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Inclusion of benefits in employment contract?
December 13, 2011 5:57 AM   Subscribe

Should health benefits and who will pay those health benefits be included in an employment contract?

I started work at a start up company in Ontario, Canada a few months ago. Health benefits (vision, dental, prescription coverage) were promised to me, and were part of my consideration of the salary I accepted.

The company has just now gotten around to having us sign employment contracts. My contract doesn't promise the benefits I listed above, but has a short wishy-washy sentence about being allowed to "participate" in any benefit plans that "might" be offered. There is no mention of what types of benefits would be included or that the company would pay for them. There is no reference to any external documents detailing included benefits.

I'm not worried about the short term, but I'm worried about a few years down the line if someone were to decide that employees should be paying part of the insurance premiums or that one aspect might no longer be included - especially since this is a start-up and things are always changing. The contract has standard text about it constituting the whole agreement between us (i.e. any prior promises of benefits are void).

Am I right to want text included about the benefits including vision, dental and prescription coverage and about it being at the cost of the company? Or am I just being paranoid? Are benefits normally stipulated in some way in the contract?
posted by Diplodocus to Work & Money (8 answers total)
 
Were those benefits promised in writing, or verbally? If verbally, you're probably out of luck. Unless it's in writing (and signed by someone in authority to do so) it didn't happen.

Now, you can, of course, go back to whomever promised you the benefits and discuss the issue with them. Be prepared, though, to come away disappointed.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:08 AM on December 13, 2011


Benefits were only promised verbally, but I will clarify that I also haven't signed the new contract yet and have been told I can discuss with them if I feel something should be changed. I feel I might have some wiggle room to have something about benefits included in writing if it is a reasonable thing to include.

I do have the benefits now, it's the future I'm worried about.
posted by Diplodocus at 6:17 AM on December 13, 2011


Get everything that was agreed upon written in the final contract. I made sure that salary additions that I verbally agreed on during the final interview for a previous job were listed correctly in the letter. You don't need to be embarrassed about asking for them to be included so give the HR person a call but you don't have to have every little benefit spelled out completely. I doubt a legit company would renege on something they promised in the final interview which is usually attended by the boss and HR director.
posted by JJ86 at 6:44 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not an expert, but if the contract includes your salary, and benefits were part of the consideration of that salary, then they should be in it. Especially if it is the whole contract.
I think it's unreasonable to not include it. But that said, they might not actually be expecting discussion (just answering questions and giving clarification), and it might be that no-one will quite know what to do with your reasonable requirement, and no-one will want to put their ass on the line or feel empowered to make the change, so it might take a little persistence and pushing.

Figure out ahead of time what you want in the contract. I would think of some language to the effect of benefits that are comparable to your existing benefits, will be paid for as part of your compensation, and that this will be implemented by X date or at the termination of your current benefits, whichever comes last (or first?)

I'm guessing now, but it might also help for you to already have the clause drafted and ready to drop into the contract, so there is more for everyone to work with, and fewer distractions and delays.

Regardless, if you sign this, as is, I agree you are throwing away the promise you had. They might still honor it, but chances are obviously better if the agreement is "real".

If they point blank refuse (that's a bad sign for the future in and of itself) but perhaps quietly bring up the issue with others who haven't signed yet. They might not have noticed, and become much more concerned about it. (Or they might not have negotiated for benefits). If it's a bunch of people saying "what's up with this?", it's harder to sweep under the rug, and easier to get traction. Don't let on that you're doing this though - at this point things could be kinda adversarial.

The structure of organisations allows people to pass the buck. The result is that organisations are prone to behave as socio-paths about this stuff.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:46 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


A recent example on the green of what can happen to even the most honoured verbal agreements. Get it in writing.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:50 AM on December 13, 2011


I do have the benefits now, it's the future I'm worried about.
Ah. That's an important detail.

You should definitely, then, go to whomever and request a written contract where your current benefit package is preserved as a minimum baseline that will not be reduced in the future.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:11 AM on December 13, 2011


Is the issue the actual terms of the health plan or is it who pays for it? It will be very hard for a company as it grows to have a separate health plan for you if they decide to change the standard one in anyway. I would strive to keep the cost the same including the amounts of co-pays. They can reimburse you for co-pays that would make you whole if they change the plan.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:22 AM on December 13, 2011


A follow-up for anyone who comes across this in the future: my request to promise benefits in my contract was granted without any resistance or hard feelings.
posted by Diplodocus at 9:10 AM on December 31, 2011


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