A company acquisition may translate to a change in employee benefits

Q: When I was first hired by my company I was promised a list
of generous benefits.  My company was just acquired by a larger firm. 
We have been told that many benefits may change as of January 1st.
 Rumors are rampant.  I accepted my first role with my current company
and benefits were a big part of the reason I accepted the offer.  What
can I do?

A: A company acquisition can be a challenge for all involved.  The
acquiring company will often strive to integrate the new company.  Often
the goal is consistency across the consolidated enterprise.  Policies,
procedures and practices will all be reviewed and some change is
inevitable.

Few companies have the same benefits year after year, even without an
acquisition.  Companies typically assess employee benefits annually
right before their annual open enrollment for benefits.  An employer may
evaluate utilization, costs and the employment market to ensure that
their benefits offerings are attractive to employees and candidates.

Usually there is fine print which may give you a hint that the
employer can change benefits at any time. When we write or edit
employee handbooks or benefits communications pieces, we often add a
statement such as:  “ABC Company reserves the right to modify this
handbook, amend or terminate any policies, procedures, or employee
benefit programs.”

If you are concerned about possible changes to your employee
benefits, it may be wise to raise your concerns now before any final
decisions are made.  I would suggest communicating your concerns to your
Human Resources Representative in a professional and thoughtful way.

With any merger or acquisition, there is almost always change.  In my
experience, it is a mixed bag — some of the changes are a positive for
employees, while there are negative changes as well.  Rumors can be
unreliable.  It is better to ask a company representative, who has some
subject matter expertise, for an update on any upcoming changes.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.

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