Whenever an employer seeks to hire a software engineer or software developer or web developer, they mention all the perks of the job. The free snacks or the Foosball table or the ability to work from home are typical of what’s mentioned in job ads, not to mention promising they use the best and latest tech and really do code reviews.
Before or during the interview process, the developer will be asked their salary expectations. Perhaps there will be some negotiation around salary (unfortunately that’s rare from all the developers we’ve talked to).
Finally, when the offer is presented the benefits package will be shown along with the number of vacation and sick days allowed.
We argue that the benefits package should be thoroughly reviewed before accepting any offer. Moreover, the benefits package is just as vital as the salary amount and we also argue that developers should be asking how good the benefits package is.
What is a benefits package?
To clarify, a benefits package is the amount of cash that’s provided by an insurance company to cover medical-related expenses such as dentist appointments, optometrist exams, new prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses, massage therapy, chiropractors, naturopathy appointments, drug prescriptions, etc. There’s usually also a life insurance policy for employees.
We’ll outline the importance of the benefits package with a few examples and case studies.
Glasses, contact lenses and optometrists
When a developer wears glasses or contact lenses they’ll need to go an optometrist for an eye exam maybe once a year. Based on whether the prescription has changed, they’ll need to buy new frames or change the lenses. Depending on the brand name of the frames or lenses this can add up fairly quickly. The developer may want two pairs of glasses or already have one pair and want to upgrade them and buy a new pair. If they’re lucky, this will be completely covered by their benefits package. However, if they need to deal with more intensive eye care issues, they will have to pay out of pocket. If they break their glasses or their prescription changes at an inconvenient time (say 6 months after their last appointment), then they’ll again have to pay out of pocket.
For the glasses-wearing developer it will be vital to know how much of their eye care will be covered and how much they’ll have to pay out of pocket in an emergency. They will need to know before they see an offer whether the benefits package is good enough for them. If the benefits barely cover a typical optometrist appointment, they would be in the right to ask for more salary since they’ll have to pay out of pocket.
Developer with a family
The next example is a developer who has a family, someone who has dependents. They will absolutely need to know how well the benefits package will cover their family medical expenses. For example, a dentist appointment every 6 months (which is recommended by all dentists) may not be possible if the developer has to pay out of pocket. What if the child, or children, need braces or fillings? It will be extremely important for the developer to know how much their children’s and their own dental expenses will be covered before they accept a job offer. They’ll need to know how much more salary they will need in order to cover out of pocket expenses.
Developer who has not used their benefits at all
Another case study is a developer who has not used his benefits at all aside from the basics such as a quick dentist checkup or eye exam and maybe antibiotics when they caught the office sickness that’s been going around. This developer looked at their benefits and realized that some $3000 were being unused. This was speech therapies, massages, acupuncture sessions, that were not happening. By not using the benefits to the fullest extent, the developer was in fact saving the company money (aside from the monthly insurance premium paid for the developer to be covered under their benefits plan). They could have received up to $3000 in extra salary simply because they were healthy. By knowing ahead of time what benefits were offered, the developer could have taken advantage of them or asked for more salary since they could not take advantage of some of the benefits.
We hope that these case studies of developers show why you need to ask about the benefits package before you accept an offer. You will know how much your dental, optometrist, massage, therapy and other appointments and treatments will be covered. You will be able to gauge how much of the benefits you can use to maintain and/or improve your life and health. Especially you will know whether or not you need to ask for more salary or more perks.
We firmly believe that a poor benefits package harms the health and wellness of software developers and the only way to correct that is by having developers seriously consider what benefits are offered and how much coverage they have.
When you look at your next job offer and calculate the salary and vacation pay, balance it against the total amount of coverage for all the benefits. Remember that salary, out of pocket cash, is what’s needed to cover anything not included in the benefits package.