I got drunk and told my boss I love her, company pays us not to use health insurance, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I got drunk and kept telling my manager I love her

I am in a part of the world where we can have small social gatherings as COVID infection rates are very low/nonexistent. My team — all lawyers — organized an event and, as the year has been incredibly stressful following multiple restructures, Covid, office closures, working from home, etc., everyone was letting off a lot of steam. After a 10+ hour drinking session, I behaved embarrassingly in front of my manager. It was nothing that career destroying, I just kept saying I loved her and I thought we should hang out more socially. And at the end of the night, she had to put me in a cab home.

Others who were there have all assured me it was not that bad and I was mostly just a bit gushy. Everyone else was also extremely intoxicated. I have since written to my manager apologizing and thanking her for her help that night. She has not acknowledged or responded to my apology, although she has messaged me about work-related matters. Is this a sign I should just move on? Or should I try to bring it up again to confirm things are okay between us? I’m really unsure of what to do and it’s become a huge distraction. The thing is, my manager and I have an extremely productive and good relationship and normally I would have no fears raising difficult topics with her or seeking advice. I don’t want this one incident to define our working relationship moving forward! Please help!

Let it go. Apologizing was the right thing to do, but dwelling it on further is likely to make it more weird.

Personally I think people should always respond to emails like this, but there’s a surprising number of people who don’t. They figure, “Okay, apology received, nothing more to say about it, let’s move on.” I’d assume your manager is in that category unless you’re sensing tension in the relationship after a little time goes by. But assuming she’s behaving relatively normally, she’s moving on and you should too.

Also, 10-hour drinking sessions are a really, really bad idea with colleagues. As a general rule, don’t get drunk with people you work with — it can end up being much worse than this.

2. Company pays us to not use health insurance or vacation time

I’m a mid level manager for a mid size company in the Midwest. Last year the company switched to a high deductible health care plan and added a bonus feature. The feature is if you don’t use your health care plan at all for the year (including preventive care) you get a $200 bonus. The other issue is a buyback. Under the buyback plan, you can sell back your vacation days. So on the first of the year, I can sell back my one-week paid vacation and get paid my normal rate of pay for it, but of course I lose vacation that year.

I was wondering your thoughts about the long-term issues. Granted, the company is a profit-making entity, but it bothers me to see so many younger employees (especially women) skip any preventive screenings just to get the additional $200. As far as the vacation buyback, I worry about employee burn-out and retention.

Wow, yeah. Incentivizing people to not get medical care, including preventative care, is a terrible idea. They are paying employees to neglect their health. (It’s also crappy to people who have chronic conditions that require regular care.)

The vacation buyback is bad too. Am I reading correctly that you only get one week of vacation a year (which is incredibly stingy) and they’re encouraging you not to even use that? And you’re supposed to decide on the first of the year rather than at the end, so before you even know if you might need to use the time off? Companies should want employees to take vacation (they should want people taking more than one week of it, in fact) because otherwise people start burning out, becoming less creative, and even getting sick (which they won’t want them seeing a doctor for, apparently). Not to mention which, having people take time off is considered a best practice for spotting fraud. All of this is incredibly short-sighted.

3. Is it worth taking a job I don’t really want that could open doors later?

I love my company, where I’ve worked for several years. However, it’s small with limited room for growth and is not at all well-known within the sector. I’m worried that the longer I stay here, the harder it will be to move on to something else. I’ve been searching for jobs for a while because much as I love my colleagues and the company culture, I no longer feel challenged.

I’ve been offered what sounds like a great job at a high-profile, prestigious company in my sector. On the surface, this could be something of a dream job for me. However, I’ve heard from people who worked there before that it has a bad culture and is an unpleasant environment. I’ve also been warned, via friends of friends at the company, that the job itself might not be as good as the managers who interviewed me are making out and that it will likely involve a lot of admin and support work — which is not in the job description and not something I’m keen to do at this stage in my career. At the same time, I believe having this company on my resume could help to open doors for me further down the line.

From what I’ve heard so far, I don’t imagine this is somewhere I’ll want to work for years. But is it worth taking the job if I view it as a stepping stone — something to do for a year, get it on my resume, and move on? I’ll be doing the job remotely, which I’m thinking will help me avoid the worst impacts of a bad working environment. But I’m worried that if it’s worse than I think and I only manage to stick it out for six months, it’ll be hard to explain to future employers. I’m also finding it hard to convince myself to leave a company where I feel happy and valued, for somewhere where I think I probably won’t feel those things, on the grounds that it’ll look good on my resume.

I wouldn’t leave a job you like for a job that you already know has a bad culture and where the work isn’t even what you want to do. When you’re getting warnings from current and past employees, take those very seriously. People don’t usually issue those sorts of warnings for garden variety dysfunction — you’re hearing them because it’s bad.

I suppose it’s hard to say with absolute certainty without knowing exactly how prestigious/impressive this company is and how certain it is to open other doors for you. If it were a total certainty that working there a year would make future job searches significantly easier, maybe you’d decide you’re willing to be unhappy for a year in exchange for that. But I doubt it’s that certain (and spending only a year at an impressive company risks raising other questions — for example, about why you couldn’t stick it out longer, since leaving after a year is generally considered a pretty quick departure).

I’d be very wary.

4. Soft skills in resumes and cover letters

How much emphasis should I be placing on soft skills when tailoring my resume and cover letter to a job ad? Obviously being “a team player” or having “time management skills” can be important to one’s success in a job, but they don’t feel like very sellable qualities, particularly when there is a litany of other hard skills listed in the requirements that I could speak more concretely to. In these cases, how important is it that I still find a way to touch upon these within a job application?

For most positions, not very. Hiring managers don’t place much weight on candidates’ self-assessments of soft skills, because anyone can announce that they’re a good communicator or work well with others or so forth.  The only way to make it meaningful is to illustrate it through specific achievements that demonstrate those skills. If you just announce the skills on their own, it’s very likely to be ignored.

In fact, I wouldn’t include soft skills on a resume at all! Accomplishments achieved through those skills, yes — but not simply an assertion that you possess them. There’s sometimes more room for it in a cover letter, for jobs where specific soft skills are very important (for example, having a customer service orientation for a help desk job), but even then you should be talking about things you’ve done that illustrate those skills, not simply asserting that you have them.

5. Hiring manager encouraged me to apply for a job

I’m a PhD student with some side gigs. I have never had a non-academic full-time job. A manager for a company whose work I really like reached out to me on Twitter and asked if I would be interested in a position that is coming open soon. (The job has not been advertised.)

I said yes. It would probably mean giving up the PhD, but it’s also the kind of job I wanted post-PhD, so that’s not a deal-breaker for me. (I have never intended to get an academic job post-PhD.)

I am assuming that reaching out and saying “hey, apply for this” means the manager thinks I am qualified but actual fit remains to be seen — your odds are better than a general call, but it’s certainly not a given. Is this correct?

How many people would you generally reach out to in this situation? Like, should I assume he DMed 20 people who wrote interesting things?

Yes, it means “this could be a good match, let’s explore it and see” (versus “I will hire you if you apply for this job”).

It’s hard to know how many people he might have encouraged to apply. It could be 20 or it could be just you. 20 would be a lot less common than, say, three to five … but if I’m reading correctly that he’s just seen you on Twitter and you’ve never been in contact before, that could be a sign that he’s casting a wide net. Ultimately, though, I wouldn’t spend much time speculating — you’re trying to read the tea leaves to get a better sense of your chances, but that way lies madness (and rarely accuracy). Apply, evaluate them as much as they’re evaluating you, and see what happens.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 405 comments… read them below }

  1. My Dear Wormwood*

    Now, admittedly I live in a country with universal health care, but the idea of going a whole year without even preventive medical care is horrifying.

    Don’t they realise that’s a great way to a) make your workforce unhealthy and less productive and b) make it really, really expensive when they finally do need lots of time off for complicated treatment of something that could have been dealt with easily ages ago?

      1. Stephanie*

        Company actually pays well for the area.Its not unusual for companies in the area to offer incentives or higher deductible insurance.

        1. Urt*

          If you figure their disregard for their employee health in (and that’s what both payouts are) they most certainly do not pay well.

        2. MK*

          Does pay well for the area mean a living wage or simply that they rest of the employers are worse? Because if I made a borderline-decent living, I wouldn’t neglect my health for 200 dollars, or give up my measly one week off.

          1. EPLawyer*

            $200 to skip healthcare for a year is not worth it. $200 is not even one month’s premium. The company is saying “here, neglect your health for a measly $200.” Just say no.

            Use the health insurance. It’s part of your compensation package. Just like vacation time.

            It does not matter if they are “better” than others in the area. If they don’t let you use it, they aren’t better. It is also a sign that the whole area needs to improve their benefits package, not that this company is such a stellar example for corporate caring.

            1. yup yup*

              I thought the $200 was really weird, too. Like, if it was $2000 I could see people being enticed. But for $200 it just doesn’t seem worth it!!!

              1. GothicBee*

                I would assume people are more likely going the whole year without using the insurance because it’s a high deductible (and probably overall crappy) insurance plan rather than because they get $200 at the end of it.

                1. Quill*

                  Probably the case. They probably put that $200 directly to their annual checkup because it would cost them more to do it via insurance.

                2. Diahann Carroll*

                  Bingo. The $200 is just an extra bonus because they weren’t planning on using the insurance anyway.

                3. Two Dog Night*

                  Our high-deductible plan does cover preventive care–I don’t have to pay anything for an annual check-up and mammogram. There’s no way I’d give those up for $200.

                4. The Rural Juror*

                  This is why I’ve never added vision insurance to my plan. I work for a small company, so we don’t have a lot of people in our pool to offset costs. For what it would take per month for me to add the vision plan, it’s actually less expensive to pay for the check up appointment out-of-pocket. Luckily I’m in a position where I don’t feel like I need to add it *knock on wood*

                  Now, for my health insurance, that would NOT be a good idea for me personally.

            2. Mella*

              My company gives a stipend if you don’t use the healthcare, but that’s intended for people on their spouse’s healthcare. I can’t fathom using it the way LW explains.

              1. doreen*

                Yes, it’s not uncommon to give a stipend to people who don’t sign up because they have other coverage ( from a spouse or another job). But that’s a stipend for not enrolling (and saving the company from paying premiums) – not for enrolling and just not using the benefits.

                Similarly, it’s not that uncommon to be able to “sell” a week or two of vacations back – but in every case I’ve heard of, you’d be left with at least two weeks after the sale. People who only earn two weeks a year wouldn’t be able to sell both back , even if a coworker who earned four weeks could sell two weeks back.

              2. Case of the Mondays*

                My stipend is intended to cover the cost to be on my spouse’s insurance. Made up numbers for argument sake here: let’s say it cost him $100/month to have his own policy but would be $150/month to have a him plus me policy. My employer covers the $50 which is cheaper to them than paying the employee portion for me to be on their policy.

              3. PT*

                This was my thought, it’s a perk to get people to enroll on their spouse’s healthcare plan and not the company’s.

              4. Woah*

                ditto, I’m on my husbands and we get a surcharge of 70 dollars a month because i have other coverage available, but my employer pays me 100 a month for not being on their insurance so it works out!

        3. KRM*

          I have a high deductible insurance because it’s cheaper, but my company also covers that by putting the deductible amount in an HSA for us. And $200 is a terrible incentive to not even get a yearly physical.
          Also, giving up your already paltry vacation time to work a year (probably more) straight? No thank you.

          1. JustaTech*

            Having the company put the deductible in your HSA is key for making the high deductible plans work. The first year my company offered the high deductible plan the folks giving the presentation kept going on and on about how much money “we” would be saving. Since I wasn’t going to go with it anyway I asked “so, since this will save the company so much money, are you going to give us the deductible?”

            Blank stare. “No?”
            I don’t think anyone signed up for it that year, and the next year they offered the deductible as well and it was much more popular.

            1. KRM*

              Exactly. I’ve never had a company with a high deductible plan that didn’t cover the deductible. It’s more cost efficient for everyone. If I don’t use the whole deductible, they save. If I do, I save. They save anyway on a lower cost plan for everyone.
              One company didn’t use an HSA, but they processed the deductible claims for you so you never paid out of pocket for the costs. It worked out well.

              1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

                I’ve never had a company with a high deductible plan that did cover/contribute the deductible. The closest was one employer that contributed the difference in premium between the high deductible and non-high deductible plans (those were the only two options).

        4. Ash*

          Stephanie, from some of your replies it seems like you are feeling a little defensive of your company (please correct me if I am wrong, tone can be hard to gauge from written words). Please know that your company’s practices are in NO WAY a reflection of you. It can feel really hard to face the fact that your company is treating its employees poorly, especially when you may like your coworkers and your job, maybe even your bosses. But people are having this visceral reaction to what you’re describing because it is actually *not* normal, and actually demonstrates a good deal of disregard for the company’s employees.

    1. Stephanie*

      Its somewhat a cost cutting measure. Less claims to insurance company tends to mean less of a increase the next time they renew.

      1. Snow Globe*

        Except that if people don’t get preventative care, they can end up with far more costly medical treatment. The cost of treating stage 4 cervical cancer is exponentially higher than the cost of annual pap smears.

        Does this mean that they don’t even want people vaccinating their kids?!

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Assuming they even cover dependents. Most kids are required to interact with the health system at least once a year to get a physical so that their doctor will be able to sign off on their forms for school enrollment.

          Is the idea that if you typically spend less than the high deductible, you just won’t submit those expenses to the plan? So the $200 is essentially to pay you to take on the risk.

          I had a high-deductible plan once, so I didn’t see a dime of coverage until I’d spent $4000 out of pocket. There are many years I never get close to that, so it wouldn’t make any financial difference whether I charged everything to insurance or not (except that doctors and hospitals often charge different rates based on your insurance, which is a whole other story). But $200 is a pretty small amount to pay to encourage me to take the risk that it won’t be the year that I spend $2k on health care out of pocket and then get into an accident or get a serious diagnosis and I have to spend $4k on the books before anything is covered.

          1. Natalie*

            Employer provided healthcare has to allow for dependent coverage. The company might not be contributing anything towards their premiums, but they can’t keep someone from enrolling their kid on the plan. Perhaps they’re banking on most parents having a better plan through the other parent?

            1. PT*

              Depending on the state, kids qualify for Medicaid differently than adults do (I’m not sure of the details because I don’t have kids, but it is not as rigid as for children and in ACA/Medicaid expanded states it’s even more broad,) so they may be factoring in that some of the children are eligible for state insurance and won’t be on the company plan, period.

          2. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

            You can submit bills to your employer health insurance later. It might be covered differently than out of pocket (could be higher often lower), there might be deadlines, they might reimburse the provider and then you have to chase down a refund from the provider.

        2. Weekend Please*

          They may simply be very short term thinkers and see the savings now and are hoping that nothing happens later because of lack of preventative care or people don’t tend to stay at the job for that long, so the higher costs will go on someone else’s insurance plan. I agree it is crappy.

      2. John*

        The fact that they’re pairing a high-deductible plan with incentives not to use it shows how little they care about you. If anything, it would be a low-deductible plan because those are best for those who expects to have low utilization.

        Your company sucks.

        1. Pharmgirl*

          I think it’s the other way – I think most healthier people will go for the high deductible because premiums are much lower. You’re banking on only paying if you need to go which is rare if you’re healthy. Whereas a low deductible plan has higher premiums, but you only pay a copay whenever you go in. So worth it for families or those with chronic conditions, but more expensive for a healthier person. It makes sense they would offer the incentive to those who are unlikely to go often anyways. But yeah, the company sucks.

          1. Two Dog Night*

            Yeah, my husband and I have a high-deductible plan (with seriously low premiums) because we don’t usually have many health expenses. When we did the math, it turned out that the regular plan would only be worth it if we had over ~$2500 expenses in a year, not including preventive care… which we generally don’t.

      3. Cat Tree*

        It’s extremely, foolishly short-sighted. Whatever they end up paying when an employee has a heart attack and needs to go to the emergency room with an extended hospital recovery is vastly more than they would pay for routine physicals to diagnose and treat high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

        I think it’s what Urt said upthread – they are banking on employees just dying outright from heart attacks without ever making it to a hospital, and then replacing them with cheaper employees. The less callous interpretation is that they are just too foolish to look past the next payment, which does not speak well on the management in this place.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          I think it’s probably not so awful as them banking on employees dying from heart attacks. I think this was probably dreamed up by someone who doesn’t usually hit the deductible on the company high-deductible plan and who noticed how much the company could save if all those people who usually spend very little did it outside the plan instead of submitting those expenses to the plan. Still crappy, but more incompetent than sadistic.

          The fact that this is a high-deductible plan makes a big difference, I think. Lots of people in those plans get nothing covered anyway since they spend less than the deductible in a year, so I can imagine someone thinking, “well, what’s the difference if they just paid all that out of pocket? It works out the same for the employee in the end, and saves us money!”

          (Risk. The difference is risk. Plus the sense that your company is pressuring you not to use your benefits is seriously crappy.)

          1. Natalie*

            Lots of people in those plans get nothing covered anyway since they spend less than the deductible in a year, so I can imagine someone thinking, “well, what’s the difference if they just paid all that out of pocket? It works out the same for the employee in the end, and saves us money!”

            That’s not true, though – even high deductible plans cover a small number of “wellness” visits (checkups) and other preventive care outside of the deductible.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              Ah, that’s good to know. The year or two I was on that kind of plan was quite a while ago, and I think the ACA was just being phased in, and I also don’t remember the details very well.

              That makes this company that much worse. Ugh.

              1. Natalie*

                Oh yes, they used to be a lot worse. I was on a short term “catastrophic” plan once that basically wouldn’t do anything unless I was in a car accident or something. Of course, that’s why I had it, to cover a gap before a real policy kicked in.

                Current high deductible plans work a little differently, and do provide some actual health care coverage, plus the option to enroll in an HSA.

              2. KayDeeAye*

                Oh, yes – quite a few preventive measures are now fully covered even under a high-deductible plan. Mammograms, pelvic exams, routine physicals, etc. It’s a lot better than it used to be.

                1. Weekend Please*

                  The other thing to keep in mind is that even if you haven’t met your deductible, health insurance is still important for the “negotiated rates” for procedures and doctors visits. Hospitals and doctors offices have to agree to accept a certain rate for their services in order to accept that insurance. So depending on your insurance (or lack thereof) you can get charged a different amount for the same procedure. While messed up is how our health system works right now.

            2. Stephanie*

              I usually spend very little. The flu shot this year was $45.00. Three years ago I paid out a little over 1500 prior to my plan kicking in( broke arm) .The owner/president of the company himself does not use drs( Christian Science Church member) Some married employees are on their spouses plan. Company does pay rather well for the area, benefits are somewhat lacking ( no 401k) only health plan and a couple sick days.Company has been in business for 28yrs so they figure why change

              1. Generic Name*

                Yikes. My small company has not great health insurance, but we get 401k matching and decent vacation time and plenty of sick time. And the flexibility to work whenever and wherever is huge. Your company may be great in other ways, but the benefits sound objectively terrible, even by American standards.

              2. Littorally*

                It’s a lousy excuse. Even people who work directly for the Church of Christ, Scientist get decent health insurance — and did before the ACA, for that matter.

              3. HugsAreNotTolerated*

                Your flu shot was 22.5% of the $200 ‘incentive’ when it should have been free. This employer is playing an extremely risky game and forcing their employees to play it with them because of the owner’s beliefs. This is the very definition of imposing your religion on others.
                Only a week’s leave a year and no subsidized preventative care is a recipe for absolute disaster. The company has pretty much just hung a sign on the door saying “We don’t care if you die or cause everybody else in the building to die as long as we can make more money.”

              4. EPLawyer*

                You USUALLY spend very little — except that time you broke your arm. What happens if something like that happens again but you already gambled you wouldn’t need it? Remember in gambling, the house always wins.

                You seem very invested that this is a GOOD employer because they don’t suck as much as the other employers in the area. When in fact, they are just a lesser grade of suck. Please stop trying to talk yourself into giving up part of your compensation package for a measly $200.

                1. BJS*

                  +1. I have insurance on my own through Covered California and it basically covers nothing, but even the flu shot was free. The COVID-19 vaccine will also be covered.

            3. Pharmgirl*

              Yes, so it’s weird that their including preventive services in the incentive. It would make more sense if the incentive was for not using non preventive services – up to the deductible the employee would be paying out of pocket either way (not taking into account insurance rate discounts). But preventive services are free, so no advantage to the employee to skip them or pay the cash price. This is just taking advantage of those employees who can’t afford to give up that $200.

              1. kt*

                The comment that the company owner is a member of the Christian Science church indicates to me that this is an ideological effort supported by capitalist methods rather than anything else.

              2. Stephanie*

                Prior to the ACA the plan was different, for example the flu shot wasn’t free. When the ACA was passed preventive care was add.

            4. Diahann Carroll*

              Yeah, I’ve had high deductible plans for the last 7 or so years, and all of my annual exams, Pap smears, and flu shots have been covered 100% by insurance regardless of my deductible amount and the company I was with.

          2. Urt*

            I thought more along the lines of first making sure their cost is low by incentivizing not making sure of insurance services and then letting you go when you’d actually need it thereby still keeping their cost low and getting a new employee with possibly even cheaper benefits.

          3. pancakes*

            It’s so uninformed, even just as to the prevalence of things like STDs and diabetes in the US, things that really need routine care. From 2019 articles:

            “Last year, rates of chlamydia cases by state ranged from 198.2 cases per 100,000 people in West Virginia to 832.5 cases per 100,000 people in Alaska, according to the new report. The rate for the District of Columbia was 1,298.9 cases per 100,000, the report found.”

            “Minnesota saw its total reported STD cases increase by over 5% in 2019, with a total of over 33,700 reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Health experts highlighted syphilis as a disease of concern, with cases increasing by 23% last year.”

            Look at the rate of diabetic amputations, too, which are extremely preventable. There’s a good (though infuriating) ProPublica article titled, “The Black American Amputation Epidemic” by Lizzie Presser, May 19, 2020.

            A place where people just don’t get annual check-ups is a brutal place to live.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Comfortable to say I once caught chlamydia and oh my gods the pain from the chronic pelvic inflammatory syndrome is an absolute nightmare (add my endo and PCOS and can someone teleport that organ out my body please).

              I require pain medication pretty much forever now, for something that one person didn’t get screened for.

        2. Bee*

          My dad’s employee health insurance actually CHARGES people if they don’t go get their fully-covered annual physical, which I think is clever because he’s in an industry full of the kind of men who would never go to the doctor until they were actually having that heart attack.

            1. TiffIf*

              Until this year, if you could prove you got your annual physical then the company pays 80% of the health care premium. If you didn’t get a physical company paid for 70 or 75% of the premium. This year they suspended that requirement and just gave everyone the 80%. So for my company it wasn’t cash up front but it was less out of every paycheck if you did it. Also they gave you up to two hours paid work time to do your physical without having to pull from your PTO if you couldn’t get in at a convenient time.

      4. MissGirl*

        But it’s not! I work in healthcare and insurance companies and health systems want you getting preventative care. It’s much cheaper to the system you see a doctor once a year, get on cholesterol medication and not have a heart attack.

        That’s why health insurance doesn’t charge for preventative care. I would reach out to your healthcare broker or representative. Maybe they can convince the company how ridiculous it is. It’s going to cost everyone greater in the long run.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          Exactly! There’s a reason preventative care is free and it ain’t because the insurance company cares about you. Its because they’ve done the math and its cheaper for them.
          My company literally pays us a $50 gift card if we *do* get all our preventative care and an extra $50 if we get the flu shot.

          One obvious example: it’s way cheaper for my company if I take birth control than if I skip my annual, don’t get my script renewed, get pregnant and need maternity leave, not to mention the cost of having a baby, smdh.

          1. Stephanie*

            Nice idea the gift card.Company is rather friendly, pay well. They really would rather not offer insurance at all ( they consider medical insurance a private matter, like retirement planning) however with the coverage prior to ACA law helped those with preexisting conditions since the state law allowed private insurance to not accept preexisting conditions. Plan is rather inexpensive (my monthly premium deducted from my pay) is less then 220.00

            1. Pharmgirl*

              That seems high to me for a high deductible plan. I work for a small company and our premiums are about $75 / month for high deductible or $150 for the lower deductible.

              1. Not A Girl Boss*

                Same. I work for a small company that basically coordinates with an insurance provider and I was appalled by the premiums vs deductible compared to my previous big company… it was still only $75/month for a $6k deductible, or thereabout.

              2. GothicBee*

                My company’s are similar. I’m on a low deductible plan and for salaried employees it’s $135 a month. High deductible plan is $66 a month. Granted I’m single, so the cost of healthcare plans can be quite a bit higher for families. They also offer us a primary care direct program that we can sign up for (it’s free, just have to sign up for it), so if I go to a doctor in that plan for a regular checkup/sick visit, it’s completely free.

            2. Generic Name*

              I’d encourage you to look into the healthcare exchange, honestly. My insurance premium is totally covered by the company, but covering dependents is expensive, so we put my husband on a plan through my state’s exchange. The Colorado exchange is surprisingly good. There are plans that cost about what you’re paying, and could be even less if you are eligible for income-based assistance.

              1. Retail Not Retail*

                You may not be eligible for assistance if your employer offers a real plan – at least not in my state!

            3. pancakes*

              It is very clearly a matter of public health for people to be without health insurance and healthcare. That this is not clear to your employer in the midst of an airborne virus pandemic is worrying. Even well before then, it should have been clear to them that there are dangers for everyone associated with, to take just one small example, food service and food processing workers having to go to work sick, and/or not being able to see a doctor without spending a lot a money.

            4. KRM*

              You’re paying say around $200/month, have a high deductible, and the company wants to give you $200 to not use any of the health services. So you’re paying $2200 a year for…what now…if you don’t use your health insurance?
              Your company sucks with benefits. Just because others suck more doesn’t make them suck less.

            5. fhqwhgads*

              Sorry to break it to you, but that’s what I paid at my last job for the highest tier plan they offered. No deductible. Low copays. If I’d taken their high deductible plan it would’ve cost me $0 per pay period. They covered the whole premium. I know all companies are different and the negotiations they were able to do are different, but based on every job my and my spouse have had in the past 20 years, not only is what your job encouraging with this plan a very bad idea, the plan itself and how much of the premiums they cover for you is crap. If by “pays very well” you mean “you’d make at least $15k less anywhere else”, ok maybe they offset it with pay. But if not, this is a crappy deal.

            6. RabbitRabbit*

              That’s a terrible plan. I pay nothing for preventative care, a small copay for other office visits ($10-$40 within the network), a medium-sized deductible (but more flexibility on where I can be seen), ER visits cost $300 unless I’m admitted (then that’s waived), 10% of hospitalization/surgery after deductible, and I pay just under $140 a month. If I paid $190 a month and limited my providers more, I could pay as little as $75-150 for surgery or inpatient hospitalization.

              Your employer is screwing you over, giving you a bargain basement “healthcare plan” and keeping you from getting better elsewhere as a result. I wonder if you’d end up with a job discussion if you needed to be hospitalized.

            7. MCMonkeybean*

              “they consider medical insurance a private matter, like retirement planning”

              Your company is giving you a lot of BS to justify not giving you benefits. Benefits make up a really big part of compensation so I would really reconsider whether it’s true to say that they pay well if they have no 401k and offer crappy insurance that they encourage you not to use for a very low incentive.

              If you are paying $220 every month for health insurance and then getting $200 not to use it then you have payed a total $2,440 for a year for literally nothing. This is very terrible.

              (And for the record, $220 is not an inexpensive plan if that is for just you.)

        2. pancakes*

          Yes, and thank you for saying this. My present ins. co., as much as I dislike it, is good about offering free preventative check-ups, and gives bonuses for having them.

          I was an otherwise very healthy 34-yr-old when I was diagnosed with a cancer that doesn’t run in my family. I already had a routine gyno appointment scheduled by chance for just a couple days after I noticed a lump in my breast myself, and when I brought it to the dr’s attention she got me seen by a specialist in the same building, which led to me getting biopsied and diagnosed that same day. It is terrifying to think of how much further along things might’ve gotten if I wasn’t having routine check-ups.

        3. Parenthesis Dude*

          Health insurance doesn’t charge for preventative care because the ACA forces health insurance companies to give a free preventive visit each year. Try getting a second physical a year and see whether you’re billed.

        4. Health Insurance Nerd*

          Health Insurance doesn’t charge for preventive care because it’s prohibited under the ACA, but I 100% cosign your comment on health insurance companies WANTING their members to seek out preventive care, get their immunizations, take advantage of screenings, etc… and in the case of the company I work for, we contractually incentivize our providers to be proactive in getting their patients to have this care. Missed screenings that can identify pre-cancerous indicators, as well as many other conditions, lead to higher cost treatments, unfavorable outcomes, and increased comorbidities. Any company that discourages their employees from seeking even this bare-minimum of healthcare (and for a lousy $200???) is not a company someone should want to work for

    2. tg*

      It sounds like they want young, healthy workers. As you get older preventative care gets more important and more involved.

      Do they incentivise women not to get pregnant too, or do they just not employ women?

      1. Stephanie*

        I go if I’m sick. I get the flu shot at pharmacy. So far no gyno( no gyno drs in my county take my plan.

        1. KRM*

          So you’re paying for an insurance that close doctors don’t even take? You’re being fleeced 9 ways to Sunday on this, no matter how you try to spin it.

          1. EPLawyer*

            THANK YOU. Succinct and to the point.

            This is NOT a good health plan and the employer is making it worse by trying to bribe you not to use it.

          2. Not A Girl Boss*

            Yes, thank you. I don’t really get the defense of the company in the face of all of these people sharing that it is extremely not normal and maybe actively harmful?

            Your company sucks at treating their employees as humans instead of robots, and probably isn’t going to change. Its ok if you want to stay there knowing that, but please don’t try to normalize this because humans are not robots and treating them as such is bad for all of us.
            It used to be ‘industry standard’ to make children work in factories until they dropped dead from exhaustion, too. But luckily we all eventually got together and pushed back against that, and America is the better for it.

              1. Anon for obvious reasons*

                This didn’t belong here. It’s for the people talking a out managers who proudly come to work sick and don’t believe in PTO.

            1. Urt*

              Robots see regular maintenance.

              Preferably before they break, because that typically causes longer downtimes, damaged products, issues with customer deadlines, higher repair costs. And then getting them released back to production is a pita on its own.

              Companies pay quite a pretty penny on getting their robots preventively maintained by robot specialists instead of running them into the ground.

              (Depending upon the robot they might indeed work better with regular rest or by running as much as possible.)

    3. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “but the idea of going a whole year without even preventive medical care is horrifying.”

      I do it. Maybe it’s dumb for me. It’s certainly not for everyone – most people should a doctor regularly. It absolutely should not be encouraged. I’m reaching an age when I should start going more often but am not looking forward to that.

      Actually, that’s not completely true that I do it – I get a flu vaccine each year.

      1. MK*

        I live in a country with free healthcare. Between ages 18 and 29 I only went to the doctor for a broken bone. Now I am 42 and go twice a year (thyroid and gynecological checkups). It’s definitely age-related for many people.

        1. Asenath*

          Doctor visits are definitely age-related, and not just because many young people think “I’m healthy and strong and nothing bad will happen” – I know I thought that way. But I had very little reason to see the doctor when I was younger – I didn’t and still don’t go for regular checkups if nothing appears to be wrong. As I aged, my doctor recommended first one and then another type of checkup, starting with Pap smears and moving on…actually, the routine breast checks revealed cancer that was still at an easily-treatable stage, just beginning to get on the move, so that sure paid off. And now I see my doctor a couple times a year at the least, and sometimes more often.

          But long-term, discouraging both routine care and vacation time won’t pay off. This company isn’t thinking long-term regarding their employees.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t think they’re thinking long-term in a broader sense of what sort of world they want to live in, either. A world where people only get medical attention when the symptoms of various conditions become distressingly noticeable or life-altering is a pretty cruel place. Even people who live in gated communities intend to continue leaving them now and them, no? I have traveled and spent months in some crushingly poverty-stricken places, places where you see lots more people missing limbs than is usual in the US, and would bet anything the leadership in this company has not.

      2. Cat Tree*

        You really should. I’m gonna give my PSA here.

        High blood pressure runs in my family so strongly that I was diagnosed in my mid 20s even though most people don’t develop it until middle age. Fortunately it’s very easy to treat with cheap generic medications. For years I tried to warn my older brother, but he’s one of those stoic types that just never goes to the doctor. A few years ago, his employee had on-site biometric screenings, which were voluntary but you get a partial refund of healthcare premiums for doing it. The combination of convenience and money was enough to convince him. Unsurprisingly, he had high blood pressure. But it was so dangerously high that the nurse told him to leave work immediately and see a doctor to get treatment. He went straight to urgent care and got a prescription, and he was told to take it easy for a few days until the medication had a chance to kick in. This is a success story. It saved to company money by not paying for emergency treatment of stroke or heart attack, and it possibly saved my brother’s life.

        This is why smart employers encourage preventative care, and why the ACA requires preventative care to be fully covered.

        Also, I don’t know if you’re including the dentist in your lack of routine care, but I will warn you that crowns are super expensive. It’s much easier to deal with issues before it gets to that point.

        1. Ubi Caritas*

          Dental care and yearly eye exams! For Pete’s sake! Prevention is so much cheaper/easier than cure.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            Ugh yessss dental care. I had a friend who put off going to the dentist for so long that she was to the point of taking ibuprofen every 4 hours for a toothache. When she finally got her (very expensive, thanks to letting the cavity grow for a year) dental work, she ALSO had horrible GI problems caused by all the ibuprofen that she is costing her a lot to fix.

            Of all the problems that don’t get better with time, health is the one most guaranteed to get way worse way fast.

            1. Red Boxes and Arrows*

              An acquaintance of mine, who is very poor and chronically unemployed, always said she could never afford to see the dentist for cleanings and X-rays. Then she got a toothache that slowly became unbearably painful. Without any insurance or a job, she qualified for a local hospital’s indigent program that also has a dental component.

              By the time she was able to get an appointment, the best the dentist could do was give her huge doses of antibiotics and start the process of removing all of her teeth. She’s only 63.

              Had she looked for – and signed up for – the same program decades ago, she’d still have all of her teeth.

              In my grandmother’s final year, the nursing staff had to put her dentures in for her to eat, then take them out afterward so she didn’t choke on them in her sleep. They weren’t terribly careful about it and she ended up with cracked and torn skin in the corners of her mouth. It was incredibly painful, and she eventually couldn’t wear her dentures anymore. She seemed to decline rapidly after she wasn’t able to eat solid food anymore.

              Good dental care is so important.

        2. Stephanie*

          Preventive care did kicking when the ACA went into effect. You can get preventive care and still get the 200. You just have to schedule preventive appointment (usually when they are less busy)if you get sick and go and the dr does preventive care you might not get the 200

        3. UKDancer*

          Definitely. Crowns are costly. I had to have a tooth crowned (old filling and then root canal) and it cost me nearly £1000 for the crown and fitting. Obviously it would be cheaper on the NHS but I struggle to find a good NHS dentist in my area so paid privately.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I’ve not seen a dentist in 16 years (really shamefully because I’m terrified of them for no reason I can think of. Never had a bad experience, I’m darn good at pain..) but I just yesterday had half a tooth break off and now I know I gotta do something. Searching for an NHS dentist in my area who is a) good and b) specifically deals with extremely scared or nervous patients isn’t something Google can help with apparently :(

            1. Elfie*

              I gave up and went private for dentists. If you only need the checkups, then the costs are a lot more than an NHS dentist, but if you do need treatment, then the costs are a lot lower. Hubby paid £75 for a temporary filling that fell out after a week, so he got a new temporary filling at no extra charge (not even the £7 COVID charge that our dentist has levied on everything), and the filling itself was not chargeable once it was done about 3 weeks later (this time we did just pay the £7). It’s expensive, but I’m with you – when we registered a few years ago, I don’t think there were any NHS dentists accepting patients in my area.

            2. coffee*

              Hey, my friend and I (seperately) saw a dentist this year for the first time in 4-5 years, and both of us had a much better experience than the last time we went. Dentistry has had some good innovations! It’s faster and less intrusive. So that is good news.

              Good luck finding a dentist.

        4. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “High blood pressure runs in my family so strongly”

          Nothing runs in my family. Both sides have been very long-lived, except for the few that abused alcohol and smoked. I don’t do either. Actually, even the smokers who didn’t drink much lived long and well.

          Examples with no history the family might move me more. I’m sure they are out there, and I’m not saying it’s wise to not get regular check ups. We should.

          But it’s certainly more important for some people (based on age, environment/behavior, history, etc ) than others.

          1. Quill*

            There are also going to be a lot of people who do not know they have a family history of something, because of estrangement or previous generations not having disclosed the information.

            Especially if it’s something that has often been interpreted as a moral failing, like depression or diabetes.

            1. pancakes*

              Yes, good point. Mental illness is still quite taboo and was much more so in the past, and I would think less frequently diagnosed when people used to cared for elderly and troubled family members at home (vs. now, when too many people work full time to do care-work themselves).

              1. Quill*

                Not to mention how even one generation back a lot of things just. weren’t. Known. Even if the boomers is as far as you go back you get a lot of generational “that’s just normal” wrapped up in heritable chronic conditions or environmental exposure to toxins like secondhand smoke.

            2. pancakes*

              Whether you are personally moved or not, it remains a fact that it is far more expensive overall for a country to be stingy with preventative care. “How do I personally feel about this and about myself and my family” is the wrong lens through which to view healthcare policy for all. To the extent you believe everyone should indeed be getting check-ups, your own family’s luck in going without them isn’t very relevant.

            3. pleaset cheap rolls*

              I’m not arguing it’s wise.

              I’m saying it’s not *that* unwise for some of us. How unwise it is varies – big deal for some, not that big a deal for others.

              1. Cat Tree*

                It absolutely is unwise for you to refuse something helpful that is free to you. You’re not as invincible as you believe.

                I get it though. I have tons of relatives like this. They are so afraid that a doctor will find something that they twist logic into pretzels to justify not going without admitting that they are worried. It really sucks to lose a family member from something that could have been prevented. I think iniatives to reduce the stigma and worry around doctors would go a long way.

            4. KoiFeeder*

              My family has a history of Long QT. Prior to one of my cousins getting autopsied and the doctor figuring out what happened, it was a family history of “yeah a lot of the time boys randomly drop dead prior to 18 and we just don’t know why” (yes, long qt isn’t supposed to be sex-linked, no, I don’t know why it is in my family, yes, my family’s genetic makeup is a nightmare beyond scientific comprehension).

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            How’s this: epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis and certain mental conditions do not run in my family. I’m the only one to have got them. But, because I see the doc regularly they were picked up in the early stages before serious damage had occurred. So I only need a few meds instead of a joint replacement, I can still drive because I got onto anti-seizure meds early (have more than a certain amount of grand mal seizures in a year and bye bye driving license), I got good psychiatric help before I ended up being completely unable to function in society.

        5. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          It runs in my family too. And treating it does not just prevent the heart attack in your thirties and the stroke in your forties. It prevents vascular dementia in your seventies. Believe me that this is something you want to prevent.

    4. Electric Pangolin*

      I don’t know what the rest of the health insurance structure looks like but I also doubt it is going to work out in their favor. In Germany for a few years they introduced a 10€ copay for visiting a new doctor that you hadn’t been to yet in this quarter and hadn’t been referred to by another doctor. The idea was to reduce “overconsumption” by giving people a reason to consider if they really needed to visit the doctor for minor things (but not make the fee so big that it would stop you from necessary visits). There was an initial drop in visits but it was regained within two years. When they evaluated it they found that people fell into two big categories: On the one hand those that were already averse to going to the doctor, and tended to wait too long, who now waited even more and got much worse. On the other hand, those that were meant to be targeted, who went to the doctor a lot, actually increased the amount of doctor’s visits (I’m dubious of speculations about the motivations of broad groups of people but the report floated the idea that they were “trying to get their money’s worth”). The fee was found to be ineffective overall and removed again.

      1. MK*

        I have no statistics, but I have a hard time believing people who go to the doctor unnecessarily are a significant number. Even when not expensive, doctor’s visits aren’t exactly a fun way to pass the time. We have free healthcare, and even so most people don’t go as often as they should.

        1. Electric Pangolin*

          Yeah, thinking about it a bit more, my personal unfounded speculation would be that those people who have more health issues also need visits to various specialists, but with this they first had to visit their GP at the beginning of the quarter to get a referral to each of them, whereas before they could directly go to their usual specialist.

        2. Ellen*

          There are people who visit a dr more often than really needed. Mr? I have anxiety that comes with symptoms that strongly resemble a heart attack. Even on meds, I sometimes have to talk myself out of “just checking”. Other people are just really lonely, and a dr visit is a way to get out of the house, talk to people, and be with someone that will at least pretend to care.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Hypochondriacs would never leave the surgery if they weren’t chucked out. There are elderly people who go to see the doctor because they’re lonely. I remember one such woman who actually cancelled one week, because she was sick and couldn’t make it to the surgery.
          My partner is something of a hypochondriac, he’ll go for the slightest thing, he’ll pay for all the most intrusive tests even if not recommended by the doctor.
          For many people, testing is a way of reassuring themselves that it doesn’t matter that they don’t live the healthiest of lifestyles.
          I remember one doctor saying that if she said no, there’s no point testing you right now, patients would next ask whether there were any lifestyle changes that might help them, as if the test absolved them from making those changes.
          In France too, they introduced an extra fee if you wanted a second opinion, because too many people would just bounce from one doctor to the next, looking for the person who would prescribe exactly what they wanted. Especially since doctors were limited in the amount of sick leave they could prescribe (my doctor got in trouble for being too generous with sick leave for example). They also made it compulsory to be referred to a specialist by your GP, because too many people were just making appointments to see whichever specialist they thought they needed to see, even if it wasn’t necessary. You might think making someone first see their GP to be referred to a cardiologist would actually double the number of appointments, but apparently enough people were going straight to the cardiologist when it wasn’t necessary that the number of appointments diminished.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Inter-continental linguistics note:
            UK “surgery” and US “surgery” is different. In the US, regular visits occur in the “doctor’s office” or an “exam room’. More serious procedures that involve scalpels & sutures are moved to ‘surgery’.
            I’m not 100% clear where the break is drawn in UK English.

            1. Forrest*

              “Surgery” as a concept also means the same thing, of or relating to a surgical procedure which to be really blunt means cutting something –“she can’t talk now, she’s in surgery”, “I’ve got surgery planned”, “I’m hoping to get into surgery on my next rotation” etc. But a primary care provider can ALSO be “a GP surgery”. In that case, it only refers to the physical place or the business, and is interchangeable with “GP practice”.

          2. Cat Tree*

            Ok, nobody said that hypochondriacs don’t exist. But are they really anything more than a tiny sliver of the population? It costs more money to try to discourage a tiny fraction of patients than it ever cost to not worry about that.

            1. boo bot*

              Yeah. Not to mention, it seems like an issue that might better be aided by trying to direct people with hypochondria to treatment for that, rather than trying to demoralize them out of seeking help altogether.

              Others have mentioned that some elderly people schedule doctor’s visits because they’re lonely; I feel like that’s a similar deal – why not direct resources to programs helping with that, instead of charging punitive fees for medical visits?

              1. Cat Tree*

                Thank you, that is a good point. Hypochondria is a medical diagnosis and I should be more careful about using it as a general term. People with a medical problem should be directed to proper care. People who seek care for attention but don’t meet the level of any diagnosable condition are extremely rare and not worth the cost it would take to get rid of them.

                1. Quill*

                  Yeah, and too often I hear stories of people who have rare or invisible illnesses that have been bothering them, who take a dog’s age to get diagnosed because of the stigma of hypochondria or “drug seeking behavior.” Autoimmune disorders seem to be really prone to this, because the symptoms can be vague and the condition can die down and flare up seemingly at random.

                  Especially when you figure in the elderly going not just because they’re lonely, but because it’s actually pretty legitimate to fear new bodily changes that may come with aging. There are a lot of things going on in the aging body that may, or may not, be medically treatable, and today’s octogenarian probably finished their schooling sixty or so years ago. I guarantee they have questions about how things work, medically, that weren’t known then and they don’t know about because it hasn’t been relevant yet.

        4. Cat Tree*

          Yeah, unfortunately people who have one chronic condition are more likely to develop more chronic conditions. It’s not about people taking advantage of the system. Some people are just really unlucky when it comes to health.

          1. Quill*

            Some of the chronic conditions cause each other or stem from the same root cause, and sometimes the genetic lottery just throws you a bunch of things that all might not be noticed on their own.

        5. Myrin*

          I actually talked about this recently with one of my oldest friends who joined her father’s practice at the beginning of this year and will likely take it over completely in 2022.
          And she said that it’s absolutely not rare for people to primarily – though not solely! – come to her office for social interaction but it’s not, like, the majority of people, either. We didn’t talk estimated percentages – which I’d actually be really interested in! – but it’s definitely a phenomenon that exists but not overwhelmingly so and more often than not, these people do have some kind of ailment, it just wasn’t strictly necessary to take a look at it again right this moment but eh, why not.

        6. PT*

          If you go to the doctor for preventative care for no real reason to be concerned you need care, they’ll send you off with an advisory to come back in several years. I was told my next gynecologist appointment should be in five years, for example.

          1. Rayray*

            I’m 31 and my last checkup was probably…four years ago I think. Before then I hadn’t been to a doctor since I was 11 and needed stitches.

        7. Blackcat*

          Eh, I definitely go for things after I’ve met my deductible that I would watch and wait with in January. Sort of the difference between “Let’s do all the home remedies for this sinus infection” vs “my head’s been hurting for 10 days, I can get antibiotics now and be better fast.” I’m more likely to tough out stuff that’s unpleasant but not serious if I have to pay $200 to be seen.

      2. LQ*

        I’ve known people to get their money’s worth but it’s usually, we already hit the max may as well do all the routine checkup and tests at the end of this year instead of the start of next. And one knee surgery, but it was all about things that would happen in the next 4-6 months getting moved to December instead of February kinds of things. (Heck I do this with dental care. If I have a filling I need fixed and I haven’t had anything else and it’s December sometimes I’ll schedule it for Jan instead of Dec to give myself a year of I’ve hit the max if anything else happens.) It may mean people go more often but that’s not a bad thing if it’s needed. The other option sometimes is keep not going until it hits a point of emergency.

        1. Parenthesis Dude*

          That’s dangerous to do with dental care. Health care has an out of pocket maximum and no annual limit (ACA). Most dental care plans have an annual limit that isn’t very high ($1500). If you need a root canal and crown in one year, you can easily go over your limit and end up having no more dental insurance.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      The paranoid part of me (she’s on meds and doing better these days) wonders if this isn’t just a slippery slope to the company trying to justify why it only hires white single able bodied middle class men in their twenties – or whichever demographic in the area tends toward minimal health care and needs for time off. It’s just their ‘company culture’…

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        This exactly. I’m a relatively healthy woman in my 20s, and even I need to go in for a birth control prescription every year. Who wants to bet on an upcoming crop of pregnant woman in the office who get fired after going on maternity leave and replaced with men?

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. I’m also fairly healthy but I go for my smear and get birth control from the GP.

          Also you don’t know what might happen to you. I had a mole that changed shape and bled a year ago so I wanted it checked out so I went to the GP for a dermatology referral. Fortunately it was nothing and benign but it could have been a problem.

          My cousin who has been healthy all her life found a lump in her breast this year. She’s never had a day ill in her life but suddenly she’s needed a lumpectomy and some chemo.

          You don’t know what you might need until you need it.

        2. Stephanie*

          Good point. Company does not cover birth control or abortion or erectile disfunction meds.Since the Hobby Lobby ruling most companies even our towns employees decided not to pay for them

          1. Quill*

            In my situation birth control is the ONLY med that I’ve been prescribed that my insurance has covered…

            1. Stephanie*

              Your extremely lucky.Here in the midwest,after the Hobby Lobby ruling companies and public municipalities have stopped paying for birth control.My plan will not pay for it or an exam for it.So if I were to see the gyn for a prescription and pay for the prescription myself I would still have to pay the cost of the office visit to get the prescription

              1. Tiffany Hashish*

                After reading through, I wonder if your coverage isn’t actually insurance. Could it be something like a Christian healthcare sharing plan? They market it as similar in coverage but really is quite restrictive. So much of what you’ve mentioned here reminds me of an investigative piece I read a few years back. Great for investors, super shitty for staff.

                1. Stephanie*

                  Interesting ,the company did look into a sharing plan(not the one you mentioned) they were talked out by both the company lawyer and accountant. These “sharing plans” are not regulated like insurance companies. If the plan(if you want to use that term) goes bankrupt, your screwed since they are legally non profit

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Or a thinly veiled ‘we won’t hire women because statistically they require more healthcare because uteruses’. Or ‘we won’t hire any transgender people because healthcare’. Or ‘we won’t hire fat people because healthcare’.

          It’s just bigotry in a pretty hat.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      They want robots. Robots don’t need health care and don’t need vacation time.

      Just opt out of participating in these programs. Eventually they will see that their programs are not working and they will need to think of something else to do to get the results they are looking for. I have seen stuff with a similar lack of thinking and just in my experience these “programs” vanish after a couple years as everyone just ignores them.

      1. Urt*

        Robots need robot health care if you want to have them running at peak performance for a long time. If it course you’d rather save on their health check now, you’ll be sure to be faced with expensive repairs or replacements and lengthy downtimes sooner rather than later.

    7. Miss Libby*

      My husband’s employer has a $200/month incentive to opt out of their crappy health insurance but he has to show proof annually that he is covered elsewhere. He opts out of his and is covered under my much better plan and we basically make money on the deal.

    8. Autistic Farm Girl*

      I’m the same (have universal health care) but I also have an illness that requires daily meds and regular tests. I can’t imagine how discriminated against i’d feel if my employer said that not having health issues gets you a bonus. It’d be heartbroken and felt punished for something I have no control over.

  2. Sami*

    Letter #2: that company sounds awful! A total of $400? Heck, no. I could never go without health care and (a single week) of vacation. No way, no how.

      1. Yvette*

        The $400/year works out to $7.69/week (approximately). There are plenty of other things you can cut back on besides your physical and mental health to realize that kind of savings.

      2. Stephanie*

        Company actually pays fairly well for the area Unfortunately they would most likely like to offer no paid vacation.Locally the average is one week so they pretty much the on average. However benefits are stingy

        1. Mel_05*

          I’m wondering where in the midwest you can possibly be. I’ve been working in the midwest for 15+ years and even companies that offer no health insurance give two weeks or more of paid vacation.

          I suppose it could vary by industry, but I know people in a variety of fields in Ohio, Indiana, & Illinois and two weeks is considered absolute bare minimum.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Yes but they don’t even actually offer one week, because they want to pay you a LOT less than your weekly wage to not take it. How they get away with seeming so generous? Everyone else sucks worse. This is not a place you want to jump to. The pay might be better but for how long before you burn out? Or get sick from something that COULD have been minor if you had regular health check ups?

          1. DireRaven*

            Or you talk yourself out of going to see the doctor or even going to the ER for a certain set of symptoms?

            I know a fairly healthy 18 year old female who went to the ER complaining of chest pain a little over a year ago (pre-dates COVID 19, officially). History of anxiety and some other mental health diagnoses. Pretty much ignored in the ER, but they ran a couple routine tests to check for pneumonia. Came back negative for pneumonia and nothing out of the ordinary was (initially) noticed. The nurse came in to prepare us for her discharge. She was being given a prescription for an inhaler and being told to make an appointment with her psychiatrist for her “panic attacks.” Then, another doctor rushes in, telling the nurse to stop all discharge procedures and transferred her to the ICU. (she had a severely collapsed lung that the first radiologist did not notice and is fine now)

            Oh, and that employer would hate my family, not only do we hit our deductible, but also our annual catastrophic cap by February at the latest.

    1. Batty Twerp*

      I thought it was just the $200 a year for healthcare, and the vacation pay would be whatever the normal salary pay for a week is (coz if normal weekly salary is $200 – yikes!)

      I also have a question – I’m not familiar with US accountancy, but is the $200 net of taxes? If you then also have to make social security deductions and income tax deductions (or any other salary sacrifice payments – pensions?) it becomes even less of a benefit.

      1. yala*

        I think it’s the $200 on top of the week’s salary. But with a company like this, I wouldn’t put it past them.

        Sheesh. My company gives us a credit of $10/mo for DOING a health screening each year, and here’s a company that straight up just wants its employees to be sick and die. I hate them.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yup. The majority of the companies I’ve worked for with HDPs actually provided employees with incentive bonuses in the form of payment into our HSA accounts to do preventative health screenings.

    2. Mid*

      Also….isn’t vacation usually paid? Do they give you a bonus worth one week’s pay or do they have unpaid vacations?

      1. Samantha*

        Yes the weeks vacation is paid.They simply offer to buy it in the beginning of the year.As far as unpaid vacation, we dont have the

        1. SMH*

          So what happens if you take the 200 and then have to call out sick? Are you penalized? Do you have to repay it? I would put all of this information on glass door so future potential employees do not apply.

          Our company always encourage people to go to their regular doctor and/or urgent care vs the emergency room but they are very health focus and want us to utilize our benefits including the 3 weeks of vacation people get walking through the door. Also in the Midwest, wish we could connect so I could see if you could work for our company instead.

    3. Momma Bear*

      Back when, I did go without health care and was terrified of any accident, severe illness, etc. The stress probably wasn’t good for me, either. It is insurance – hopefully you don’t need it, but what if you do? In the middle of a pandemic is also not a good time to roll the dice on health insurance!

      Re: the vacation, you only get one week? I’ve sold back a week when I had three in the bank, but never when I only had a week and never at the first of the year. You might need it. What happens if you need to, say, travel to see a sick relative? Are you out of luck?

    1. MK*

      But this is the issue though: the OP isn’t looking to get skills from this job, but primarily the company name on their resume. Are hiring managers really going to put that much stock in a name, regardless of what the OP actually accomplished in that job? This sounds like the opening premise of DWP, and I thought it an unrealistic plot device there too.

      1. Hazel*

        What is DWP? I searched and didn’t find anything other than Dept. of Water & Power, and somehow… I don’t think that’s it.

        1. Retail Not Retail*

          The Devil Wears Prada – our protag suffers a year as an assistant to an Anna Wintour figure at a fashion mag which makes her qualified for a writer position at anything under the same publisher.

        2. Some Lady*

          I was absolutely thinking of Devil Wears Prada while reading this! The thing is, she isn’t really good at her job at least at first because she isn’t really into it. I’m generally for looking at jobs as stepping stones but I’m not sure that this job has enough positives to make it worth it. It’s okay to be willing to temporarily take downsides, but to get through it, and to do a good job, there has to be enough good to stay engaged, and I’m not sure LW has that.

      2. Tau*

        Agreed. Maybe this is different for some industries, but in mine nobody would care much about the name of the company – they’d care about your duties and achievements. If the OP’s end up being “admin and support work” when that’s not what her career involves, that could set her back more than her current, not-challenging-enough job.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Same in my field. “A lot of admin and support work” will be an obstacle to getting the next job, not a stepping stone, no matter what big-name company that work was done for.

      3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        I suspect it depends on the industry. There are some big names in tech (you’ve heard of them – heck, you’re probably using their technology right now) that are generally believed to be resume boosters. At least some (if not all) of them are working on some pretty impressive and cutting edge stuff. But they also have a reputation for how they treat their employees, and it’s not necessarily a good one. There’s a couple I wouldn’t work for if they were the only tech employer left – their reputation for working conditions is that bad.

        Just because people are gossiping about what goes on at a high-profile employer doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

        1. Worked for me*

          Just wanted to chime in to say – I’ve done this. Taken a job at a prestigious “name” company with a not great reputation, and a role I wasn’t thrilled about – but seriously, it was the BEST decision I made career wise.

          Yes, it was a miserable 1.5 years. Most of what I heard/suspected about the culture was true. I worked insane hours (and really it wasn’t necessary in terms of work load, it was just the cultural expectation). I dealt with inane hierarchy rules and bureaucracy/red tape. I was also a glorified answering machine rather than doing the mix of admin+dept specific work that I was told the role would encompass. It was awful and it did take a toll on my mental health. I don’t want to make it sound like this all sunshine and roses.

          That all said… My job searching experience pre-prestigious company vs after prestigious company is night and day. I get at least contacted (like a phone screen) for the nearly every job I apply for. Hiring managers just seem to think that if prestigious company thought I was worth hiring, then at the very least I’m probably worth speaking to. Prestigious company does have a reputation for a very rigorous hiring process (I happened to have a rare combo of experience that they were looking for for my role). The short stay hasn’t really been a problem. Anytime we’ve gotten to that point in an interview process, well everyone seems to know this company’s reputation (chew em up, spit em out) and understand why people don’t last particularly long there.

          That all said – I’m sure it’s very industry dependent. I’m not in tech, but my industry is big on “name brand” stuff in terms of hiring – prestigious degrees, working for industry heavyweights, working on prestigious deals/projects are very much emphasized in hiring. I’m not saying I agree with this approach to hiring, but I became aware of it and I made the conscious decision to try to play to it, to better long term prospects.

          My best advice is to really think about what you know about your industry and it’s hiring quirks. It might be worth it, but it does depend.

          1. Smithy*

            As you may tell from my comment….this is also my industry’s attitude.

            Additionally, while my job has portfolio’s and work I can essentially say “I did this” – it’s not a true portfolio is the sense of creative or technical expertise. And it’s well that the most of us don’t achieve our results purely in a vacuum of our own talent or hard work. One could say “well gee, wouldn’t it be more impressive if you did that in a small place with no name brand recognition?” But that’s just not the way my industry functions.

          2. Person*

            Yes, the place I work is prestigious enough that for many positions it would help you get through the first stages of an interview and make people inclined to assume good things about you, even though plenty of other places do just as good work. It’s also common for people to work here in entry level positions for a short period of time. It’s no guarantee, but these types of jobs can make a difference in a hiring process. Also, being in a ‘big name’ can mean you get to observe things that are helpful for industry knowledge even if you’re a bit of a peon. Still, the risks should be given real consideration.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        It sounds like theoretically they are. Theoretically the job is one they actually want and more than just the company name would open doors for them. However they’ve been warned by people they know who used to or currently work there that the way the role is being advertised is a lie. So that’s part of the roll of the dice: if it’s what the hiring people say it is, it’s good, but the culture still might not be great. But if it’s what the people issuing the warnings say it is, it’s both not a role they want and not a culture they want – but the name still might look good.

    2. Smithy*

      I did this for my industry – and while I wish the place I went to wasn’t as toxic as it was and the job was a step backwards in terms of skill – there’s no denying it made a huge difference for my career.

      In my case, part of my struggle came from international considerations. I was working for a small organization outside of the US, and over the course of a year of applying for jobs was realizing that my skills were not finding a path for promotion in my current country. And my resume was not strong enough to get hired via an international pool.

      I moved back to the US, got a “name brand” job that was truly miserable but ultimately able to have exactly the career I ultimately wanted. All I can really say, is that to make a move like this – there are two critical factors. First is to know your industry, in my local job I did amazing work and achieved great things given the nature of the job. But it truly was not the same as saying “I’ve worked for this logo that you recognize, and done similar work.”

      The second suggestion is to be very mindful and comfortable of staying short if that work climate really is that toxic. Do not get sucked into to trying to fix a large systematic workplace, especially if you end up finding the job to be more lateral or admin in nature than you were hoping for. This can do a number on your head long term, so have a good network in your corner – likely a mix of professional and personal – who can tell you when you’ve done enough, made your bones, and can just go.

    3. CM*

      My instinct was also “don’t do it” — my experience has been when I take a position I don’t like, I don’t perform up to my usual standards, and so at the end, the people who would be my references haven’t seen what I can really do and I don’t want to continue to be tied to them anyway.

    4. Des*

      Exactly. The company name on your resume will get you an interview slot, and then they’ll find out during the interview they don’t want you.

      Also a year in a toxic company can seem like 10 years.

  3. Blaise*

    How does not using your health insurance even help out the employer? You still HAVE the insurance, so I’m not understanding how the employer is benefiting from this at all…

    1. Jackalope*

      I’ve heard that if you have a lot of health expenses in your company then your premiums as a company can go up, so I’m guessing it’s related to that. As someone else said, though, this is a risky game. You never know when someone delaying their health care will result in something really expensive down the road. It might be after they left your company, but it might not.

      For that matter, as Alison points out, this is penny wise and pound foolish for the vacation as well. Your work force is going to do a better job if they get time off and you’ll make more money in the long run if they just pay their employees the week of vacation. (And I would add that it sounds like the carrot here is getting paid an extra week of wages, but if someone then later has to take the time off and does so with, say, LWOP, then the employee is not coming out ahead, and the company really isn’t either if they decided they could count on the employee being there the whole year because of the vacation buyback and then had to scramble to cover them.)

      1. Snow Globe*

        I think you are right about claims driving up the cost, but do claims for preventative health care increase the cost? Generally, insurance companies *want* people to get preventative care, because in the long run costs are lower if people are getting things checked out early. That’s why there are typically no co-pays for preventative visits.

        1. Natalie*

          They could be self-insured, meaning they contract with an insurance company for administrative services, but pay all of the claims directly. Fully covered preventive visits still cost the plan money, so they would come out ahead (in the very short term).

    2. Lexie*

      Much like car insurance if you have a lot of claims the price goes up. At one place I worked we had several people have surgery in one year and it caused an increase in the premium. I was also at a job where a member of the board informed us that the retirement of the director would cause the premium to go down because the director was significantly older than the rest of us and that placed us in a higher price bracket.

      1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        One year at a previous employer, we had three families have babies, another had “kids with broken bones”, two wives with early stage BC, one employee with a cancer scare himself, and one family that actually remained healthy all year long. And that summed up the entirety of those on the company plan.

        I understand that our renewal costs would have been huge the following year if the company had stuck with the same plan.

        1. Natalie*

          It’s worth noting that one of the less known features of the ACA is SHOP, which allows small employers to join a pool of other small employers and avoid this kind of situation where one person’s expensive health issue causes a huge premium increase. And lots of private insurers offer small employer pools as well, so if you’re a small business shopping for your health care plan, look into that.

        2. Tired of Covid*

          Former group health insurance underwriter here. It was standard practice when reviewing claims experience for renewal purposes to cap off claims exceeding a certain dollar amount, it was called stop-loss. Catastrophic, very high dollar claims such as for premature babies were not all charged directly to the group. Note that premiums never went down, if in some rare case a rate reduction was calculated, the renewal offer was to leave the rates unchanged, with no increase. Most companies were happy with that.

          1. SMH*

            Question Tired of Covid- as an underwriter how would the insurance company responded if they knew the company was incentivizing employees not to have routine medical checks done? We have a wellness program so we receive discounts for preventative care, medical exam, eye exam, dental etc. as well as activities we participate in and being a non-smoker or attending classes to stop smoking. I would think an insurance company would object and have serious issues with a company doing this because long term cost would be more than preventive exams.

        3. Blackcat*

          When I was hired in my first post college job, the HR person joked “If we hire more people your age, maybe we can get our insurance costs to go down!”

          Four months later, I tore my ACL.

          People forget younger folks are more accident prone! a

          1. Temperance*

            I will never forget when my firm’s insurance rep tried hard to steer me towards the HDHP, citing my age and how little I must use healthcare.

            That year, I had an ICU/hospital stay worth updates of $250k, plus tons of follow-up appointments (never mind my chronic migraine treatment). I did not pick up the HDHP.

    3. Language Lover*

      If it’s true that premiums go up with more use, then the company isn’t thinking long term.

      Having a lot of people not do the preventative checkups can lead to people only going to the doctor when things get really bad. Potentially simple treatments turn into more expensive treatments.

      1. Lexie*

        They’re probably thinking about this year’s profit margin and not five heads down the road. They may also be banking on people developing the habit of ignoring their health and never seeking treatment.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yup. And they’re banking on the fact that people won’t stay employed there very long, so by the time they have a serious, costly medical issue to treat, it won’t be the company’s problem anymore.

      2. Sarah in CO*

        $200 “bonus”? That’s a false economy that really only benefits the insurance companies long term. Unless this company’s insurance benefits are better than most in the US, employees are paying way more than $200/year for insurance that they’re being encouraged not to use!

        Example: I was on my husband’s insurance, $200/every two weeks. Never used it. Until I ended up in hospital from several undiagnosed conditions, which ultimately lead to a heart attack. Which lead to two stents, physical therapy, educational classes, a dietician, multiple PCP visits, multiple cardiologist visits, blood tests on the regular, EKGs on the regular, multiple meds, etc. I hit our maximum out of pocket costs within 3 days, and looking at the itemized bills, the insurance company paid a heck of a lot more. ($1000 for a pneumonia vaccine since I am not high risk!)

        Meanwhile, had I been encouraged to seek routine preventative health care, a simple blood panel would have diagnosed almost all of my issues before I ended up in hospital, and treatment would probably have kept me out. In the long run, what might have been a few thousand dollars for prevention, ended up hundreds of thousands of dollars in less than 6 months.

        Seriously, in the US, you pay for your benefits! Use them! (The good news is my heart attack was a warning and with the stents, some major lifestyle changes, daily meds, and exercise, I’m pretty darned healthy now, but it could have been so much worse).

        1. Natalie*

          It doesn’t really benefit the insurance company – they’ll end up paying far more for the conditions and diseases that weren’t caught and managed early. There’s a reason many insurance plans incentivize routine care, vaccines, and so forth.

          It only benefits the company, in the form of a lower overall premium, and that’s only if it discourages usage so much that people that would like to actually use health care join their spouses plan, or leave the company, or pay out of pocket.

          1. JM in England*

            This company’s logic simply beggars belief. Early detection and treatment is an essential for cancers…..

        2. Reba*

          Glad you’re doing ok!

          Yes, $200 is so much less than the value of the preventive care you’d be skipping out on! (setting aside the question of why US medical care is so expensive)

          It just feels like a cruel offer to people who are possibly feeling desperate–or at best, not long-term thinkers–to make $200 seem like an attractive amount or worthwhile trade.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      My husband was an insurance adjuster. He always said that insurance is nothing but a fancy loan. They cover your costs today and bill you a higher premium tomorrow. Eh, that money has to come from somewhere, taking it out of our wallets is their plan.

      1. pancakes*

        It certainly doesn’t have to be for-profit, and in most other developed countries it isn’t. This is one of the reasons why the US has fewer acute care beds available per person than otherwise comparably developed countries, and is at a disadvantage when things like a pandemic come around. I’ll link to something about this in a separate reply.

    5. BradC*

      Not sure if this is what is going on in this case, but larger employers in the US have what they call “self-funded” health insurance.

      In short, while they partner with a health provider for services/plans/etc., all the actual costs for appointments/treatment are being carried by the employer. (This makes sense if you have enough employees; you’re DIRECTLY spreading health costs across everyone, as opposed to paying a premium to a 3rd party to spread the cost across everyone.)

      My current employer has a plan like this, and while they don’t do anything as egregious as LW2, they do occasionally remind us to be price-aware when scheduling medical services and try to comparison shop for things like MRIs (which in practice is difficult to impossible).

      1. Colette*

        I worked for an employer (in Canada) who did that – and then they went under, and the people on long term disability no longer received the money they were entitled to. I’m sure it made sense in boom times; it was not good when things went wrong.

    6. Clorinda*

      It’s such a short-sighted plan. They should be incentivizing people to keep up on the preventive care.

  4. Any mouse*

    Unfortunately there are too many people who think it’s better if no one had time off.

    I ended a friendship , for a variety of reasons, but the nail in the coffin was his belief that workers only abused leave and it’s better not to give employees leave because they will never show up. Or sick time.

    He is a cancer survivor who was saying be kept getting sick but would still go into work. And he was working when he got chemo and when he was in the hospital. So everyone should show up. I did point out that if people stayed home when they were sick he probably wouldn’t get sick as often. But he didn’t like that.

    He kept saying if you give people PTO they will use all of it and how lazy workers are and was very anti worker (he was in a management position). I pointed out I’m not a manager of any kind and I also use every bit of my PTO every year and he tried to say that was different. But at that point I had enough

    1. Stephanie*

      Company owner/President actually prides himself on his ability to never take a day off(unless sick) In my area of the country 1 week of paid vacation is the norm.A few larger companies that have locations in other parts of the US might offer more or they offer 1 week here and 2 weeks in lets say NY.

      1. Tea for Two*

        Oh my….this sounds just like a former manager of mine. He would brag that he had only taken one sick day in 30+ years of working like he deserved a medal or something. He would willingly go into work sick (even going as far as going on a business trip very ill), just so he didn’t have to take a sick day.

        No wonder I always felt guilty when I took a sick or PTO day. You can imagine how great he was to work for. /s

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Hmm. This causes early grave syndrome.

        Well at least you have a good handle on why this happening and you can see that it is probably not going to go away. All good information, very useful.

        1. pancakes*

          An early grave might be somewhat attractive to people who work around the clock. This employer has such a Calvinist mindset! I couldn’t endure it.

      3. EPLawyer*

        The owner also gets benefits from the company that the rest of you don’t — like profits. The company owner is also more invested in the company so has better reason to not take time off. The more he works the more he makes. However, he is not realizing that the more you work, you do not make more — he does. That’s not an incentive for the workers to risk their health.

        1. boo bot*

          I came to say exactly this. And to take it a step further, if workers are exempt from overtime, they get paid *less* per hour the more they work, which ought to provide the opposite incentive (which should be a good thing – people have motivation to get things done efficiently).

    2. Allonge*

      Use… ALL of PTO? Well, what is the world coming to, really? Next thing workers will expect all their salaries, too? /s

      I do feel sorry for your ex-friend, in abstract, but much more for his employees. There is a natural ‘well, if I can do this, others should be able to’ line of thinking in many of us, but mostly people don’t go to those extremes. That said, probably a good choice to end that friendship, these toxic beliefs are not easy to be around. And yes, the company in LW2 is bonkers.

      1. Observer*

        Use… ALL of PTO? Well, what is the world coming to, really? Next thing workers will expect all their salaries, too? /s

        Just what I was thinking.

        Also that this guy was lawsuit material and just an overall bad manager.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      The amount of people who equate ‘poor health’ to ‘moral failure’ and therefore it’s self inflicted if anything bad does happen to you seem to be increasing. Worryingly I’ve seen it in a number of disability support forums I belong to.

      Just because you never go to a doctor, only eat (insert food type here) and jog 40000 miles to work doesn’t mean you’re never going to have your body go ‘nope! Gonna fail now’.

      Paying people to never seek healthcare is just penalising the disabled in a more ‘nice’ way.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I never looked at it that way, but you’re right! This mentality certainly did rear its ugly head this year.

        (Incentivize people to never go to a doctor or put them in working conditions that prohibit them from ever seeing a doctor) (pandemic rolls around) “Oh, this virus only kills the people who are in bad health, no big deal!” when it’s these people’s policies as employers that caused their employees’ bad health in the first place.

      2. anonymous 5*

        A couple weeks ago I saw someone post to FB something along the lines of, “All those years that we thought the Mediterranean Diet was this magic bullet for health, and it turns out that it was universal healthcare all along…”

      3. JustaTech*

        NPR had a good piece a few weeks ago about how American culture has long considered illness to be a moral failing, or “God’s judgement”. (NPR, From Cholera To Seat Belts: History Of Americans Reacting To Public Health Messages, December 1, 2020)

        It’s a really deeply unhelpful mindset.

        1. Absurda*

          Another good one is the book “Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance – and What We Can Do About It” by Jeffrey Pfeffer.

          The first part is mostly about studies and statistics, which I found a bit dry, but he makes some really good points in last half of the book.

    4. Cat Tree*

      I work at a very successful company full of high performers. They encourage vacation time and work-life balance. Smart employers know it benefits them in the long run.

      The only places I have worked that had this type of attitude that vacation is bad were mediocre places that were never very successful. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My first two places where I worked in the US, in the late 90s, had very stingy vacation policies. (If memory serves me, at job #2, we got no vacation and no sick time at all for the first year, and then a whole two weeks the second year.) Both were small companies. Neither company exists anymore.

        1. Quill*

          My only non-contract job ever gave me twelve combined sick and vacation days per year. (One per month, essentially.)

          I wonder if the prevalence of contract jobs where there is no PTO is one of the things that leads people to put up with such stingy plans?

        2. RachelTW*

          My first job out of college had vacation on an accrual basis. Except you used what you accrued in the previous year. I was hired on in July, so I didn’t have any vacation for the first year, and then in my second year I got 4.5 days. It was rough. No sick time either. PTO was all one bucket.

    5. Fish*

      OP3 — I was wondering: Is there any chance you can grow at your current company?

      You said you like the prestige of the new company, which your current company doesn’t have, but you also mentioned you no longer feel challenged. Any way you can start shifting your work to something more interesting? If your company is as wonderful as you say they may be open to that rather than losing you.

      It’s worth a try because even if they say no and you leave, that’s what you were going to do anyways!

      Signed, someone who is burned out from switching employers to get away from bad situations.

    6. Beth*

      Reminds me of a friend’s former boss. They lived in an area that only got a couple of snowfalls each year, so most people did not have snow tires or much practice driving under that kind of bad conditions.

      Boss had a fancy four-wheel-drive vehicle with expensive snow tires. Boss never missed work due to snow. Boss believed that “if he could get to the office, EVERYONE had to be there”.

      So every time there was a bad snowfall, he required 100% of staff to risk fatal accidents. Even when the area was under an essential-travel-only stay-at-home advisory. (No, he certainly didn’t pay his staff well enough to afford the same kind of car.)

      1. NancyDrew*

        Our CEO is a lovely (but very old) man who lives right down the street to our office headquarters in NYC. He walks to work. Which means that, even when it’s awful weather or, say, the entire subway system is out due to something like Hurricane Sandy, he is still able to walk to work. As a result he cannot understand, like fully comprehend, why not everyone *else* can make it into the office every day. Literally, during Sandy, he was grumbling about people not making it in. Apparently he expected us to swim across the river?

        It’s tough for some people to think outside their perspectives!

    7. Person*

      For real. I worked at a place where you couldn’t get the highest performance rating if you took more than a very small number of your combined sick/vacation days. I was admonished in a review for using most, but not all, of my time, told that ‘those aren’t your days.’ (I get the idea that you’ve agreed to a frame of availability with an employer, but mentally I was like ALL my days of my own life are MY days, this is a professional exchange meant to be mutually beneficial not allowing you to lease my existence). The result of this policy, plus draconian restrictions on when you could ask off at all and an overall expectation for staff to be flexible while the employer was overly rigid, was that I couldn’t really live my life. My family and friends lived far away, so maintaining relationships meant taking a days off now and then to be there for people in important moments. And I’ll never forget the time I *finally* went to the doctor and had to get tested for walking pneumonia because I’d let an infection go on so long; instead of just taking the time to take care of myself towards the beginning, I let it drag on and on out of intimidation. My performance definitely struggled, and mentally I was there only until I could find a way out to the next thing.

      If you’re not setting up your company to be able to manage with people taking sick and vacation days, you’re not doing it right, and it will hurt you in the long term, through performance, morale, turnover, and reputation.

  5. Kiitemso*

    #3 I wouldn’t do it. A year is not long, but it may feel longer in a job place that is just not a healthy place to be at, plus you never now what the job situation may be like in a years’ time, and goodness knows you won’t want to stick around longer than intended.

    The second problem is that bad workplaces tend to warp your idea of what is normal, and sometimes just to get by we adapt our thinking to fit that of the place we’re in. A kind of “well this is unacceptable but I’m handling it, so it’s not that big of a deal” thinking pattern may emerge.

    1. Tau*

      This. Also, you do not want to end up in the place of “this job is making me depressed and miserable and as a result I can’t job-search properly.” That way lie awful, awful things.

      Or: what happens if you experience some crisis in your personal life, such as getting sick (*makes vague gesturey motions at the whole of 2020*)? “Bad culture” often involves the company being really unsupportive of that kind of thing, and – once again – if you’re dealing with something heavy outside of work, that could make job-searching hard or impossible.

      There are so many things that could go wrong and leave you stuck or make the experience a lot worse. It’s a huge risk to take, especially when you already know the job duties won’t match up with what you actually want to do.

      1. Reba*

        Yes, OP 3 you have mentally worked up the tradeoffs as stagnant job versus pain but advancement, and that’s just not a guarantee — especially when you are hearing that the job won’t actually be a step up! I get what you are saying and in some fields, yes this is a not-uncommon strategy and many big firms are known for burn-and-churn. But it seems like too much of a risk, especially when you are in a job you say you love, despite kinda outgrowing it. You love your job and company! That’s not that common! There will be other opportunities that don’t require you to let go of things it sounds like you really value, like good company culture.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Also, you do not want to end up in the place of “this job is making me depressed and miserable and as a result I can’t job-search properly.”

        Or you wind up jumping ship to the first place that’ll have you, which can mean ending up in an even worse environment because you ignored red flags trying to escape.

        1. Elfie*

          Yes! My last job, I absolutely hated my manager and he didn’t like me either. I’ve never worked with or for someone who hasn’t liked me before so this was really uncomfortable for me. I only lasted a year at that job (and I’m on a 3-month notice period), and I took the first job that was offered to me. The place I ended up at had a few yellow flags, but I would have taken anything to get away from the last job. Unfortunately, as time has gone on, those yellow flags have turned into bright crimson huge flags, and it’s affected my mental health to an incredible degree (I’ve suffered from depression for about the last 30 years, it’s just my brain – but guess what, I can also suffer from situational depression too! Oh the joy!).

          About November of last year I tried to find a new job, but although I had 11 final interviews, and was always down to the last 2 or 3 candidates, I was always pipped at the post by someone else. Unsurprisingly, this also affected my mental health – and I wasn’t really putting my best foot forward in the interviews when CurrentJob had convinced my stupid depression brain that I was no good, useless, etc. So I stopped applying. Then COVID happened. The result is that I’m now in a situation where I don’t like where I am, but I figure it’s better to be employed at all in a pandemic than not, so I’m riding it out until the roll the vaccine out. Thankfully I’ve been WFH permanently since the end of March, with no plans (or need) to go back into the office until probably March next year, maybe even a bit later. At least CurrentJob have been good about this.

          Tl;dr – it might take you longer than you think to find a new job, especially if your workload is not growing your skillset and you’re in the frame of mind that you can’t properly represent yourself in interviews because you hate your job so much (and if you internalise this, it’s even worse). Personally, I wouldn’t do it – but ultimately, it’s a choice that you have to make for yourself – just think through all the worst case scenarios and see if you can live with them.

    2. London Student*

      In addition, OP’s assessment that working remotely might help them mitigate the impacts of a bad environment….but honestly, depending on what’s “bad”, it could easily exacerbate some of the issues.

      It can be harder to pick up on politics and get the lay of the land when you’re working remotely — and at a dysfunctional company, that could spell disaster.

      1. Forrest*

        Yes, and it assumes that the specific kind of “toxic” is mostly in interpersonal relationships. If it’s more like unclear parameters, vague job roles, managers who don’t tell you what you’re supposed to be doing and then criticise you for doing it wrong, unrealistic workloads etc, then working from home isn’t going to protect you at all.

    3. Fish*

      OP3 — I was wondering: Is there any chance you can grow at your current company?

      You said you like the prestige of the new company, which your current company doesn’t have, but you also mentioned you no longer feel challenged. Any way you can start shifting your work to something more interesting? If your company is as wonderful as you say they may be open to that rather than losing you.

      It’s worth a try because even if they say no and you leave, that’s what you were going to do anyways!

      Signed, someone who is burned out from switching employers to get away from bad situations.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      I agree with all of the other commenters. Also, even if a high-profile prestigious place might look good on a resume, they have the following downsides — (1) If PrestigiousCo has a reputation of being jerks, that reputation may taint you as well. (2) If PrestigiousCo are jerks, you might not get a good reference, and a bad reference from PrestigiousCo is worse than a great reference from NoNameCo.

    1. Mel_05*

      Absolutely, but how is it helpful to reduce the cost of buying something you can’t use?

      If someone told me I could pay $200 less for a car I didn’t drive it all year, wouldn’t I just buy a different car or pay the $200?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      The INcome has to be more than the OUT-go, or the company goes bankrupt. It’s a math problem.

    3. Tired of Covid*

      Please see my comment above regarding underwriting practices. While actual claims matter, they are not the only factor used in calculating renewals.

    4. Cat Tree*

      As I mentioned above, this is very short-sighted. Preventative care is incentivized for a reason at most places. It prevents extremely expensive emergency care in the long run.

      1. Alli*

        Exactly. At my company, employees are encouraged to earn “points” by getting a yearly wellness exam, visiting the dentist, exercising, etc. If you get enough points, then you pay at least $50 less per month on your insurance premium. As long as you get your wellness exam, it’s really easy to earn the rest of the points.

        1. AD REPORT*

          Yep! My company provides financial incentives FOR using preventative care. Discouraging that is both crappy to your employees, and shortsighted for the company.

    5. Not an Expert*

      As someone who has worked in insurance, the companies that do this will regret it. It ultimately leads to higher expenses down the road. By the time a preventative problem is caught, it now costs more to fix. Not just in medical claims, but in employee time off.

  6. Zircon*

    I read the letter and was thankful I live in a country not only with universal health care, but also a minimum number of days of leave (4 weeks for full time workers) allowed each year. Plus we get up to 11 days public holiday , and five days sick leave annually. although my contract allows for 10 days.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m going to ask that we not derail on how much better other countries have it in regard to mandated time off — we know, and it can get exhausting to hear it every time!

  7. Dan*


    I don’t find these policies offensive at a high level, because vacation buybacks are not uncommon, and high deductible health plans often have some sort of reward/incentive for not using the plan. The plans I’m familiar with deposit a certain amount of money into an account, and if you don’t use it, it’s yours to keep at some point.

    But your employer is f’ing stingy. $200 to not use your health insurance is a joke. For the $200 to be a better option than not going to the doctor at all, you guys can’t be getting paid all that well. Then, when we consider than you get *one week* of vacation? Yeah… I wouldn’t sell that back.

    The policies aren’t that bad, but your employer is stingy as all get out, and that’s the real problem.

    1. Stephanie*

      Agree on the stingy part.Quite a few local companies offer high deductible plans and no incentive to not use the insurance, of course if you have to lay out alot of money prior to insurance kicking in your less likely to use it.

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        You also don’t pay a premium for this plan, right? We have a plan where you pay 100% coinsurance until you hit the $5000 deductible and it’s still $80 a month for the individual. (Somehow our premiums went down for next year – the real plan with copays dropped to $175 a month)

        1. Dolly*

          She said above her monthly premium is $200+. Which is appalling for an HDHP. I’m a big fan of my HDHP/HSA combo, but only because my company pays a ton in the HSA, making that deductible not budget breaking.

          Stephanie, I work in the midwest (though not at a small company) and our month for a family is $89.
          Most places give at least two weeks around here.

          1. T. Boone Pickens*

            Yeah that seems really high for a HDHP, especially if it’s a single. Prior to being self-employed, I believe I was paying something like $40/month with a $50/month kick in to my HSA which was pretty great.

            Tangent–I love my HSA as an additional retirement vehicle.

          2. GothicBee*

            Yeah, I don’t pay anywhere near $200 a month for my low deductible plan ($135/month). My employer’s high deductible plan isn’t anywhere close to $200 a month even if you have a family.

          3. Retail Not Retail*

            So they get less than a month of the premium back? No, I’d be like repay my premiums and then we’ll talk.

    2. London Student*

      Could plans that reward employees for not using healthcare be considered discriminatory against people with chronic conditions?

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        That’s my concern. A former manager once floated the idea of giving all employees who weren’t overweight or who exercised daily a bonus. It got shouted down by literally everyone in the meeting who had any kind of chronic illness.

      2. Ari*

        That’s my concern as well. I’m not sure if it rises to actionable discrimination in a legal sense, but it certainly seems discriminatory in the colloquial sense.

        I have (currently) uncontrolled asthma & allergies, as well as a rarer eye condition that needs to be checked regularly. I don’t have a choice but to see my regular PCP, my allergist, my pulmonologist, and my eye doctor each year — or even every six months. And that’s without even getting into seeing a therapist or the dentist. If I had OP’s health plan, I would be worried about how to make all my appointments work and if that could somehow make me look bad to the company.

        OP, your company seems unsupportive of its workers and unrealistic in its expectations. That, to me, is a sign to make an exit plan and try to find a workplace out there that recognizes employees need for healthcare and time off as something beneficial for everyone.

    3. MK*

      The PTO payoff policy wouldn’t have been that bad if the overall PTO wasn’t stingy. But the bonus for not using healthcare is horrible however you want to look at it. They are basically rewarding people at best for being lucky enough to be healthy, at worst for not taking care of their health.

    4. yala*

      Any policy that incentivizes not getting medical/preventative care is inherently offensive. It doesn’t matter if that’s how high deductible plans usually are.

      It’s also discriminatory against workers with medical conditions.

      Basically, these are policies that inherently encourage workers to neglect their health. It wouldn’t matter if they were offering $1000 for it, it’s still a bad policy.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        It doesn’t matter if that’s how high deductible plans usually are.

        They’re not, thankfully.

  8. Alex*

    Wow. That vacation policy is crazy to me.

    We have a vacation buyback program at my work, but we start with three weeks of vacation, and we have to keep a minimum of two weeks – so I can’t “sell” more than a week. I usually do sell a week, just because we also get a ton of additional time off from other programs, and I struggle to use it all.

    But encouraging people to take absolutely no time off, and making healthcare super inaccessible? That’s a bad workplace.

    1. Stephanie*

      I would love 3 weeks vacation!Local average is one week,a few actually offer 1 work week(so technically 5 days)we get the full 7

    2. Narise*

      Same. Our company gives 3 weeks walking through the door and people earn more the longer they stay. If they cannot use it all- we cap out at certain number of hours- they can donate it to the company and people in need due to illness or family emergencies can use it. The company won’t buy it back but they don’t take it either.

    3. Paris Geller*

      We have a vacation buyback policy similar to that. We get 88 hours a year for the first five years (so two weeks and a day–pretty standard, not amazing but certainly not poor), but our vacation rolls over up to 240 hours. Most of my coworkers have been here at least 5+ years, so they get more than the 88 hours per year (I’m not sure what the increase is, but I know there’s an increase at 5 & 10 years for sure, and maybe 15). If you’re over 240 and the end of the year is approaching, you try to use that time or you can sell back 88 hours.

  9. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    Being able to buy and sell PTO is generally unremarkable – most people know whether they tend to run out before the end of the year, or struggle to use it all, and being able to adjust the balance in exchange for actual money is useful.

    But it’s only meaningful when there are limits, and in particular where no employee is left with less than a reasonable minimum. As Alison points out, one week is pretty stingy, and I would suggest that it’s the minimum a person ought to be left with, not the starting point to sell from.

    1. UKDancer*

      Definitely. My company lets you sell up to 5 days annual leave per year but the total allowance is 25 days which is reasonable. They’d never let you sell all of your annual leave because they actually prefer people to take leave for their own wellbeing.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I WISH we had a buyback option. I have more leave than I could ever hope to use (management role, try to prioritize my staff using their leave to avoid burnout, end up with little left for myself outside kid school/health needs), and I end up losing a decent amount each year. Would happily trade it in for pay.

      1. Stephanie*

        We often privately joke that there was a secret meeting of companies in the area to offer the same level of benefits. Where things differ is salary

          1. irene adler*

            In San Diego, there is a local group- called SDEA- where the HR folks from companies (that are members of this group) meet to talk about current HR issues. And they conduct an annual salary & benefits survey the results of which are given to all members.

            This can’t be an anomaly.
            So sure, there’s discussions/comparisons on what all the other local companies are offering compensation-wise.

    1. Up Too Early*

      The past job I had and the current one I have started at 40 hours of vacation- this current job, I was able to get 46 hours via negotiation. The one job was a locally owned company, the other a company with offices all over the US. It seems that this is a trend for jobs in the pay range/skill set I have, so I’m not sure I’ll ever get more than the minimum starting out. I’m considering moving on in 2021 due to other circumstances and if I start over at 40 hours again, for the third time, it will just be so depressing.

      1. Stephanie*

        Our company goes by days rather then hours.So its 1 week ( 7days) of pay. Since only full time employees get paid vacation. I’m guessing they use days because its easier then hours since most workers are full-time.

    2. Septembergrrl*

      Is that a week of vacation plus additional sick leave, or a week of leave for any reason? And do the execs get additional leave as a bonus/perk, or are they stuck in the office too?

  10. SAS*

    Aww LW 1. We have a worker at my office that gets super excitable and over the top friendly when drinking and it’s so not a big deal the next work day, generally because she somehow keeps it totally superficial, no super personal disclosures or inappropriate comments to others. If she felt the need to apologise I would probably do the same as your boss and just shrug it off as it doesn’t seem worth a discussion.

    I was really wishing one of the drunken work disaster letters Alison linked to was the boat party that went totally off the rails (“I will confront you by Wednesday afternoon”!!!!)

    1. Batgirl*

      I feel so sorry for LW1. What on earth is this company thinking encouraging such long drinking sessions? Its a set-up for mortification.

      1. Tired of Covid*

        An excessive drinking culture like this would be a hard no from me. Non drinkers or light drinkers must feel out of place, what do you do during a ten hour drinking session if you aren’t participating in the festivities? What a way to encourage binge drinking and alcoholism, which can ironically lead to greater health insurance costs per the other post. Ugh.

        1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          This x 1,000 (at least!) As a non-drinker, I can tell you that drunks are NEVER as witty as they think they are and that spending 10 hours watching people get plastered is my idea of hell. So yes, it’s a very bad idea to take your employees out for a daylong binge – duh! (What on earth was that boss THINKING?!)

          LW1, take this to heart: limit yourself to 1 or 2 drinks tops when you’re with colleagues and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to limit yourself to that much when you’re out with friends too (co-workers aren’t the only people with whom drunks get obnoxious, you know!) And if your first reaction to the very idea of NOT getting drunk in social situations is “But then I won’t have any fun!”, well, check out some lists of the warning signs of alcohol use disorder (used to be called alcoholism.)

        2. yala*

          Yeah, I’m just kind of…baffled? Like, TEN HOURS? I don’t even think pub crawls last that long. For pity’s sake, WORK DAYS don’t last that long.

          Even without drinking, I cannot imagine a social event that goes on for TEN HOURS.

          You add in the drinking, and I’m just so confused.

        3. LilyP*

          My guess is it was a casual after-work drinks thing that started at 4 or 5 in the afternoon and some people kept the night rolling once they got started “letting off steam” and ended up staying out until 2 or 3 am. There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that anyone got dragged along who wasn’t enthusiastic about it or that this was a regular company-sponsered occurrence. Obviously it was a bad idea for the people involved but I think it’s a little much to say the company must be toxic or they’re all a bunch of alcoholics.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Yeah, that’s what I’m picturing also – I would be surprised if they started the night thinking “yes I would love to drink for the next ten hours” but if it just started as Friday drinks then snowballed a bit I can definitely see it. After you’ve been out for a certain amount of time it’s like… well, I’m out-out now, so what the hell.

          2. Batgirl*

            I think that scenario’s really quite natural among peers-who-are-also-pals, but a manager should know when to nope out; preferably before people start getting squiffy.

            1. UKDancer*

              Definitely. My company has a Christmas lunch then some people go on to the pub. Once I became a manager I went to the pub, bought my team a round and then left after we’d drunk it, pleading pressure of work. I am not a massive party animal and don’t like spending money on indifferent alcohol in central London pubs. Also my staff can have a better time and cut loose without me there. Better all around I think.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      LW, it’s always good to know when to stop talking. Less can be more. So you didn’t stop talking the I love yous, now is a good chance to correct that by knowing to stop apologizing.

      In all honesty, if you had to repeat something over and over, I can think of things far, far worse than “I love you”.
      Chalk this up to a learning experience and let the rest go.

  11. Edwina*

    #5–I’d also add that it makes a difference how close you are to completing your Ph.D. If you’ve passed your orals, for example, and have started your dissertation, I urge you to finish; you’re 80% of the way there and it really will be an accomplishment and a sense of triumph to actually get the degree, even if you don’t think it will matter.

    I finished my Ph.D., spent a couple years as a professor, then did a complete left turn and decided to follow my heart as a writer. I’ve had a 35-year successful career as a TV/screenwriter. The Ph.D. had nothing to do with my ultimate career, but it has always given me a fundamental confidence, no matter which high-powered or famous person I’m meeting with, and I am always glad I completed it. (And I should add that I really, really wanted to quit, but my Dad, a professor, kept insisting that “it doesn’t have to great, it just has to be finished.”) I will also say that knowing I have the discipline and the ability to continue a difficult task to the very end, has also been a huge help to me in everything I’ve done in later life.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      My brother has a Ph.D. and has always worked in industry. (He’s an engineer, so his experience may or may not translate to other fields.) He had accepted an offer for his first post-Ph.D. job something like 2 years before he matriculated. While that’s an awfully long time for an employer to wait, it’s possible they’re looking for someone who will start after they defend, rather than someone who will start immediately. Of course, it’s also possible they’d rather get someone ABD who can start immediately. I suspect it depends both on the industry and the particular employer.

    2. carolinakudzu*

      Also, depending on your program you might be able to shift to part-time PhD student and full time employee. I know not all programs do it, but at my university it’s not uncommon for people who have advanced (passed comps/orals/whatever) to get a full time or 3/4 time job to pay bills – at least in the Social Sciences and Humanities, since we only get funding for the first 3-4 years. Working on a PhD while also working full time is HARD but if the day job contributes to your future goals it can be worth it.

      1. Bricolage on the Brink*

        +1 to this. I actually found my writing practice was more disciplined once I took a full time job (working on a social science phd), and my employers let me take on a flexible work schedule (9 hour days instead of 8) that allowed me time off to write (every other Friday — other staff used that schedule as well, the only exception they made for me was to allow me to begin that schedule from day one).

        If you are looking to work in non-academia roles, and have no other work experience, this will also help level up your education and experience. Otherwise, you may run into an experience of being over-educated and under-experienced for the level of work you want to be doing.

      2. JustaTech*

        I had a coworker at a biotech company who was finishing up writing his dissertation while working full time. I also think his university was in Canada, and we’re a US based company.
        He did end up letting some things slide while he was in the very last stages of finishing his dissertation (like not dealing with the fact that his apartment was missing exterior walls in autumn!), but since he was between projects at work it was fine.

        So if you’ve finished your data collection/generation and it’s just the analysis and writing, then it might be very possible to get an industry job *and* finish your PhD.

  12. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

    OP#1 Try not to worry too much about telling someone how much you love them when blind drunk – it’s so common it’s a cliche (esp in UK where pre Covid there were big workplace drinking cultures). Drinking is a release especially with colleagues so feelings of camaraderie get expressed in over effusive ways, people you’ve barely spoken to become your best buds etc. Then there’s the next day extreme feelings of shame as your body processes alcohol which will skew your perception of how terrible something was. Apology was fine and enough – but if it does come up again treat it as something low key to lessen any need for someone else to deal with any shame spiralling.

    1. Xavier Desmond*

      This. Unless you’ve done something really humiliating the best response is just to apologise, express your embarrassment and be good humoured about it if anyone brings it up again. It will soon be water under the bridge

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      Yes, I think the OP is suffering from some residual hangxiety which is making it seem a lot worse than the manager has apparently taken it.

      I think if it comes up then a “oh god, never again!” or “that’ll teach me to stay out that late!” or something will cover it – IME for embarrassing-but-not-career-killing stuff like this people will kind of take their cues from you, so if OP acts like it’s some unpardonable shame that she must atone for then it will become The Incident in everyone’s minds but if she can show some humour about it it’ll be chalked up to a bad night and one too many cocktails. (I’m sure that in a company where people go for a 10+ hour sesh then this is probably not the first time OP’s manager has dealt with something along these lines, too!)

    3. Batgirl*

      Yep, as a former UK journo, I’ve definitely had hangxiety (great word, EventPlannerGal!) even after learning a few lessons about why not to do that; the culture was such that it was worse to be unsociable/not get your round in/not drink someone else’s round than it was to get drunk and misstep. That said, when *that* culture is in play, it’s typical for big boss managers to clear off and let the shop floor staff have their fun. If your team is on good, friendly terms with a supervisor, they would usually give you lots of “oh it’s fine” signals the morning after, like gentle teasing, being warm and friendly, telling you their own cringy-drunk story.
      It’s still a bad idea!

    4. MCMonkeybean*

      Yeah, I think they have already learned the lesson to not drink that much with coworkers again, so at this point they should really forgive themselves and try to let it go. If you had gotten really drunk and told your boss you HATED her then that might be an issue… but telling her you love her I don’t think is some kind of shame you need to carry around.

      (Note: I assumed when reading the letter that your drunken proclamations were obviously platonic, in that scenario there is probably nothing really to worry too much about about going forward. If somehow there was the possibility of it being taken in a romantic sense then I guess that could be more difficult to navigate)

  13. Bob*

    LW1: You apologized now pretend it didn’t happen. See how that goes. If it goes badly then recalibrate and go and talk to her. But from the sounds of it this is what she is implicitly asking you, moving on without analysis or more said.
    And don’t do it again.

    LW2: Ignore both “perks”. They are not worth your sanity or your long term goals in life. Avoiding healthcare may not seem to matter much now but it will multiply exponentially in the future. Ignored small things now can mean premature death later. Its not worth $200, $2000 or $2 million dollars.

    LW3: Don’t do it. You are giving up the good you have now for misery tomorrow, a name on your resume and an uncertain future.
    What you should do is take this opportunity to look for a better job if you are not happy where you are. You can find another job elsewhere that is not in a war zone and you can find it on your schedule as you are already gainfully employed and in no rush. Take your time and bear in mind there is more than one career path possible.

    LW5: Finish your PhD. You will have exponentially more trouble doing it later (i know many people who can attest to this), it will open doors that you are not obligated to step through but will have as backup and you won’t ever have to explain (especially to yourself) why you left your almost accomplishment without finishing.
    Jobs come and go, how long will this one last if you get it? What career paths will you have denied yourself by taking this job? What if this job turns out to be terrible? How will you recover from that?
    See if you can somehow do both if you must (even though i highly recommend you don’t) but don’t throw away a major accomplishment you are so close to completing and will provide a lifetime of backstop you can’t even predict yet.

  14. Richard Hershberger*

    Ten hours? Back in my college days, when I might actually have thought this a good idea, I didn’t have the skills to keep going that long. I would end up unconscious long before the ten hour mark. I could probably manage it nowadays by carefully nursing drinks, but why?

  15. Random Commenter*

    I think the vacation buy-back and health insurance bonus are terrible ideas, but what makes me really curious is that it sounds like a lot of people are actually using these options.

    Is there pressure from management?
    Do they think they aren’t going to use more than $200 of medical coverage?
    Do they just need any extra money they can get?

  16. Beans are green*

    #4- just a note that at least in academia, you need to explicitly state or show you have all the listed requirements in either your CV or cover letter, including soft skills. University HRs like search committees to use rubrics and if a candidate does not have proof of “teamwork” and that was a requirement, they get a zero in that category and may be removed from the pool.

    1. triplehiccup*

      Same in federal government applications. But they’re generally more specific – like “Has produced policy briefing packages including quantitative analysis and summary charts and graphs” might be one of several communications-related requirements.

  17. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    For #2, the incentives to not use preventative care are insane, and for not using the health benefits at all are dodgy, but the PTO buyback is phenomenal. It’s something that I would jump ship for or would lead me to decide to accept one offer over another. It’s a commitment that you’ll get something for the benefit, even if your PTO requests get denied, someone beats you to your dates on the calendar, or if business is just too good to get away.

    In fact, the alternative–forfeit your vacation by default–is a significant red flag to me, and lessens the value of the PTO offering to me by more than half. (Yes, I’d happily take 7 days w/buyout or rollover over 21 days to forfeit).

    1. Random Commenter*

      Depending on the company, the alternative to vacation buy back isn’t necessarily forfeit.
      Some companies will just pay out whatever you don’t use (without forcing you to skip using vacation entirely)
      Others (like mine) just ensure that you take all your vacation, and put minimal roadblocks in the way of doing that.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Some companies will just pay out whatever you don’t use

        Serious question; how is this different from buyback? I know OP’s buyback is at the beginning of the year, but how is this different from buyback generally?

        1. BRR*

          I believe it means paying out unused days when an employee leaves the employers, vs days being bought back when you’re still employed.

        2. Random Commenter*

          The way I interpreted buy back in this case is that you have give up all of your vacation days, and you have to decide at that start of the year.

          I’m comparing that to simply getting back what you didn’t use at the end of the year. In the second case, you can still take some vacation, and you don’t need to decide up front.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I’m comparing that to simply getting back what you didn’t use at the end of the year.

            Right, buyback at a different stage in the year. Thank you; I thought I was missing something greater.

            1. Random Commenter*

              There were two parts to it:
              One is buyback at the end of the year
              Two is partial buyback, because the way the OP described it sounds like their system is all or nothing

        3. Health Insurance Nerd*

          I feel like this is also different in the amount of money paid out. It sounds like everyone gets a flat $200 if they choose to forfeit at the beginning of the year, vs the actual value of the vacation, which is likely more. So, if they don’t take the $200 incentive to not use it, and then they leave the company and the company has to pay them out for 40 hours of vacation (if they’re in a state that mandates this), they don’t get $200, they get their hourly rate *40 hours (even if they’re salaried, there is still an hourly rate used to calculate salary and PTO), which is likely more than $200 (unless they are paying their people peanuts). This is really a double incentive for the company, they get to pay out vacation for less money, and they don’t have to worry about covering people who take time off.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Isn’t $200 the incentive for forfeiting the health insurance and a week’s pay the incentive for forfeiting vacation?

      2. Stephanie*

        Company policy if you keep your vacation days you have to use then before the end of the year. Example if you used 5 days and don’t use the remaining 2 by the end of the year you loose them

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Company policy if you keep your vacation days you have to use then before the end of the year.

          I just summarize that as “does not offer PTO.”

  18. Garnet22*

    “Am I reading correctly that you only get one week of vacation a year (which is incredibly stingy) …?”

    You know, I always wondered about this. I work for a company with this same vacation time allowance (1 week). You don’t get another week until you’ve completed 3 full years, then you get 2 weeks. When I questioned the policy (pushing for 2 weeks earlier), I was firmly told it was standard/common policy for all companies and in line with norms. It didn’t sound right then. Still doesn’t sound right. Nice to know my instincts were right. Stingy.

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      My current job starts with what feels like a crazy amount of PTO (2 weeks and 7 personal days), but my old one was one week after one year and like 2 personal days. Two weeks after 3 years. There were rumors if you hadn’t taken them by December, they’d get paid out. You could also work on your vacation week – an older contract got OT, mine didn’t. What made the PTO useless is if you were part time – didn’t matter I mostly worked 8 hours days, the personal day was 6. Your vacation time was averaged based on the year before, so even though I was full time in 2013, my vacation was less than 40 hours.

      1. pancakes*

        That’s not crazy at all! It is what I consider a bare minimum. In many countries around the world people have double that as a matter of law.

        1. Retail Not Retail*

          I guess it feels crazy since I’m making the same as I did retail, so I feel I’m not entitled to that kind of PTO. (Also my health insurance was $9 a week at the retail job with slightly higher copays than I have now, so the better PTO is like whoa! What is this!)

          We also get to take our vacation is as little as i think one hour increments, we don’t have to do the whole week at once, which is what sucked at retail – oh you earned 65 hours of vacation, we’re giving you one 40 hour week and one 25 hour week we’re so generous!

    2. Coco*

      I guess it depends where you are located and the type of company you are with?

      I’ve only worked in the US with larger corporations. The company I am with now offers 15 days leave for those who have less than 5 years of service, 20 for those between 5 and 10 and 25 for over 10.

      Other companies I have been with have offered fewer days but def more than 7 days when you start out. And the more seniority, the more time off.

      And sick leave is separate from vacation leave.

      I’ve not worked anywhere with a buy back policy. I’d like that since we are limited in what we can carry over to the next year.

    3. Natalie*

      It’s a little tricky to say what’s typical, IME, because jobs that offer zero vacation pull the average down. The average might appear to be 7 days, but it’s actually a bimodal distribution, where one group averages zero and the other group averages 15.

      That said, some states and municipalities have statutory sick time now, and I don’t think any require less than one full work week, even for very small employers (6+ employees in my city). So that says something about what people consider a bare minimum to be.

    4. EPLawyer*

      my husband’s company — a union one no less — the first year is one week (but you can not take it and STILL get paid your vacation time). The second through the 5th year it’s two weeks, then on the 5th year it’s 3 weeks. I consider THAT a stingy policy because I am used to 2 weeks being the norm.

      Anyone who tells you one week is the norm — until you have been there a LOOOOONG time — is trying to cheap out on benefits.

      As Alison says, vacation time is part of your compensation benefits.

    5. Cat Tree*

      I had one temp job where I had no paid vacation, but other than that I have always had 3 weeks to start. For reference, I have worked in large metropolitan areas in the east coast, so that might matter. Usually sick time is separate from vacation, and at my current job I get unlimited sick time.

      I never considered this generous until today when I saw how common one week of vacation is. I wonder if it’s regional.

    6. The Original K.*

      Noooo, that’s stingy. The least I’ve had (talking about salaried full-time jobs – I’ve had hourly temp jobs with no PTO) is two weeks. The most was three weeks to start and then it went up from there (the guy who hired me had worked there five years and he had six weeks, I think – he took December off. Another guy took Fridays off in the summer). The best employers I’ve had re: PTO were companies with European parent companies.

    7. Des*

      Just as a level setter: in Europe by law you have about 20 days of vacation (varies by country) minimum.

  19. PersephoneUnderground*

    #2- This letter is horrifying. Unionize!

    This is the kind of awful employer you need collective bargaining to make headway with. They must have other awful policies if they thought incentivizing employees to not use *preventive care* was a good idea. And one week vacation? If they’re average for the area, that area has terrible standards (not unusual for certain areas or industries to be known for terrible treatment of workers). You should decline both these buybacks personally, but as you mentioned in your letter the issue is bigger than one person. Seriously, this is what unions are for!

    (Yes, unions, being composed of people, aren’t perfect. But they do good work too, and are necessary in situations like this where the competition is all just as bad for instance.)

  20. Still trying to adult*

    LW 3 – Nope, don’t do it.

    There is a time for risk & reward, but this opportunity doesn’t sound like any reward will be worth the risk.

    I’d liken it to being in a nice warm cozy cabin with a fireplace, with lots of pillows and blankets and hot cocoa, or sticking your hand in the fire with the idea that there’s treasure there, somewhere.

    Stay where you are, until you find something even more fantastic and irresistable, or your current place goes down the tubes.

    1. EPLawyer*


      You have a job you like. There is no need to jump ship right now. You can afford to keep looking. If everyone is telling you the place SUCKS, believe them.

    2. Generic Name*

      Such a great analogy!

      OP, I wonder if you are overestimating the value of having a line on your resume saying you worked at, say google. Sure, it’s a prestigious and well known company, but the difference it makes in your life wouldn’t be like the difference between going to State U versus Harvard. As someone who is involved in hiring, I can’t imagine that if I were given two identical resumes that the names of past employers would make any difference to me. Especially a 1 year stint.

  21. PersephoneUnderground*

    The only way the health insurance thing makes sense is if it’s a payoff for not signing up at all, so that people with other healthcare plans available will use their spouse’s plan for instance. But then they can’t be enrolled at all in this plan, so since it’s explained as an incentive not to make claims that doesn’t sound like the case.

    Could the “first of the year” just mean the first of the year *after* they would have used the vacation? If that’s the case the vacation thing is… not awful, but it’s still a terrible incentive. People really need to take vacation to not burn out!

  22. AthenaC*

    #3 – What you’re describing feels a lot like my industry, and where you’re sitting feels a lot like where I was ~5ish years ago, so I’ll go ahead and give you my thoughts.

    In public accounting, it really and truly is the case that if you work at the Big 4 for a bit, it’s resume gold. Not sure what the minimum window is, but a year is probably about the right window. Because of this, I always tell people to work for the biggest firm you can get into for as long as you can stand it, as you will be reaping the dividends literally the rest of your career.

    For me, about 5ish years ago, I was at a little firm where I was well-liked and valued, but the firm had nothing left to challenge me with. At the time, I thought to myself, “I’m too young / early in my career to stagnate like this,” and I think I was right. So I made the jump (back) to Big 4 and slogged through 2.5 years that were sometimes good, sometimes bad, and really REALLY bad toward the end, before moving to a regional firm where I’m much happier.

    But the point is that suffering through the Big Firm Bullshirt (as I so affectionately call it) has had a noticeable impact any time I have needed to jobsearch. I have more options, I have better conversations, when I walk into the room the interviewers assume I’m competent, I can negotiate better pay.

    All that being said – if you’re not referring to public accounting, you’ll have to think about how the above applies to your industry. Also, it’s all a matter of priorities – my highest priority is being the best breadwinner for my family that I can be, so I think of my career primarily in terms of earning potential, with a side portion of personal fulfillment. If those aren’t your priorities, then you may take a different path, and that’s okay, too.

    Either way, good luck sorting this out!

    1. Generic Name*

      This is a really interesting point. In my field (environmental consulting) where you used to work really doesn’t matter all that much, but I can see how it varies by industry. I can imagine that law cares about where you used to work, as that whole industry seems obsessed with rank and status.

    2. Cheese Cheese Cheese CHEESE*

      This is absolutely true. I frequently see job postings for industry jobs which will only consider Big 4-trained applicants.

    3. I Love Llamas*

      I agree with AthenaC, but recognize that this decision is very industry-specific. In commercial real estate, the same concept applies as AthenaC describes. I worked for both small and global firms. Once you have the mega global firm on your resume, people perk up. Sigh. You are going into this with your eyes wide open, that’s the good news. You will have to determine how long you can handle it and make sure you are building your professional network as much as possible. If you do this, I would suggest doing it for more than a year. I know, it will be miserable, but a single year seems like potentially just a flashpoint. You also really need to understand if the trade-off’s are worth it in your line of work. In some industries, yes. In some, no. Do your research, warn friends and family you could be entering a season of misery, have a clear exit strategy (including enough savings to quit without a new job lined up). Planning will be key if you go this route. Good luck!

    4. Smithy*

      This is my sector as well – institutional fundraising for nonprofits. While you might think being able to drop big name donors you’ve worked with/secured as being the thing that moves resumes – it really is where you’ve worked. It opens more doors to more interviews, more people asking you if you’ve ever met X, cause they worked together 5 years ago and weren’t they awesome, etc.

      I once took a networking call with someone who switched into this field mid-career and had what seemed to me like a pretty impressive resume/professional journey. It was very clear she was struggling to break through to just get interviews with the organizations she was particularly drawn to. Now….how junior should this woman have been looking at *just* to get the big name? For someone further along professionally, that’s harder advice to give. But without a doubt, if she put in 1-2 years at one of those places, she’d be getting more interviews.

      You truly truly need to know your field, and also be honest with yourself about your ambitions. In my field, if you just happen to think XYZ large nonprofit is doing the best work compared to numerous ABC small nonprofits, that’s not true. But if it’s about career growth and ambitions, and you want that – then find the ways to pay those dues.

    5. NancyDrew*

      Yeah, it really depends on how ambitious OP is.

      I would do it in a heartbeat (and in a way, have done something very similar). Totally worth it.

    6. Absurda*

      My mother also works in public accounting. The first firm she worked for was is my small hometown and had only 1 woman as a partner*. The only reason she made partner was because she had worked at one of the Big 5 (there were 5 back then). So, yeah, working for big firms can, in some industries, open a lot of doors. But if you’re going into a bad situation just for the name on your resume, you really have to think about
      1. how ambitious you are,
      2. what you’re willing to put up with to reach that ambition, and
      3. if it will still be worth it if the name still isn’t enough to reach your goal.

      *the glass ceiling and “mommy track”, as my mother called it, are a whole ‘nother can of worms.

  23. Benefits Negotiator*

    For #2 your insurance rates might actually go up at your next renewal based on your company’s horrible plan. I handle our annual open enrollment and our provider gave us a discount when we got employees to start going to their well checks. They want people to do well checks so that things are caught early on before it gets expensive. Sounds like your rates probably went up (normal during a pandemic) and someone with no knowledge of how insurance rates works came up with crazy plan.

  24. Natalie*

    LW#3 – I wouldn’t do it.

    I think it can sometimes be advantageous to take a job at a bad place that has a lot of pull. Maybe you will meet a lot of movers and shakers in your industry, or get exposed to some kind of client category that only this employer works with.

    But I don’t think you get those results much when the job is mainly admin and support work. Vanishingly few people are going to be plucked from the modern day equivalent of the secretarial pool ala Peggy Olson. And if you feel like you’re stagnating now, how is doing mainly lower level work going to mitigate that?

    I totally get the feeling of needing to get out and get somewhere – been there, done that. Find some other career development outlets for your antsy feeling and give this job a miss.

  25. Emi*

    It’s shitty for them to deliberately incentivize you not to get medical care but it’s not, in my opinion, hugely different from simply offering you a health insurance plan with a benefit structure that does the same thing. Extending it to preventive care is a new low but not a new kind of low.

  26. blackcatlady*

    LW#1. My jaw dropped at the idea of a 10+ hour drinking session. I guess it was some kind of overnight retreat thing at a resort/hotel? The idea of sitting around for hours on end with a bunch of drunks would be my idea on an inner circle of hell. No one is witty and entertaining after the first 3-4 hours of drinking. It’s just a group of people slurring their words, making no sense, and stumbling back up to the bar. As a previous commentator pointed out this is not fun for teetotalers or modest drinkers. On your personal level, you have proven to yourself that you should watch your level of alcohol consumption. You apologized, hope your manager drops the topic and be more careful the next time.

    1. londonedit*

      We used to do it at a company I worked for. My industry certainly used to be known for its boozy culture, even if it isn’t quite so much nowadays, and 10 years ago I worked for a small company where the boss would book a private dining room at a nice restaurant, we’d all arrive at 11am for a few glasses of champagne, then a three-course Christmas lunch with wine (which would go on late into the afternoon) and then everyone would head to the pub for the rest of the evening. Personally, I can hold my drink and I enjoy that sort of occasion every now and then – and there was genuinely no pressure, some people would go home after the long lunch, some people would come to the pub for one drink, and some people would miss the last Tube home and have to be poured into a taxi. It was great fun.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes, we’d do this every Friday in law school – “pub lunch” would often turn into dinner in the same cozy pub many, many hours later. We tipped well and the servers took good care of us. A friend and I would sit down and our bloody marys with individual bottles of hot sauce to add more would appear as if by magic, without us having to order them. I don’t think I could do it with any regularity now but it was a lot of fun at the time.

    2. Ryn*

      It’s truly wild how normalized low-level alcohol abuse is in America. 10+ hours of drinking is a bad idea in *any* setting, let alone with colleagues. As a former binge drinker who absolutely destroyed friendships around the 10 hours of drinking mark, binge drinking can be a form of alcoholism. Definitely get that it’s not for everyone, and for some this might be like a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, but I think folks forget that just because you’re not getting plastered every day doesn’t necessarily mean you have a healthy relationship with alcohol.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      Doesn’t have to be anything as organised as a retreat, IMO – I had been assuming they just went out right after work and kept going until kicking-out time, which for late-opening pubs and nightclubs here in the U.K. was around 3am back in the before times. I’ve definitely done that quite a few times with colleagues and I am not even a big partier compared to many of my colleagues. Definitely a big night but if you lose track of time, it happens.

    4. Friendly Kiwi*

      I’m guessing from the Covid context that the LW is in Australia or New Zealand, where a Christmas lunch (with wine) at 12-1pm followed by drinks somewhere until 10-11pm (at least…) wouldn’t be that unusual for this time of year.

      Not saying it’s the world’s greatest cultural tradition, but as a possible explanation.

  27. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW2: Paying people to forego medical care may not be a violation of the ADA per se, but it surely discriminates against employees with chronic (including handicapping) medical conditions; they CAN’T skip medical care without endangering their ability to function and/or their lives. Of course no one should give up medical care for any amount of money (let alone $200!), but this would affect those employees who MUST get it even more than those who SHOULD get it. This sounds like a terrible idea all around – and a potential lawsuit in the making.

    1. Stephanie*

      I would agree, company plan is a high deductible hmo.So if you had a chronic condition you still end up paying quite a bit before you just pay copay

  28. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – you’re forgetting your third option – don’t take the new job, but continue to look for other opportunities in other companies – companies that have a good reputation for culture and for not over-selling their positions. From experience, sometimes the best option is not the one that is immediately available/obvious.

    You know there is some demand for your skills in the job market, you’re reasonably happy in your current position, and you’re looking for longer term opportunities. So, do a real job search and look for a really good fit. The opportunity that you’re looking for doesn’t seem to be that – the culture is apparently problematic, and the job itself might not really give you the experience you are trying to get. Will this job really translate into the opportunities you expect, down the line?

  29. NoName*

    OP#2: Your employer is incredibly stingy, but the medical stuff gets to me more than the PTO because of the systemic problems in the US healthcare system. If employees were really taking up these deals and waiting until the last second to seek medical help, they would just be adding to the overwhelming amount of people rushing to the ER and clogging up an already overworked system (lest we forget that we’re also in a pandemic with many parts of the country running out of ICU beds?).

    If I was playing your employer’s game though, I believe a number closer to $20,000/year would be fair. Why? I’m being asked/encouraged to take on risk for something specularly important to me: my health, and ultimately, my life. For $200, though? Nah.

    1. pancakes*

      Good point about burdening ERs and emergency clinics. It’s also a terrible idea to have people with healthcare needs that could be treated elsewhere gathering in these places during a pandemic.

    2. Stephanie*

      I myself haven’t taken the $200 however there are those that do.I agree the amount is way to low.There are some companies that pick high cost plans with the hope employees won’t take it

  30. Environmental Compliance*

    #2 – USA – Midwest, for reference….. the majority of my past employers (and my current employer) give you a discount if you do all the preventive care! The thought being that if they incentivize you to go and do the (cheaper) preventive stuff, it will decrease the (more expensive) treatments from not catching something in time. And the discount is about the same. I have gotten anywhere from $100-$300 off for doing the preventive questionnaires every year.

    Incentivizing you to just….. not go to the doctor is not only morally quite awful, but doesn’t make sense financially for them (or you) either.

    1. Paris Geller*

      Yeah, we get a discount on our premium if we do a number of health-related activities–and not all physical health, either. If you get your annual check-up, you get $20 off your premiums for the following fiscal year. I’m on a high deductible plan with an HSA (which I picked because my employer put a good chunk of money into the HSA, so it really wasn’t all that different than the plan I had before, which they took away this year), and because of that my monthly premium is $20. Since I got my check-up last year, I get $0 taken out each paycheck for that. I just took what my premium was last year on a different plan and have that amount taken out for my HSA each month.

  31. I edit everything*

    Can we have a co-winner for worst company of the year? Or rescind the award from the winner and give it to this company?

  32. RCB*

    This is definitely one of those times where we need to name and shame the company in #2, because they are just barely this side of human rights abuses. They’d prefer you to never take a day off, and to never ever see a doctor, that’s not employment, that’s barely more than slavery.

  33. GreyjoyGardens*

    Re LW #1, this is why it’s unwise to overindulge at office parties – I know this year has been “special” in so many ways, but even so, it’s best to imbibe carefully if at all at any office shindig. I’m reminded of the letter with the underage intern who drank at an office party. It’s not that drinking is Naughty and Bad, or that Nancy Reagan or Tipper Gore will scold you if you do, or that anyone needs to play “office parent” and supervise their coworkers: it’s that getting drunk at office parties causes all kinds of regrettable behavior, like telling your boss you love her.

    In this case probably “least said soonest mended” and just let it go. You apologized. She might not be responding because she wants to put this behind her, too, and figures that it was one of those “I drank too much” moments on your part. Don’t assume you have to look for a new job (or change your name or move to a different city or industry or…) Just lay low, be utterly professional going forward, and don’t get this drunk at a company event again.

  34. Esmeralda*

    OP #2: $200 is way way way way less than the value of the health care you are giving up. It’s less than the value of your annual exam. If they want to do this, they need to offer you a LOT more money.

    In addition, if you don’t use your insurance for “small” things, they can turn into big things. Big serious expensive things.

    Use your health insurance.

  35. Jennifer*

    #1 The only time I have left someone hanging after an apology was when I felt the apology was insufficient compared to what happened. It’s possible that your coworkers aren’t the most reliable witnesses since they were all drunk too. I’m not saying that to make you feel worse than you already do, but just maybe to get you to look at things from her perspective.

    It sucks to have that apology just out there hanging, but at this point all you can do is forgive yourself, do your best not to repeat the same poor choices, and move on.

    1. merp*

      IMO that would be a petty and not great way to handle things in a professional context. Not saying there aren’t people who deserve it in a personal situation, but if the boss had continued issues with the OP, they should really communicate that. I think it’s more likely the boss wants to let the whole thing lie and OP is best to do the same.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      “The only time I have left someone hanging after an apology was when I felt the apology was insufficient compared to what happened. ”

      Same here. I think sometimes people just accept the apology and move on without mentioning it, but there are definitely times when people don’t accept the apology or feel it misses the mark and are waiting for something more. But it’s hard to know if the person won’t say anything. I agree–OP just needs to accept it happened and move on.

  36. Jessie the First (or second)*

    Letter 2:

    There are legal implications for paying people not to use the health plan. Employer health plans are covered by ERISA, which makes it illegal for a company to discriminate against someone for accessing plan benefits, with SERIOUS penalties. The company explicitly pays people who don’t use the plan more than people who do use the plan – someone should give a call to the local DOL office.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      (It is sometimes okay to pay people a bit more if they don’t sign up for insurance in the first place – but once you are in an ERISA plan, you are supposed to be able to use it without being penalized for it.)

    2. Stephanie*

      Last year a coworker did email DOL regarding ERISA. The response he received was that there was no clear violation since it was voluntary and not required

        1. Observer*

          There is unlikely to be much of a change. The amount they are paying is too low. Now, if the payout were significant, that would be different.

  37. Empress Matilda*

    #4, I’m in the middle of my first-ever recruitment as a hiring manager, so *obviously* I’m now an expert!

    Kidding, of course, but I do want to add a counterpoint to Alison’s comments. I’m hiring an admin assistant – the key qualification is familiarity with standard office software, but soft skills like time management, communications, and “managing up” are also listed as important in the job ad.

    The thing is, I can infer the tech skills from your experience, even if you don’t specifically mention them. If you have recent post-secondary education, or if you’ve been working in an office, then I’m going to assume you have what we need in that area. But if you don’t specifically mention your soft skills, I can’t necessarily pick them out.

    I agree with Alison that the best way to do this is by describing how you’ve used the skills – but even a single bullet point on the resume is better than nothing. At least that way I know you’ve read the job ad and you’re aware of what we’re asking for. This won’t be the difference between a good resume and a great resume, but it might be the difference between getting an interview and not getting an interview.

  38. Office Grunt*

    At one OldJob, they did the opposite of #2 – the plan had a high deductible ($3k when I started, $4k when I left), but you only had to come out of pocket for the last $1k of your deductible. The first $2-3k, you were reimbursed in full once you brought in the bill.

    I think out of 20-30 employees, five maxed out the reimbursement, and two of those were for major events (childbirth and broken leg)

  39. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #1 – Don’t bring it up again. And no more getting drunk, or even buzzed, with coworkers.

  40. Septembergrrl*

    Seems to me like there’s a strong argument that offering employees a financial incentive not to use their health insurance is discriminatory, since a)many/most women are on some form of birth control and b)some chronic conditions, like diabetes and asthma, are disproportionately common among racial minorities, as well as older people. So basically most of the people who feel like they can collect the $200 are likely to be young white guys.

  41. Gawaine*

    If you only have one week, selling it back is probably not great. But if you have more than that, I don’t mind the idea of giving it to people as a choice and letting adults make their own choices.

    We used to be able to have them buy back up to two weeks/year, and I miss it. I’m up to almost 5 weeks of leave per year, plus holidays, but we also have flex-time across two week periods, and we can defer holidays if we don’t use them. Yes, I’d love to take more time off, but it just doesn’t happen.

    They eliminated the benefit of being able to sell it back, with the idea that it would “encourage” people to use more time. It doesn’t work that way. If you’re a workaholic or in an office that contains lots of workaholics, making you lose your leave instead of cashing it out doesn’t incent you to take a meaningful vacation.

  42. PX*

    OP3: make sure the big name is absolutely worth it in your industry.

    Like others have said, there are fields where it will boost your resume and open doors for you. But echoing AthenaC above, you need to be very intentional about it if you choose to do it. Go in already thinking about your exit plan. Go in with a good idea of how long you are willing to stay. Go in already planning what kind of self care you’ll need to survive it. Dont let yourself get sucked into staying longer than you anticipate. But if you are definitely sure it will help – I say go for it.

    In the grand scheme of things, if 1.5 years of stress increases your earning potential by a factor of X, where X is a number big enough to make it worth it for you – then that thats not a terrible choice to make. Its like any other cost benefit analysis like doing an MBA or going back to school to get a different degree.

  43. Jessica Fletcher*

    #1, you might consider contacting your state’s Department of Insurance. If your company is required to adhere to the Affordable Care Act, I wonder if their practice of essentially providing a premium rebate to people who don’t use the coverage would put them in violation. They’re essentially avoiding their responsibility to provide health insurance if they’re pressuring employees not to use it. And by offering essentially a premium rebate to people who don’t use the insurance, they’re effectively charging people with pre-existing conditions a higher premium than those without. Whether or not it could be taken to court, state regulators should know this is happening.

    It’s also really stupid and won’t save them money long term. If employees forego annual screenings, illnesses won’t be caught early, and treatment will be more expensive when it gets too bad to ignore.

    I hope the company enjoys being sued when someone ends up with inoperable, advanced stage cancer because the company paid them not to get their annual check up for years and years. Or when someone gets Covid but can’t get tested or get early treatment because they were counting on that $200 to pay their heating bill.

    1. Stephanie*

      Coworker had contacted DOL about the plan and ERISA and response was no clear violation of the law due to the fact its voluntary

  44. Copyright Economist*

    LW #1: You can try to move on by not mentioning it. But I would polish off the resumé and start looking for work elsewhere. The rumor mill has a nasty habit of spreading these things fast and exaggeratedly. Better to be prepared.

    Also, I worked at a company with a boozy culture from age 28 to 35; a bunch of the economists drank together from 5:00 pm till 11:00 pm or so most Friday nights. I don’t know if that would fly today, but it shouldn’t.

    1. Maggie*

      Why would it matter what the economists chose to do on their free time outside of work? Unless it interfered with work in some way. Employees are allowed to go to bars together after work.

  45. blue*

    Here in favor of just dropping “dress codes” altogether. Judging others based on what we’re wearing is ridiculous. (I know this is a big jump, and people don’t like it.) Our clothes really, truly do not matter.

  46. Choggy*

    OP #2 This dumbfounds me! I am under my husband’s insurance which penalizes you monetarily for *not* getting preventive checkups! When your health goes unchecked, insurance has to cover the cost for treatment which may have been less or prevented altogether if an issue is caught early. $200 is nothing compared to your health!

  47. Tidewater 4-1009*

    #2, your company is not a place to stay long term and it’s clear that’s how management wants it. If they wanted people to stay they wouldn’t be doing this.
    $200 – more like $100+ after taxes – is not enough for a mature person to give up preventive care. I wouldn’t even consider it. And one week of vacation really sends a message!
    The only thing is if there aren’t better jobs in the area people might get trapped into staying longer than this employer deserves.

  48. lazy intellectual*

    #3: Don’t do it. You don’t know how long you will be stuck there. There are other ways to pivot careers.

  49. Spicy Tuna*

    #2 – I’m 47 and I’ve never been to a doctor as an adult, so this would appeal to me, but I’m not sure if it’s the best policy going forward.

    Regarding the vacation, I think it would be a better policy if they paid it out at the end of the year, because people don’t know if they will be able to take time off at the beginning of the year. At my last job, I got 6 weeks of PTO per year, accrued over the course of the year. I could hold up to 6 weeks in my PTO bank, and I always maintained my PTO bank at 6 weeks, only taking time off if I was about to stop accruing PTO. When I left that job, I got a nice check for 6 weeks of unused PTO. Not everyone wants or values time off.

  50. BananaSalamander*

    #1, I had a similar thing happen to me – except I was the manager. We were at a convention and my employee liberally availed herself of the bar before plopping herself down to tell me how she loved me, how I was the best person ever and she wanted to work for me forever and then asking me my opinion on various facets of her work. I answered politely but told her we’d need to set up a meeting to talk details if she had specific questions. An hour later, I found her in the bathroom throwing up. I helped her back to her hotel room and then went back to join my colleagues in the convention room. Neither of us ever mentioned it again. It was a one-time thing she never repeated so she learned a lesson. The rumor mill brings it up occasionally around the time of that convention “Hey, remember when Drusilla did all those Fireball shots and told Buffy she was the best human in history? That was great!” but it didn’t affect her standing with me or, as far as I can tell, her standing in the company. (In case you’re wondering, it also didn’t win her any points with me – I appreciated the admiration for my management style but the circumstances canceled the whole thing out.)

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