Do You Know Where Your Job Benefits Go Once You Leave a Job?

An image of a woman wearing glasses, stressfully chewing on a pencil as she looks at her laptop intently.
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Full-time employment can have numerous benefits in addition to a salary or hourly wage. Not only are you networking with colleagues and building experience for your resume, but you are often eligible for employee benefits. 

Job benefits include but are not limited to paid time off, sick days, health insurance, pension, and retirement savings. Arguably the most important, health insurance can help cut down out of pocket costs when it comes to dental, vision and general medical bills. Some companies will even offer a career development budget, paid vacation, and other benefits.

Being totally clear, I think most benefits packages in the US are woefully scant and workers deserve a lot more when it comes to wages AND benefits. Also, the fact that health insurance is tied to employment means that people are often forced to stay in jobs that mistreat them so that they can keep their families covered by insurance — one huge reason I am a proponent of universal healthcare.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an undeniable impact on employment: new weekly unemployment claims are higher than any previous recession. In December 2020, 10.7 million people were unemployed, making a 6.7% unemployment rate in the United States. Furloughs, otherwise known as temporary unemployment, increased by 277,000 to 3 million total in December 2020. 

Countless Americans are now looking for new jobs after being laid off or furloughed. Even if you’re still employed, you might be preparing for the possibility of a layoff. Whatever your unique situation is, you’re probably wondering what will come of your job benefits once you leave. While the answer to this question varies from company to company, it’s in your best interests to make sure you know what to expect so you can plan ahead once you no longer hold your current job. 

If you’re facing a layoff like so many continue to experience, the first thing to look into is unemployment benefits. You can contact your local unemployment office to verify your eligibility and file for unemployment as soon as you can—this will allow you to supplement your income while you’re looking for new employment opportunities. This can make the job searching process much less stressful when you still have an income you can count on.   

Another critical benefit to plan for is your health, vision and/or dental insurance. Your company may have provided some or all of these benefits to you. If you know you’ll no longer be holding the position that was supporting you with these important benefits, you’ll want to find out exactly what you’re in for going forward.

For health insurance, there is a program in place called COBRA that allows you to maintain your health insurance plan after you’re no longer at the company who was providing it to you. COBRA allows you to stay enrolled in your current health plan for anywhere between 18 and 36 months, and you’re eligible regardless of the reason for leaving your job—whether you quit, were fired or laid off. You must opt in to the COBRA program within 60 days of when you left your job, and you’ll be required to pay an administrative fee of 2 percent along with whatever the premium cost is. The impact of COBRA on your budget may vary depending on how much you were already used to paying for your healthcare.

If COBRA is not possible for you, you can enroll in a new plan in the healthcare marketplace. Losing a job allows you to enroll outside of the usual open enrollment period.

These are just a few critical things you’ll want to understand about your job benefits if you know you won’t be holding your position much longer. If you find yourself in this situation, you may feel overwhelmed wondering how you’ll continue to stay covered. Research and preparation can help you feel more in control of the situation.

Check out this infographic from Credit Repair for more information on how to prepare for job loss (as much as you can) and some Dos and Don’ts to avoid burning bridges when you leave.


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