ll have to enroll during the open enrollment period or wait for a qualifying life event. The enrollment process is relatively straightforward. Signing up is most often done in one of two ways:

  1. Paper enrollment: this method is done almost entirely by your HR representative and usually only requires your signature.
  2. Electronic enrollment process: this method relies a little more heavily on the employee, as you’ll review your options and enroll virtually, filling out any necessary paperwork on your own.

After this process is completed, your benefits won’t need much maintenance until the next open enrollment period. Many organizations opt for auto-renew plans, meaning they won’t require anything from you to renew each year unless you’re making changes to your policy. If you do want to make changes, you can do so through your HR representative or benefits portal during open enrollment.

Types of employee benefits

There are five main types of benefits offered by employers:

  • Health-related benefits (medical, dental and vision)
  • Life insurance
  • Disability
  • Retirement accounts (IRA, Roth IRA, 401K, etc.)
  • Additional workplace perks (PTO, paid holidays; leave time)

What are considered “good” benefits?

What determines “good” benefits vs “bad” or “okay” benefits is largely subjective; however, the best benefits packages are comprehensive and customizable. These packages include all of the required perks, as well as extras to put them over the top. And of course, the best benefits package for you will depend on your individual needs and which offerings best cater to your life.

Most common benefits

Of the many benefits available, these are some of the most common ones offered by employers:

  • Health insurance
  • Disability insurance & absence
  • Dental insurance
  • Vision insurance
  • Life insurance
  • PTO/paid holidays
  • Retirement accounts
  • Family leave

Additional benefits

While the above benefits are included in many standard packages, prospective employees today are looking for more than the basics. They want benefits that better support physical and mental health, work-life balance, and guidance.

Additional benefits can include:

  • Wellbeing services (mental health services, physical health services, mental health days, etc.)
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs)
  • Childcare (reimbursement, in-office childcare)
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Pet insurance
  • Accident insurance
  • Cancer insurance
  • Critical illness insurance
  • Hospital indemnity insurance
  • Unlimited PTO
  • Financial wellness programs
  • Legal plans
  • Scholarships and tuition reimbursement
  • Health savings and spending accounts (e.g., HSA & FSA)
  • Bonus programs
  • Home office stipend
  • Parking stipend
  • Phone and internet stipend

With the increase in remote work opportunities and today’s higher standards (especially from Millennial and Gen-Z candidate pools), these additional fringe benefits might make or break your decision to accept a job offer. That means organizations offering less common benefits already have a leg up over those that don’t.

Thankfully, companies are adapting: 80% of employers noted that “meeting the needs of employees across all life stages and the diversity spectrum is an important benefits objective.”

Why are employee benefits important?

Employee benefits can make your life and your family’s lives easier—or they can miss the mark when it comes to enhancing your work-life balance and well-being. Now more than ever, the right benefits package can be the reason you accept or deny a job offer.

Explore MetLife Stories

This article is intended to provide general information about insurance. It does not describe any Metropolitan Life Insurance company product or feature.