It seems like such basic advice but it happens more frequently than job seekers realize. Offers of employment are made without a full detailing of the benefits package and that’s a mistake.

Writing at the PBS News Hour blog, “MAKING SEN$E,” Nick Corcodilos writes in his “Ask the Headhunter” column about a job seeker who was offered a job by a company that has a policy of not disclosing the benefits offered until after the applicant accepts the position. Corcodilos said, “You’ve run smack up against one of the most perturbing and ludicrous practices of many companies: They will not divulge the details of their benefits package or their employee policy manual until after you have started work.”

In this instance, the applicant was represented by a recruiter. It’s bad form for the recruiter to not know ahead of time that a benefits package won’t be revealed. In fact, it would be better if the recruiter knew the benefits offered to help the candidate decide if the position was worth pursuing to begin with.

But Corcodilos comes down firmly on the company for being so secretive. “Please rest assured, the company you’re dealing with is being stupid. This is how employers lose good job candidates in a competitive market.”

What is his advice in this situation? Bypass the human resources department and go straight to the CEO’s office – but don’t let the call be returned by someone from HR because that defeats the purpose of communicating around them. “Call the office of the CEO and very politely explain that you are sitting on a job offer that you’re ready to accept, but you have a question that no one — including the HR department — seems able to answer to your satisfaction,” he advises, adding, “Not all companies have such policies. I discourage you from signing a contract (that is, a job offer) with a company that will not divulge everything you need to know.”

As Alison Doyle observes at JobSearch.About.com, it’s important to get this information before making your decision because benefits are a significant part of your compensation package. She says, “Employment benefits can comprise 40%, or even more, of your total compensation package so it’s important to know exactly what benefits you will be provided with and to get enough benefit information to ensure that the coverage is what you need.”

She adds, “… make a decision on whether to accept the position based upon the entire compensation plan including salary, fringe benefits and additional perks that may be offered. That way, you’re accepting, or rejecting, the job based on overall compensation rather than just once facet of it. And, most importantly, you won’t have any unexpected costs or benefit issues when it might be too late to do anything about it.”

Just as a reminder, it’s not illegal to discuss compensation and benefits with employees at a company where you might want to work, in spite of what some companies say. The Texas Workforce Commission has a good explanation of what is allowed at its website. It cited this standard language as an example of incorrect language, “Employees are prohibited from discussing their salary or wage levels and company benefits with other employees. Such information is confidential and may not be discussed in the workplace. Any employee violating this policy will be considered to have committed a breach of confidentiality and will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and possibly including termination of employment.”

The Texas Workforce Commission responded, “Those … companies would likely be surprised to learn that such policies generally violate federal labor law. Indeed, the National Labor Relations Act contains a provision …  that gives all employees the right to ‘engage in concerted activities’, including the right to discuss their terms and conditions of employment with each other. [T]he NLRA … makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to deny or limit the … rights of employees. Based upon those two provisions, the … NLRB has taken the position for decades now that employers may not prohibit employees from discussing their pay and benefits, and that any attempts to do so actually violate the NLRA. Moreover, those particular sections of the NLRA apply to both union and non-union employees, so there is no exception made for companies where the employees are non-unionized.”



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