// 30 Oct 2018

Nightmare on Benefits Street

Several months into my position as the first full-time HR manager for a start-up company in Seattle, I had completed redesigning the layout for the personnel folders. In the process, I noticed that a lot information pertaining to benefits seemed to be less than organized. At that point, I decided it would be prudent to develop a quick reference on all the employees so I could quickly access which benefits each person had.

It was a fun, easy idea at first, which quickly began to snowball. Only after speaking with several employees and checking with accounting, I discovered that there wasn’t a match between the deductions that were being made in people’s paychecks and what benefits they received. After recruiting the head accountant, we worked with our main benefits broker and revealed a big amount of trouble.

Out of the approximately 60 employees in Seattle alone, at least 20 percent of them were either paying for benefits they weren’t enrolled in, or were signed up for benefits they weren’t paying for.

This issue ultimately required me to sit down with each employee and break the bad news to them about what had been going wrong with their benefits for approximately a year.

The only saving grace in this mess was that in working with our broker, we were able to refund the money to those employees who were paying for benefits they weren’t receiving. Or, if the employee wanted the benefits and was already paying, we could help them out, too.

Fortunately they weren’t benefits that were vital to day-to-day, such as medical and dental, but still, that was one of those times where, as an HR professional, you know if you pull on the string, the ball is going to do something. But, unfortunately, you know you gotta do it.

– David, Seattle, Wash.