When do employers have to provide benefits?

Discover when your employees are entitled to get benefits.

Written words employee and benefits next to a calculator.

Employee benefits are an essential part of any quality compensation package. Depending on the location and circumstances, they’re sometimes even required by law. As an employer, you must ensure your employees get the benefits they’re entitled to at the appropriate time. Keeping all the different laws and regulations governing employee benefits straight can be a real challenge, and many employers wonder when they’re required in the first place. You may have questions or concerns about providing benefits to your staff, but with some planning and the help of a few great tools, you’ll be able to create and implement the right package for your company. 

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Mandatory employee benefits

There are two broad categories of employee benefits: mandatory and voluntary. Mandatory benefits are those that employers must provide by law, and voluntary benefits are those an employer can choose to offer employees.

Employers have a lot of flexibility when offering voluntary benefits, such as paid vacation time, education credits, and wellness benefits. Legally required employee benefits are different. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that these benefits “provide workers and their families with retirement income and medical care, mitigate economic hardship resulting from loss of work and disability, and cover liabilities resulting from workplace injuries and illnesses.”

Employee benefits required by federal law include unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicare, workers’ compensation insurance, and family and medical leave. Health insurance is another employee benefit many companies must offer or risk incurring significant penalties.  

Offering new employees benefits

New hires need to be set up with the right benefits at the right time. To achieve this, you’ll need a clear picture of the laws governing employee benefits and well-defined eligibility criteria for your benefit plans. Effective dates are among the most important details in any benefits package.

When are employees typically able to receive benefits?

Some mandatory benefits, such as workers’ compensation and Social Security, need to take effect on a new employee’s first day working at your company. However, you can choose to implement a probationary period for other benefits, like health insurance. 

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), companies can choose to provide access to health insurance benefits after a waiting period of up to 90 days. This time can act as a cushion and give you a chance to determine whether the new employee is a good fit for your company.  

Are there any exceptions?

Keep in mind that not all employers have to provide benefits, and not all employees are automatically eligible to receive them. 

The ACA, for example, requires that employers with 50 or more full-time employees provide health insurance. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) similarly requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Smaller companies may be exempt from these requirements. 

Part-time workers may be eligible for some benefits and not for others, depending on local and state laws and the employer’s policies.   

Rules in different countries

As with many other employment laws, the rules covering employee benefits are often different in different countries around the world. If you have international employees, it’s important to make sure your business meets its benefit obligations in each of those countries.  

You may or may not have to offer the same benefits to foreign employees as you do to your employees working in the United States. Understanding and adhering to country-specific benefit requirements is one of the top three global benefits challenges.  

Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. 

Oyster’s remote work regulations tool makes finding out which employee benefits rules apply in various countries a breeze. Just select the country where one of your employees or candidates lives, and you’ll see the country-specific regulations you need to know about. 

Health insurance is typically the most expensive and most complicated employee benefit for companies to provide. With Oyster Health, you can easily manage health coverage details for your team members around the world. You’ll be able to provide your team with the exceptional coverage they deserve without the headaches. 

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About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

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