Monday, November 22, 2010

Another benefit bites the dust

Friday, I had a blog on how Health Insurance companies are finding that they are doing well in one area in particular, that of people not going to the doctor's office anymore, as often as they used to. This is in part because of an active attempt on education on the part of the Health Insurers, but also because people simply can't afford a doctor visit and because in recent years, they have become "gunshy" at going, because of the expense out of pocket.

Well, on another front, on the side of the employees at these health insurance companies, as well as at many many other companies, I've been watching our benefits dwindle down to nothing. Life is hard lately. People out of work. Companies cutting costs, people, benefits, on and on and on and....

We have all agreed that we are willing to help in this time of reinventing companies and the workforce, in order to keep the company afloat, and keep out jobs. Too many people are already out of work. We've not gotten a raise in a couple of years, little or no bonus for a while, healthcare cuts, budget cuts, layoffs, its been rough and getting rougher. Next step is being out of work. For some of us, that just happened a week ago.

It is that time of year, that dreaded month we call "Open Enrollment" where you can pick and choose the minimal options you have about your healthcare and other things. In my selecting my options I discovered something about one of our benefits. We had heard about it as a change, but no one gave it much thought. Till now.

Some years ago, the company had combined our vacation days and our sick days in one bin, called it Paid Time Off. I've heard this at many companies. Pretty standard. I'm not sure if its better for employees or not, but companies love it. But then, companies seem to love a lot of things the past few years, and not all of them are good for the employees. But some of these things, people just don't understand and they slip by; or by time they notice its too late and old news.

We used to be able to sell back our PTO, up to two weeks worth a year. A couple of years ago they said you have to have a week remain available to sell back a week. Then they said you have to have two weeks to sell one week. Then they said, you can only sell back one week a year. Now, for 2011, they say you have to select the "option" of selling back up to a week and if you choose to do so, you will receive that money in your first check of August 2011. It used to be that you had to submit a request, then depending upon the timing, you would get it on your next paycheck, up to three weeks typically, as the longest period of time you would have to wait, but you could do it any time during the year.

So, as for this 2011 PTO cashout, first of all I realized it was kind of out of left field for most of us when we first heard of it. For myself, I do not foresee that I will need or want a cashout next year; but I really don’t know at this time, nor can I know…yet. Can I.

From what I understand, once you select the OPTION to cashout, it’s not really an option at all, because then you have to cashout a week next year.

What I mean by that is, as I understand it, is that if you select that option in order to even have the
capability to be able to do it next year, but should you later decide that you would rather use your days off than to cash them out, well, at that point, you would then be obligated to go through with the cashout.

If, you can't cancel the cashout and take the days off, then, just how is THAT an option? As in, they are calling this the PTO cashout option. Doesn't really sound like a lot of option to me.

If I need to select to have the cashout, for that option to be available to me, okay; but if that also meant that I HAVE to take the cash next year, well, as I said, I don’t so much like that option.

The thing that was nice about the capability to cash out a week (or two, as it once was),  was that if you needed it for some reason, it was there. That is almost no longer true, if you prefer your days off. If you see what I’m getting at.

It appears that now, that the company has eliminated that capability and decided we should no longer have that option, should we need or desire it. What I felt was a down side on this new format, was that in consideration of the current economy, to make it so it is no longer a viable option, is to remove yet another helpful protection and benefit, should there later be a need for it, by way of the employee’s consideration and evaluation.

So if that’s the case, then the company is saying, this cashout is only for planned recreational use, and not for any kind of help or protection to your family’s budget, regardless of the situation.

But, PTO is for good and bad times.

Seems kind of a funny thing to do, from that perspective, in consideration of the state of the economy and people trying to make it through these difficult times.

Its further interesting, as PTO covers both vacation time off, AND sick days, that PTO is quite obviously for both recreational and difficult personal times (sickness) usage. I won’t even touch on how money matters can make you sick, and a cashout could keep you from getting sick over a situation; but that’s another issue entirely.

So, I am sorry for me and the rest of us as its seems to be just one more little nibble on our benefits that no one is noticing. Don’t you think?

And if I am understanding this all correctly, then I suppose I would like to select to not use the option to cash out next year.

Because, I need all the paid time off I can get from this....

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