wee answer Wednesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Can my friend avoid being laid off?

My best friend is three months into her first full-time job post-college. It’s not in her field, but she was generally happy with having a job, her coworkers, etc. Her boss just announced that they will be laying off one staff member who will be chosen from a group of three workers doing generally the same thing (my friend is in this group).

The announcement of who it is will be coming in two weeks because it’s corporate’s decision. Naturally, the fear is that she will be the one laid off because she’s the newest worker. Is there anything she can do in the next two weeks to increase her chances of staying? Or is this basically a done deal?

There’s probably not much she can do in the next two weeks. The decision will probably be made either on seniority or merit. She obviously can’t change her seniority, and if it’s decided on merit, there’s not much she can do to change whatever impression she’s already made in that regard, good or bad. What she should do, however, is (a) start job-searching; if she’s laid off, she’ll be glad she had the head start, and if she’s not, she can short-circuit the search at that point, and (b) be prepared to ask for severance if she’s the one who’s let go. To strengthen her case there, she might point out that she turned down other jobs to take this one, if in fact she did; that argument and similar ones can sometimes help.

2. Company doesn’t offer benefits until after six months of employment

I have been offered a job which does not offer benefits (health insurance, paid time off, sick leave, etc.) for the first 6 months. It is a full-time permanent position. Employees do accrue paid time off during that six months but are not paid for any time off.

I have never experienced this before. To me, the company is saying, “We don’t expect our employees to stay here more than six months so we aren’t going to provide them with benefits,” and either people are leaving before six months or getting fired before six months, neither of which is good. What do you think of it?

Some people do leave or get fired before six months in pretty much every company. It’s possible that it’s happening here more than most, but it’s more likely that they simply have a bad insurance policy. I don’t take issue with their paid leave policy — it’s not uncommon to allow leave to accrue but say that you can’t use it in your first six months. It is, however, a bad policy not to offer insurance until six months, because it means that their employees will either have to pay to use COBRA if they had a COBRA-eligible job previously (which doesn’t account for everyone, and COBRA premiums are often very high) or that they’ll be uninsured. So that part of the policy sucks.

3. My manager asked for volunteers to do yard work at our director’s house

One of my managers asked, mostly via email to everyone, for volunteers to do yard work for our director. While this was voluntary and meant as a nice gesture to a well-respected director, it didn’t seem right to me. I voiced my opinion and now my hours have been halved. My concerns included the question of what if someone gets hurt, whether participants would later receive preferential treatment, and whether human resources would condone this.

You were right to speak up, because it’s inappropriate to ask employees to do yard work for a manager. They were wrong to cut your hours as a result. Ethically wrong, that is, and managerially wrong — legally, it’s their right to do that, but it’s a ridiculous response. If you have a good HR department, you might consider raising this to them.

4. Is it useful to mention being in the advanced stages of interviewing with other companies?

I have been working at a very idiosyncratic fixed-term contract job. I’m not paid by the company, but by a third party. It’s impossible for me to keep on working there. I have around $65,000 student loan debt, and I make almost nothing. I am granted the favor of being allowed to list a staff title (low ranking, but at least not “intern”) on my resume and on the company’s website. But it’s not a very respectable industry and has very poor exit options.

After a very, very long period of not having any leads for good, full-time jobs with decent potential for career growth, I’ve gotten a little lucky recently. I got 3 rounds with a company in my desired field, for an entry-level position. But I also am in the second round with a different company in my field, and also a second round with a company in a different, less desired field, but for a higher position.

At this point, my priority is getting any decent offer. Once I have a real job in a decent industry, I will be able to build on that and move up either there or through networking. My question is: In lieu of an offer, is there a way to leverage late stage interviews (being very deep in the interview process) with one company for another? The first company actually told me two times, in my last interview, that I should tell them right away if I had any other offers, and that could speed their decision time up in giving me an offer. It’s been a little over one week now since my final interview there. They told me they’d take a few weeks. I originally planned to follow up in two weeks.

Hearing that you have an offer from somewhere else isn’t likely to push them into making you an offer if they otherwise never would have. All it can do is speed up their decision making process — which could mean a faster “no,” not just a faster “yes.” And you definitely don’t want to bluff and say you have an offer when you don’t, because you risk hearing, “We won’t be making decisions for a while, so you should take it” and then being removed from their process.

But you’re not asking about offers; you’re asking about mentioning that you’re in advanced stages of interviewing with other companies. That isn’t really useful, because employers know all too well that hiring takes time, and you could reach a late stage with a company, only to have it take weeks (or longer) before offers are made.

5. Explaining a job gap due to a mental health issue

Until recently I held a position that I loved in the entertainment industry. However, I am in my mid-twenties, the time of onset for many major mental illnesses, and I learned I am bipolar when I had my first major manic episode. This necessitated my leaving work to get help, and while they loved me and would have held the job if possible (my boss told me this), it is obviously a fast paced industry, and taking two months off isn’t feasible.

Now that I am properly medicated and looking for work again, what do I say when asked why I left my last job? I am confident I can count on good references from my previous job, but how do I explain leaving? I don’t want to vaguely reference a medical crisis that will make them worry about my reliability, but the truth is obviously even worse! Any thoughts would be appreciated.

“I had a health issue that has since been resolved.” It’s accurate and it doesn’t reveal any more than you need to.

6. How can I find out what happened with the job I was interviewing for?

After three months of interviewing with a hedge fund for a senior role, I progressed as far as being told that we would be getting contracts shortly. Three weeks went by and nothing. I emailed and called and am getting no response. I have to assume they changed their mind, but I have never encountered this total lack of professionalism. Any suggestions on how I can find out what happened?

You might not be able to. You’ve attempted to contact them multiple times and they’re not responding. At this point, all you can do is chalk it up to rudeness on their side and move on — which will serve you far better than spending any energy trying to figure out what happened anyway. (Because really, it doesn’t matter what happened, whether it was a better candidate coming along, the position being put on hold, hiring being frozen, doubts about your fit for the role, or whatever. Sure, it would be nice to know, but since they’re being rudely unresponsive, just move on.)

7. My company won’t compensate me for the level of work I’m performing

I am in a situation where I have been in my current job for over 2 years, have been doing excellent work for those two years, but not getting the pay nor the title associated with that level of performance. My performance reviews have been Exceeds Expectations during this time, and the feedback I get is that I am performing at a level far beyond my experience. Not only that, over the last year, my company assigned me to the most critical product launch in the last 10 years, one that saves the company if it is successful, and dooms it if not. (It has been successful and is nearly fully launched.)

My dilemma is this: I am much younger than the typical person in this role, yet I am performing at that much more experienced level and I think I should get compensated for it. The excuse from my management is that I do not meet the on-paper experience requirements for them to place me at the organizational level I think I deserve, and that HR will fight it to the death. My company’s policies/philosophy for this type of thing makes it much more attractive to leave the company for 1-3 years and come back for substantially higher salary and organizational level.

How hard should I push my manager/management, or should I begin to look elsewhere? I do not wish to leave the company, and I very much like the people I work for. My gut feeling is that they do not currently see me as someone at risk to leave, so they are not thinking about this in the same light I am. That said, I am aware that most of the large corporate mindset in America these days is that everyone and anyone is replaceable and that they won’t “use their chips” to “go to bat” for you. I have a mid-year performance evaluation coming up in about a week, and I plan to discuss this then. What should I do?

Start looking for another job. You answered your own question here: “My company’s policies/philosophy for this type of thing makes it much more attractive to leave the company for 1-3 years and come back for substantially higher salary and organizational level.”

You can certainly tell your manager that you’re concerned that the company’s policy encourage you to leave in order to be appropriately compensated, and that you’d like to stay but you do want to be paid fairly … but that’s about all you can do. If you want more money and they won’t give it to you, you’ll need to go somewhere else to get it.

{ 100 comments… read them below }

  1. Kara*


    Six months is actually not the worst I’ve seen. My fiancee worked for a redi-mix (concrete transportation) company until a little over a year ago, and when he started at that company he was not eligible for benefits (heath insurance, 401k, 1 week of vacation) for 12 months after hiring on, plus the additional months he had to wait for open enrollment (at least for the 401k), which totaled about 20 months. This was one of the worst companies I’ve ever seen as far as management and benefits goes, so it was not surprising, but still pretty bad. Its an industry where they don’t expect people to last because of the type of work and schedule involved, but this company went out of their way to let their employees know they were all replaceable and that they didn’t really care about retaining good employees (I could go on for pages). Which is why my fiancee works for a different company now, who gave him benefits after 3 months.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I had a job once where I wasn’t eligible for their group plan for a full year, either. I did know about this during the interview process, and since I was employed at the time, I voiced my concern about not having insurance for an entire year if I chose to work for them. I was able to negotiate the new employer paying my COBRA premiums for that year. So I was going to ask OP #2 whether this is a small business — that was the case for the employer I was going to, and I think maybe the lesser bargaining power that small businesses have led to them having a sucky insurance policy.

      1. Cajun2core*

        I am the OP for question #2. It was not a small company. It was a rather large contracting firm. I would be working for this company but doing work for another company.

        I ended up turning down the job because of this issue and many other issues with the company and the job.

    2. Lisa*

      Regard #2- One requirement coming up in the Federal healthcare plan in 2014 (or maybe 2015) is companies that do offer healthcare make it available before 90 days. So now, even companies that offer coverage the 1st of the month after 90 days (which is more typical) will have to offer it sooner. My company will probably change to the 1st of the month after 60 days. 6 months is too long.

      1. Meg*

        Yeah, I was going to say that six months sounded a bit long, but 90 days was typical for what I’ve seen, usually because an employee is on some kind of probationary period for the first 90 days.

        When I worked for a big box retailer, coded as “part-time” even though I worked 40 hours a week consistently for years, sometimes over 40 hours, it took 3 years to accrue sick time and PTO at the same rate as someone coded at full-time (which was “only” a year to accrue that time).

        I’m lucky that my company now offers all the benefits at Day 1.

    3. the gold digger*

      My employer – I started last summer – has a one-month waiting period. (Actually, first of the month following 30 days.) I was stunned – I have never had to wait for insurance. I negotiated a $1,000 raise to cover the COBRA payment for going off my husband’s insurance.

      When I asked them why they have the waiting period – is there really high turnover in the first month here? – they couldn’t answer. The woman in charge of the insurance has her insurance through her husband, so she is not affected personally by any of this. (It is also the absolute worst plan I have ever been on.)

      I used to work for an insurance company. We put waiting periods in only at companies where there was high turnover. You might have a six-month waiting period for hourly employees in retail, for example. But almost all of our policies were first-day coverage. It’s no harder for an insurance company to start someone on the first day than it is on the 47th.

      1. Cathy*

        The new job I’m starting at the end of this month has that same policy — benefits start on the first of the month following the 30th day of employment. I’m lucky as my husband’s health insurance allows him to make changes when I become eligible for another plan instead of when I start a new job; so he’ll be able to drop me in July with no interim need for COBRA in June. New employer has excellent plans with our preferred insurance provider, so we’ll save about $2k annually by switching me and our daughter to their coverage.

        1. Jen*

          COBRA is so terribly expensive. I had 30 days where I did not have insurance when I switched jobs so I had to do one month of COBRA for myself and my two children and it cost us $980. For one month. Insane.

          1. RG*

            Yeah…that’s what health insurance costs. It’s not that COBRA is making it expensive, it’s just that you’re finally paying the full cost of the health insurance instead of it being subsidized by your employer. $980 for an adult and 2 kids sounds isn’t really that out of line cost-wise.

            1. Just me*

              True. I don’t think employees in general realize how much there employers are paying for their insurance until it’s time to pay COBRA.

              1. Anonymous*

                To my knowledge, you have 60 days to elect COBRA from the date you terminate employment. If you leave your previous employer for a new job and it has this 30 day policy, I would hold off on purchasing COBRA unless you actually use the insurance so you don’t have to pay for the 30 days you do not use.

            2. Kara*

              $980 for one adult and two kids? To me that’s out of line. I pay $300 for myself and two kids, and that’s on a private policy, not through my employer.

              1. just another hiring manager...*

                I think it really depends on your coverage. For just me and my husband COBRA would’ve been $1200/month when I left my last job. But it was with a large, state-wide employers with AMAZING coverage options. For example, I only paid a $15 co-pay when I had surgery. No big surprise COBRA would be expensive with that level of coverage.

                If I had opted for the high deductible option instead, COBRA coverage would only have been $400/month, but that surgery would have been over $5000 out-of-pocket…

              2. RG*

                It does really depend on the coverage. High deductible plans cost less than ones with low copays. High deductible plans that eligible for HSA contributions (not all of them are) usually cost more than the catastrophic plans due to the gov’t requirements about what they have to cover and limits on deductibles and out of pocket expenses. It can also depend on what state you are in as to what kind of private individual insurance is available.

                So, $980 might be on the high side – but it’s not completely out of line.

          2. the gold digger*

            It used to be with COBRA that you had 60 days to decide whether to take it. So you could just wait those 30 days and get the COBRA only if you had medical expenses that exceeded the premium. I don’t know if it still works like that.

    4. Angry Writer*

      I’ve had about 8-10 professional jobs in my career and the past couple have done this sort of thing. I figured it was just a way to save money by the company, lame as it is.

    5. Ron*

      When I changed jobs, I didn’t ask many questions about the health insurance because I didn’t realize this could be an issue. After I started, I realized I would have to wait three months for my health insurance to begin and pay a $150 premium per month once it started (and at my old job I had to pay no premium). Next time I’m negotiating pay, I’ll ask more questions so I won’t have to lose out on serious money because of these kinds of differences. Learned that one the hard way!

  2. Jessa*

    On number three, that’s pretty lousy to do that to people. You were right, the liability is huge. If the company is requesting this and someone gets hurt I could easily see a worker’s comp claim about it.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Agree, this is a horrible thing to ask, and even more horrible that they’re retaliating. If I were OP, I’d probably start looking for another job.

    2. Anonymous*

      Actually its no different than doing yard work for a friend. Most insurance companies won’t cover an employee who isn’t “on the job”.

      1. forrest*

        Why wouldnt insurance cover someone if they were hurt in this situation? I injuried myself totally off the clock while i was drunk and insurance covered my er bills.

        Now, workmans comp wouldnt cover this but this isnt a case of a friend asking a friend to help. This is a case of a worker’s manager asking him to do things for a leadership director at work through work email. I think its reasonable to think workmans comp would be this list.

          1. the gold digger*

            The director’s homeowners insurance might cover anyone working on his yard. He would be personally liable, I would think, but not the employer. Although it would make a very interesting case for someone to claim that because this was a condition of employment (or appeared to be), that WC should cover it.

          2. Forrest*

            I don’t know what you mean – my insurance is through my company?

            You said “Most insurance companies won’t cover an employee who isn’t “on the job”.” But that’s not true – insurance companies cover a variety of medical mishaps. Its not like my employer or insurance company goes “Oh she wasn’t at work, we don’t have to cover that!” (Unless its oddly written into the plan.)

            Workman’s comp and insurance are two different things.

            1. Cathy*

              Yes, your health insurance that’s provided through your employer would cover any injuries first, and your doctors would get paid. Your health insurer could then go after the director’s home owner’s insurer to pay them back for your care, and they might also go after the company’s workman’s comp insurance.

              Generally you, as the insured, are required to cooperate and possibly participate in such claims and lawsuits between the various insurers. I sat on a jury once for a lawsuit between a health insurer and a city’s liability insurer for an injury that occurred in a city park. The case was presented as the person who was injured suing the city, but it was clear to everyone that the actual case was about one insurance company paying another.

              1. the gold digger*

                Workers comp vs employer-provided health insurance is the issue here, it appears. Your health insurance covers you no matter what. Workers comp is for work-related injuries and illness.

                1. fposte*

                  Right, and there may be homeowner’s liability relevant here as well. But I was responding to the sub-thread wherein Forrest said “Workman’s comp and insurance are two different things,” in response to the anon who’d used “insurance to mean “worker’s comp.”

                2. Forrest*

                  I said that because the anon didn’t clarify that he meant worker’s comp when he said insurance.

        1. Jessa*

          The company’s might. I was injured at a mandatory everyone goes to this company awards dinner at an amusement park (Busch Gardens Florida.) I got a worker’s comp claim out of it and did NOT have to use my own medical insurance nor pay copays for medicines or doctor’s visits. The key being “I had to be there,” which is to them a work thing.

          The test is not “were you working,” it’s “were you doing something your company says you have to do.” For instance if you get hurt at one of those company team building things. It doesn’t have to be in your job description if the company is dictating your behaviour their insurance could take the hit if you’re hurt.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            The real issue here is that they docked the OP’s hours for refusing. The OP didn’t say what he/she does at that job, but I’m betting yard work outside the office isn’t in the job description. It has nothing to do with the company. Even if it was voluntary, they shouldn’t have done that.

    3. FiveNine*

      I have wondered before about a certain huge corporation that has a “volunteer” day, which is a great thing, mind you. Employees technically aren’t required to participate, but they are super-strongly “encouraged” to participate, and really, the one year I was there there really wasn’t any option except to participate.

      1. FiveNine*

        (and were required to take one of your paid vacation days off to participate in the day-long “volunteer” work)

        1. the gold digger*

          It’s one thing if you have to grin and participate and you are getting paid for it, but to be forced to take a vacation day? That’s just wrong.

          1. KellyK*

            Very. “Volunteer” day indeed. (You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.)

    4. AF*

      I’m wondering if any of the OP’s coworkers also raised concerns and were punished, or if everyone else just went along with it. Has the “volunteer” day happened yet? I’d love to hear what happened with those who did participate. I agree that you should definitely talk to HR. This is a pretty insane thing for them to ask you to do. What if you had a medical condition that prevented you from doing this type of work?

  3. jesicka309*

    #7 It’s surprising how often this comes up in companies. I’ve been beaten out for many an internal promotion by candidates who haven’t worked longer than six months at any company, yet with each jump they’ve gained new responsibilities/titles, and have a variety of experience, which is great in the ‘three jobs rolled into one’ hiring culture. Yet me working here for three years does not make me an attractive candidate, despite numerous additional responsibilities and a minor promotion. It’s such a conundrum – job hopping is ‘bad’, but employers seem to hire job hoppers over internal candidates who have shown comitment and loyalty to the company, rather than train, renumerate or promote existing employees.
    Start looking OP, find a new job with different responsibilities, and try to leave on good terms, with the view that you could be tempted back in the future for a better role or salary.

    1. LisaLyn*

      Yeah, I just do not get this trend and it’s been going on for a while. Two people have been hired in after me in my current department making more money and at a higher level. Management and HR’s philosophy really does seem to be that if you’ve worked here for too long, you’re obviously not an asset. Maybe this is a “grass is greener” thing for them? I don’t know, but I think it’s hurting companies more than they realize.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        “No one is a prophet in his own land.” While some organizations have a career trajectory from entry level to senior positions, many decide that the outside person has a broader perspective, fresher ideas, etc. There are good points to hiring people from other organizations, just as there are for promoting from within. But if senior management thinks that a certain department is “business as usual” (and that’s not desired), everyone in that department (and consequently their ideas) can get tarred with the same brush.

        1. Ash*

          Then isn’t it up to the company to change that dynamic? If they think that a specific department is only doing the minimum it can, or doesn’t have new ideas, or whatever the case may be, shouldn’t they intervene with training opportunities, workshops, speakers, etc.? Why would you allow what you believe to be an underperforming division continue to underperform? Hire new blood if you need to, but do something.

          1. College Career Counselor*

            Absolutely agreed. I was referring to a situation in which senior management is actually mistaken about the energy, creativity and knowledge of the “business as usual” department. And brings in outside ideas/personnel when they don’t actually need to, except in the “change for change’s sake” sense.

            1. Judy*

              You mean the group that isn’t doing much because they’re not working 12 hour days and needing to give upper management twice daily reports?

              That one that’s doing their job?

              I’ve seen that at several companies. If you plan and execute well, then it wasn’t that hard because you did it. If it isn’t planned or executed well, and you had to expend lots of effort to get the job done, those are the hard projects.

              Some firefighters are arsonists.

              1. Judy*

                Actual example. Team A & Team B are a leader and 5 engineers each. Given a project of similar scope.

                Team A completes the project without excessive overtime within the time estimated by the company’s work model for the size of project, 2 years.

                Team B is so far behind halfway through the project, the team size gets increased to 20 (!!!) to keep up with the work, pulling engineers off of other projects.

                Result: Team A leader is “managed out” because he can’t handle large projects like Team B leader. Team B leader is promoted. Team A and Team B are now lead by two of the original members of Team B. The rest of Team A are on the list the next layoff.

                Watched it happen in the cubicles around me. Saw on linked in the other week that Team B leader is now a director of something or other at that company.

    2. Anon*


      Loyalty to the organization is way out of date. An employer/employee relationship was never meant to be anything other than a business relationship. You provide work in exchange for pay. If you’re lacking and your employer can find someone better, they will. If you can find something better, take it. Simple as that.

      1. jesicka309*

        There are only three major companies in my industry in my country – TV media commecial scheduling. And in the current economy, I’ve had trouble switching industries (I was hired in 2010 as a new grad). So if you want to work in TV, you have to hold in your position, or fight hundreds of other people to work for a rival company (the other two are cutting people, I’m working for the only TV company making money!!)
        I love the company I work for, but as mentioned above, the department I work in is one of those that always keeps turning the gears. Despie me taking on as much responsibility as I feasibly can, the rest of the company sees my department and goes ‘oh, commercials, yeah, they’re pretty much just data entry’ and dismisses us for related jobs even though most of us have degrees in communications, media, and business, and previous experience in different fields.
        Yet people who have hopped around from industry to industry, job to job, even across states, are more valued, and are hired for the kinds of positions that you’d traditionally have as a second or thir step up the entry level career trajectory. So you get high turnover in entry level positions once people get wind that they’ll never get promoted, and high disatisfaction amongst those who try to stick it out. And those who are hired from outside inevitably leave to move to their fourth city in two years, or a rival company. In order to move up or get a pay rise, you must come from the outside.

    3. BKW*

      #7 – I had a similar situation at a company I worked for (in the Fortune 500) where I was seeing salaries rise by double digit amounts for my title, but my company wouldn’t give me more than 4%. I got fed up when the promotion they said would be coming in 3 -4 months hadn’t shown up in 6. When I got another offer I had 3 different people ask if they could give me a counter offer… I declined.

  4. Anonymous*


    My former employer did not offer their full time staff employees health insurance until they reached 18 months.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Out of curiosity, were they able to attract and retain significant numbers of high-performing employees? I’m guessing not, but I’d be interested in hearing from someone who actually worked there.

    1. Judy*

      I’m wondering if #5 met the FMLA requirements? It seems like 2 months is not that long to hold a job. I’m only guessing it’s a small company and didn’t meet the employee requirement.

      1. Harriet*

        I’m #5–I worked there over a year, the gap is about 2 months. My problem was explaining why I left the job in the first place, not why I have a resume gap. Also yes, too small for FMLA

        1. TL*

          This happened to one of my college roommates and she had to take a semester off to adjust/find medications (it was right at the beginning of the semester).
          It’s not quite the same as an employment gap, mind you, but she more or less explained it the same way and hasn’t had any problems. She also had a stellar record at college.

  5. Karen*

    #2 – what on earth part of the country do you live in? In Massachusetts its the law that health insurance MUST be offered on the 1st day of the next calendar month that you start. So if you start May 15, your health insurance kicks in June 1st.

    Ah, that’s right.. we’ve got RomneyCare here!

    1. Craig*

      A 3 to 6 month wait for medical expenses is pretty standard here in Canada. I’m not sure why everyone is up in arms.

      The same thing with the accrual of vacation.

      1. Marmite*

        Yup, same in the UK. But we have a free healthcare system so being without the private health insurance that some jobs offer as a benefit is not really an issue.

        We also don’t have at will employment and the first 3 months (sometimes 6) is usually a probationary period, during which employees are not entitled to benefits (paid holiday, company loans, etc) and can be fired without being given the full notice period. It’s not a sign that a company has high turnover, it’s just standard practice here.

        1. Cat*

          Right; if you’re not facing bankruptcy if something goes wrong during that 3-6 month period, there’s much less of a reason to be up in arms about it.

        2. Julie K*

          Isn’t what you described “at will” (employer being able fire an employee at any time)? Perhaps I don’t understand what you mean by “at will.”

          1. fposte*

            It’s de facto the same when you’re on probation, but “at will” is also an underlying doctrine, not just a policy, so I think this is viewed more as a brief exception to Canadian labor protections than the embrace of the at-will doctrine.

          2. Yvi*

            I am not in the UK, but in Germany and we have probation periods here, too. Usually it’s the first six months and it means they can fire you with two week’s notice, sometimes four. After that, one to three months is usual. That’s for both sides, employers letting people go and employees giving notice.

          3. Marmite*

            Yes, but after the 3 (or 6) month probation period you then cannot be fired so easily, there has to be a reason to fire you and the notice period has to be given. Although there can be exceptions to this in your contract, for example retail contracts may state that theft will lead to immediate dismissal.

        3. Wondering*

          “Free” health care in the UK? I don’t think so. Someone’s got to be paying for it.

          1. Marmite*

            Free as in, as Cat said further up, you’re not going to face bankruptcy for using it in an emergency.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              That’s the worst thing about US healthcare. And I don’t think our new laws will take care of it; the costs are still too high no matter what anyone does. They’re just messing with access, not doing anything to keep costs down.

              BTW awesome screen name. I like Marmite on my toast. :)

  6. Sabrina*

    I work in insurance and while it’s not health insurance, we do have other lines. Most of our clients are 3 months and under, I’ve seen a couple of year long ones and had to double check the eligibility dates because I thought I had typed in a date wrong or something, but even those are kind of long. In my short stint in this role I haven’t seen 18 months, that would really really long!

    1. Anon*

      I am a health and welfare broker. Retail companies and other industries with higher turnover often have between six and twelve months waiting period for benefits due to high turnover and adverse selection.

      In 2014, health care reform will limit the medical waiting period to no more than three months.

      1. Sabrina*

        Does that affect dental or vision? (Those are two lines my company carries, so I’m curious) Although I think companies usually make them effective around the same time.

        1. Meghan*

          Also in health insurance, and I believe the 90 day waiting limit is only for Medical, but if your Plan has a rider for vision/dental, it would likely fall under that limitation.

          However there are caveats to the 90 day waiting limit: if you have to obtain licensing to become eligible for benefits and that takes more than 90 days, there’s no penalty for an extended wait. Also, if you have to work so many hours in a service period to be considered eligible for benefits, the Plan is allowed to reasonably take 12 months to ensure you’ll meet the hourly requirements.

  7. Stacie*

    #7 I’m worried that this is going to happen to me. I was told I would receive d a promotion by the end of the year and began taking on additional responsibilities in preparation for that. Then about a month ago HR came out with pay grades, so technically I wouldn’t be eligible for the promotion. Luckily I am close with my manager so I know she would support me. I’m giving it time, though, and hoping to prove myself with the additional responsibilities before I push the system.

  8. The IT Manager*

    For #1, I am baffled by the logic of the company’s decision to make the announcement. Two weeks is too short a time to impact any decision on who stays or goes so why do they scare everyone for two weeks?

    1. anon*

      On the plus-side, the LW’s friend and the other two can start job searching and adjusting their budgets just in case. If they end up being kept on, as Allison mentioned, they can stop their job search and re-adjust their budgets.

    2. EnnVeeEl*

      I tend to agree with you, but having been laid off, I think getting this warning is probably in the best interest of the letter writer’s friend. She knows now not to go car or house hunting, book a sunny, expensive vacation or incur any large expenses right now. It sucks, but at least she knows it’s a possibility and can start planning for it.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, that is very true. I got warning for one layoff, but for the other two, nothing. Warning is always better.

    3. Susan*

      My company did layoffs in 2011. They announced in June that they’d be coming but didn’t know when. They announced in July again that they were coming, in the next month. I got laid off in August, and was given two months to wrap up my work while looking for a new job (on the company dime). The advance notice gave me time to a) use up my health care benefit – I renenewed every single prescription, got new glasses, ordered contacts, got my yearly exam, etc b) tell my clients I was leaving and formulate a transition plan c) talk to folks as references and ask them to review my resume d) look for a job. So, while being laid off is crummy, I appreciated the advance notice and took every single advantage it contained.

      1. The IT Manager*

        That’s great. I was just making the point that with only two weeks there’s not much that anyone can do to get ahead of the ball game. Two months gives people a lot more time to do something.

        1. PEBCAK*

          They may have asked for a volunteer. Typically, they give people a week or two to decide if they want to leave.

  9. Tiff*

    #7: I’m with you. It’s great to get recognition on the job, don’t get me wrong. Knowing your name is mentioned by senior leadership, getting lead status on important/high profile projects is great, and I truly appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to develop my professional skills.

    But I’ve been here 5 years now. I still love it, I’m still challenged. I won’t leave anytime soon because the schedule, benefits and culture really work for me. I’ve got little kids, and flexibility is a must. But I’m ready for a promotion and some more pay. If I don’t see it by the time my kids are in school I’ll start looking elsewhere.

    1. Ash*

      Have you actually tried to have a conversation with your boss (or whoever you’d talk to about this) about getting a promotion/raise, or are you waiting passively for them to approach you?

  10. Question #4*


    Thank you so much for answering my question. I think I will resist the temptation to do anything except gently follow up once by e-mail, after a few more days have passed. I think there is the tendency to think that doing something is better than nothing while waiting.

    Thanks again!

  11. Allison*

    #2) At my old job they made us wait 90 days until we earned health insurance, started accruing paid time off, and got paid a semi-decent wage. They made us wait a full year for the 401k. It’s common, but it does make me wonder how many people actually got to the one year mark. I guess at that point it’s likely they’re in it for the long haul.

  12. Ann*

    In response to #7: I’ve noticed that several questions on the board center around taking on new responsibilities/getting a raise for it. I’ve noticed that several people tend to take on the responsibilities in the hopes that the company will then recognize their extra work and upgrade their title/pay/ what have you. My friends and co-workers do this too. My personal experience is that many of the people who take on the extra responsibilities in hopes that it will lead to extra pay end up disappointed. If you’re willing to do the work without negotiating pay in advance, why would the company want to pay you more later? You’re already doing the work for your current salary. It’s like the old adage, why buy the cow when you get the milk for free.
    My question is, is it better to take on the responsibilities first and ask for promotion or pay later or is it better to negotiate the promotion/pay before taking on the responsibilities?

    1. fposte*

      There’s also #3–take on the responsibilities and discuss the possibility of it turning into greater pay/title at the time.

      1. Ann*

        Yes, but that ends up falling into either category A or category B depending on the conversation. If you have a discussion beforehand that ends up with (preferably on paper) “I will do responsibilities AB&C for 6 months and if I have met the following defined goals will take on these responsibilities indefinitely for a pay raise, title of x”. I would argue that falls under category A, you’ve negotiated a pay raise plan before taking on the responsibilities. If the discussion goes more like, “I’m going to take on responsibilities AB&C, can I get a pay raise/promotion for doing these tasks?” and boss goes “Yeah, sure. We’ll talk about it after 6 months”. I would argue that’s still under category B, not negotiating and hoping it leads to something more because you have nothing to fall back on. Your boss said we’ll talk in 6 months, and you may talk but what I’ve noticed is that usually nothing comes of it. After all, taking on the responsibility for your current rate of salary (without having a definite plan for a pay raise now or in the future), those responsibilities become part of the status quo, and the company has no motivation to change the status quo.

        1. Ann*

          I think it comes down to, if you start taking on a new responsibility without discussing a pay raise plan for it in advance, how easy will it be for you to stop doing those responsibilities when it becomes evident that you won’t get what you hoped for? If you start down that path, and don’t get a raise will you then be punished in some way for deciding you no longer want those responsibilities without a raise?

        2. fposte*

          I’m just pushing to avoid the acting in silence part. What really gets people into trouble is relying on an assumption about an outcome that they haven’t shared with anybody. If you’re doing the work with an expectation, talk to your manager about the expectation *when you take it on*, not later.

          1. Ann*

            Yeah, I think that’s really the problem. So many people take on something either in silence or with a non-committal “we’ll talk about it in the future”. It really drives me batty. I’m not saying people need to be forceful or demanding, but taking on something without any sort of realistic plan for getting paid or backing out is just asking for trouble. You would never agree to a job without knowing the salary; I don’t see how this is different. But so many people do this I really wonder, from a management perspective, would managers prefer the employee said upfront “I would be willing to do this for X amount of $, with a trial period of X amount of time before that kicks in” or if they honestly prefer people to take on extra work and then plan on rewarding them in the future.

    2. Mrs Addams*

      Thing is though, good managers WILL reward the extra responsibilities once you’ve proved yourself. “Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free” is rather short term – you might be getting free milk now, but in 6 months if the cow runs off with someone who is willing to pay market rate for the milk, you’re stuck with having to find and pay for another cow, as well as paying for the milk.

      Of course, this relies on good management, which isn’t as abundant as it should be.

      I like fposte’s solution – take on the responsibilities without extra pay but with a written agreement to revisit compensation/job title after a specified period.

      1. Ann*

        I’m not saying I disagree with that, but then again how many people really have good managers?
        On the other hand you may have a good manager who simply isn’t aware you took on the extra work. I have a good manager, but he is extraordinarily busy. He knows what I do, but probably couldn’t give you a thorough run down of my day to day. He’s not interested in being a micro-manager; if I have a problem, I can go to him. But generally, his chief concern is that what needs to be done gets done, and with good results. I doubt he would notice if I started taking on more work unless I specifically brought it to his attention.

    3. feel like #7*

      Every single employer has rewarded me with rapid promotions and pay increases for taking the initiative regarding additional responsibilities and excelling at those. Every employer except my current employer, that is. I feel I am in a similar position as #7 and find it extremely frustrating. Even so, I think negotiating for more pay each time you are asked to take on additional responsibilities sends the wrong message. It’s better to have the conversation later after you have demonstrated your performance and value, particularly if the responsibilities remain with you, as opposed to filling in short-term. I think #7 describes a situation that is specific to that employer and maybe others, but not universal. Most good managers will reward taking on and excelling at added responsibilities. At the same time, however, it is up to the employee to reminder his or her manager of the added responsibilities and excellent performance.

  13. JBeane*

    #2- I’ve worked at a few places that made you wait 3-6 months for health insurance, and they all had high turnover. The last time I was job-hunting I decided I’d only accept an offer from places without a waiting period, which resulted in a position in a great work environment. People tend to stay here for a substantial number of years before moving on. This is only one person’s experience but I definitely saw a correlation.

  14. Riki*

    #2 –
    1 – There is a probationary period for all new hires and the employer does not want to invest fully in a new hire until they are certain that this individual truly has long-term potential.
    2 – Problems with cash flow – i.e. they didn’t want to add anyone new to the group plan until they had to because they were already having issues covering the costs of the current premiums.
    3 – A combination of 1 and 2.

    I have worked for places with 90-day waiting periods, or 180-day waiting periods for hourly staff (and all new hires started as hourly) and in both case it was for the reasons I stated above. Also, in both cases, these were company decisions that had nothing to do with the actual terms of the group policy.

    Offering benefits after the probationary period does not sound unreasonable to me, but cash flow drama (which comes up more than people would imagine) would be a cause for concern. However, no company is going to admit to a new hire that the reason for their policy is because they can’t manage their money properly.

  15. Anonymous*


    Depends on how much your manager values you. I’ve been at a place where my manager pushed through a 20% raise on my behalf. Lots of push back from HR, but he used his influence points to get it done.

    I’ve also been at a place where the only way to get a promotion is to go out and then come back. I’m not sure why I’d really be tempted to go back to a place that requires, that. I’m currently in a new place and much happier than I was the past few years at my old place. The grass can be greener. :)

  16. Elizabeth West*

    #2–benefits after six months

    I’ve never worked ANYWHERE that time off started after six months until I got to my current company (everything here started after 30 days–heathcare, 401K, etc.). I’ve always had to wait a year for vacation or PTO, and for any retirement benefits. Insurance was ninety days at a lot of places, but PTO was always a year. Six months is actually great for that–not for insurance.

    #3–yard work for manager

    Managers should not ask employees to do their personal crap. The only exception would be a personal assistant (not a company admin) like a celebrity would have. I have been paid at work to go to Sam’s Club and pick up break room supplies, which is company-related. But picking up my boss’s dry cleaning or raking his/her yard is NOT.

    This is exactly what I said when referencing a job I was fired from because of situational depression (it affected my performance). Nobody ever asked what the issue was.
    Good luck, OP. :)

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