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Big Blue’s Blue Ribbon Standard – Sidling Up to the Benefits Bar
Google benefits: What’ll they be – extra company-paid life insurance or a better health plan?
Google has scotched its white-shirt and blue-suit dress code, but its employees still enjoy some pretty cushy perks. In Money Magazine‘s ranking of the companies with the best benefits, Google came out on top, placing first in 2016 and second in 2017. Here’s what Googlers get so you can compare how your benefits measure up to the Big Blue standard.
Google Retirement and Savings Plan (Pension and investment plans)
The trend is toward “defined contribution plans,”, in which employee contributions are matched by the employer, and away from traditional “defined benefit” plans, which put a greater emphasis on the employer’s guarantee of a retirement income. Defined contribution plans are “portable,” meaning that you can take the money in it with you if you change jobs or go into business for yourself. Employees only benefit from old-fashioned pension plans as long as they stayed with the company a requisite number of years.
Defined contribution plans come in as many different varieties as Heinz condiments. Most popular of all are 401 (k) plans, which allow employees to contribute pretax-income. Many companies also will match employees contributions. Under certain circumstances, you can tap into your 401 (k) savings for unforeseen expenses. Profit-sharing plans enable employees to share in a company’s success. Likewise, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) allow employees to purchase company stock at a discount or receive part of their salary in the form of company stock.
Google employees can choose between a traditional pension plan or a 401 (k), which includes matched employer contributions. IBM will match 50 percent of employee contributions up to 6 percent of salary.
Google also offers an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP. The company pays out up to 10 percent of an employee’s salary, depending on yearly revenues. In addition, employees participating in the ESOP can buy company stock for 85 percent of market share price.
Health Care and Health Plans
To clip costs, companies are promoting “managed care” plans and trying to wean employees away from traditional so-called fee-for-service plans in which they were free to choose their own doctors. Employees increasingly are being asked to pay a larger percentage of the cost of their health plan, presenting a Hobson’s choice higher deductibles or higher premiums.
Concerning Google employees, they can choose between a range of health care and dental plans. Employees pay a flat fee a month for individuals and up to twice a month for families, depending on the plan selected. The highest deductible amount can be as high as $2,000 for a family. Reimbursements cover 80 percent of costs for major medical; 100 percent for surgical and hospital costs.
At Google, dental insurance costs about $50 a month. The lifetime maximum coverage for dental work is around $20,000.
In fact, most companies offer some form of life insurance today. The main differences are between plans that are fully employer paid and those that depend on employee contributions. Some companies offer a combination of both. Most core plans provide a cash payout equal to one times the employee’s most recent annual salary, sometimes with a cash maximum. Often employees have the option of purchasing additional coverage. In the case of IBM, this company’s employer-paid life insurance pays out up to $200,000, based on length of service. Employees can make contributions toward additional life insurance of up to five times their salaries.
This benefit is more important than life insurance, since it is more likely you’ll need to make use of it. Employers differ in their formula for calculating short-term disability payments. Some use the salary continuation method in which employees receive their entire salary or a percentage of their salary, depending on years worked, for a defined period of time before long-term disability benefits kick in. Other employers use the “accrual” method. Your benefits are based on the amount of time you’ve worked for the company. Long-term disability payments are generally a fixed percentage of your salary. Many employers allow you to purchase supplemental coverage.
For Google employees, the short-term disability insurance provides full pay for up to one year. Long-term disability options range from 50 to 70 percent of pay.
Googlers get five weeks of vacation after 20 years. Twelve holidays during the year. You can take parental personal leave for up to three years with benefits.
Extras Annual reimbursement of up to $2,000 for health and fitness programs or personal financial planning fees.
Flexible benefits at Google
Increasingly, you can order your benefits à la carte. Each employee receives a certain number of credits and can use them as he or she sees fit. For instance, you may be able to “buy” extra vacation days with part of your salary, “sell” the credits for cash, or use them to purchase extra life insurance or health insurance. Employees who are covered under their spouse’s health plan might want to cash in their own health benefits and invest the money in a company stock purchase plan or some other savings option. A number of companies also allow employees to put a certain percentage of their pretax salary in “spending accounts” for health or “dependent” care. Some employers match these contributions.
“Feel Good” Perks
Ready-to-est take-home meals. Dry cleaning on the premises. Company bank branches offering discount rate mortgages. These are just a few of the so-called time and convenience benefits some more enlightened companies are starting to offer overworked employees.
Welcome to the benefits smorgasboard
Finally, remember that chances are that your company benefits plan now offers you as many different choices as there are items at the salad bar in the company cafeteria. The number and range of options, of course, varies widely from company to company. Here are some of the things that are being served up.
With more companies cutting back on basic benefits like health care, such programs offer a relatively inexpensive way to help employees feel good about their employers. What’s next? Who knows… for example, IBM, Appple or iGotOffer offer “concierge” services that will take care of various errands for employees, from buying gifts to obtaining hard-to-get tickets to sport events.