Issue 53 / You Need To Pay Close Attention To Your Work Benefits

You Need To Pay Close Attention To Your Work Benefits

Jun 11, 2016

Stop fixating on your salary and look closely at your benefits. Whether you are starting a new job or still at the same one, it's important to understand how the benefits work for you.

For most people, the initial, burning question related to any job is: “How much does it pay?”

Naturally we want our job to cover living expenses leaving additional income for entertainment, leisure and savings. Salary is such a priority that several career websites (Indeed, for example) allow applicants to indicate desired salary ranges in their search options. LinkedIn, one of the leading, international career networking sites uses the desire for salary information as a marketing tool to increase premium membership sales: only by upgrading to a paid account can users see the salary range of advertised jobs. 

Salary job contract employee
Salary information is handed over, but you have to ask for details about the benefits.
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Before you write off a job, deciding you deserve more zeros than offered (or accept due to extra zeros), we encourage you to consider an important factor: the benefits.

Job benefits can make a huge impact on our quality of life. Quality of life does not just mean material wealth but overall wellness which includes health, stress levels and free time.

Some of you may be thinking:

“If I make an excellent salary, benefits don’t matter; I can pay for anything I need on my own.”

Stop right there. Do not underestimate the benefits of benefits!

 Dentist, bills, healthcare
Ask about dental coverage to save big bucks. 
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If you live in the United States without health benefits or insurance, a routine physical can cost between $200 to $240 USD. If you live in Canada, India or the United Kingdom you may be shaking your head with a smile because healthcare is covered. Be careful — all that glitters is not gold. Stop focusing on what is covered and start researching what isn’t. Dental care in Canada, India and the U.S. is not covered. A standard routine cleaning in North American can range from $75 to $200 USD. In the U.K., initial dental visits are covered through healthcare (NHS) but appointments may have a waiting list.


The benefit that’s often asked about is vacation days. With dreams of soaking up the sun on a Caribbean beach and/or plans to visit faraway family or friends, people hope for five weeks but often settle for two. Interestingly despite remembering to ask about vacation days some don't actually take them. 2014 research showed that 26 per cent of Canadians do not take their paid vacation days.

 working overtime workload
Factor in how the work hours will impact your daily life. 
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The reality is that in the competitive job market, many get lured into accepting a salaried position with private organization that has fluctuating hours. Contracts for salaried roles may indicate that workloads may be as high as 60 hours per week. Be careful giving up your right to charge overtime; it can be a flag about a company’s corporate culture. Calculate your salary against the highest amount of estimated hours (on the higher scale). You may find that once you factor in the time, despite the fancy, senior job title, you’re making as much as a junior with an elevated stress level. Benefits to inquire about in roles that require extra hours during project/peak times are if transportation and meals are provided and if the company issues lieu time.

Another grey area is the company cellphone. Companies hands these over and sometimes classify them as an employee benefit. It is a benefit: to the company. Most employees still have to pay for a personal phone so there’s no financial savings. Employees may check their work phone outside of work hours (some even on vacation). Reasons vary: some check because it’s expected in the corporate culture, others because they have too much work to do and don’t want to fall behind, and/or out of curiosity/fear on what they may miss. What may sound like a benefit may not be one to the employee.  

How do you ensure your benefits will benefit you?

Best practice is to ask to see the benefits package documentation prior to signing a contract (in the case of a unionized role, ask to see the Collective Agreement). Make sure you check the range of health services (dental, vision, registered massage therapists, physiotherapy, etc.) and the amount covered. Some packages list lots of services but with closer inspection, the amounts are low. For example, physiotherapy is listed but upon closer inspection you may find coverage is only $15 per visit, leaving you to pay the majority.

work from home family
The benefit of working from home occasionally is a huge benefit. 
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Check for sick days (how many and the percentage paid), insurance options, stock options and retirement plans (some companies in Canada will match RRSP contributions if withdrawals are set-up to come out of your pay automatically).    
Have kids or planning to? Check for additional insurance, maternity/paternity leave and/or daycare. A sick child that can’t attend school can cost a small fortune in babysitting bills. A work from home option is a great benefit to inquire about.
Realistically, salaries will be the largest factor to consider but don’t underestimate the benefit of benefits: they impact your total salary and most importantly your quality of life. 

Main Image Photo Credit:

Rachna Sethi


Rachna (@thesassyspiritual) is a graduate of the Applied Mindfulness Meditation program from the University of Toronto, a certified Educator with two bachelor degrees and a diploma in Art Therapy. She's dedicated to living with a compassionate approach. Committed to helping people integrate Mindfuln...


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