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Matt Douglas, Founder and CEO of

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Why We Pay 100% of Employee Benefits

I’ve been doing a lot of hiring recently, and it reminded me a policy that we came up with in the early days of Punchbowl when we hired our first employees. When it comes to health benefits, we pay 100% of the employees health plan. This means that if you work for Punchbowl, the company pays 100% of the costs of your health insurance, your dental insurance, your workers comp, and your basic life insurance.

From my experience, this is fairly unusual. For all of the companies where I’ve ever worked, the company would pay anywhere from 50-80% of the health care costs. It’s a fairly standard practice. So why do we pay 100%?

As a CEO of a start-up, I believe that it’s the company’s responsibility to care for the entire well-being of the employees. It’s not enough to care for people between the hours of 9-6. I believe that we have a responsibility to protect and care for our most valuable assets. The health care costs of employees is a cost that I think the company should bear.

So what’s the catch? How do we afford to pay for 100% of the employee benefits? It’s pretty simple. Unlike other organizations which pay for 50-80% of your TOTAL benefits package, we only pay for the employee. This means that if you have a spouse, and choose the Employee + Spouse plan, we only pay for the Employee’s portion. The Employee is responsible for paying the difference. If the employee has children, and needs the Employee + Family plan, the employee is responsible for paying the family portion. We cover 100% of the employee.

The co-founder of Punchbowl and I made this decision a while ago (hat tip: Sean Conta) because we think it sends a clear message to our employees: you are very important to us, and we want you to be taken care of completely. While we care about your immediate family and understand the impact they can have on your well-being, we believe your personal decisions have nothing to do with your contribution as an employee. We provide you an easy and cost-effective way to cover health benefits of anyone that you choose.

We don’t care if you want to cover your spouse, domestic partner, or same-sex partner under our health care plan. As long as you pay the difference in cost, you can cover your pet armadillo (well, ok.. maybe not). Also, we don’t care how many children are in your family. As long as you pay the difference in cost, you can cover all twenty of your offspring. Again, we don’t care about your personal decisions. It’s none of our business, and we’re not going to pay the costs associated with your personal decisions.

This policy has made recruiting simpler. As a small start-up, this makes the cost of each employee’s benefits equal. We don’t shy away from more established candidates who have multiple children, and we’re not influenced by whether your spouse already has a health plan. Our policy underlines that we don’t care if you’re single, married, divorced, or gay. When we make a hiring decision, it’s with the expectation that we’ll be paying for 100% of the costs for the employee’s benefits.

It’s pretty expensive to cover 100% of the cost of employee benefits. For each full-time employee, it’s more than one thousand dollars per month (when you include all benefits, service fees, and processing fees). So it’s a significant part of the overall compensation for an employee. Often, employees don’t realize how much of their compensation is the health plan, and it’s something that we should probably emphasize more often.

The policy of paying 100% of employee benefits has worked well for us, and potential employees seem to like the clarity that our policy provides. My hope is that even as health care costs continue to rise, we’ll be able to continue to offer this benefit.

Employees are your most important asset, right? So show them you mean it by covering 100% of the cost of employee benefits. 

Looking for exciting career opportunities in greater Boston? Check out the current job openings at Punchbowl:


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  • Joanne

    Love the idea – do you use a specific benefits company to co-ordinate this for you?

  • Anonymous

    I understand the idea, but is the purpose to improve your recruiting?So you can say "we pay 100% health care", when in reality you pay probably less than most other employers?When employees are looking for jobs, they're essentially shopping. You're making the process of price comparison between employers more complex – to your advantage.Most people probably say "wow 100% everyone else is doing 75%!", when in reality they could be spending $5k/mo. to cover their family with you, whereas they'd pay $1k/mo. elsewhere. That's my thought – I don't get how this is truly beneficial financially for most people with families. To me it seems like a scam.

  • Matt Douglas

    @Anonymous At the end of the day, benefits are part of compensation. We are very upfront about our benefits policy with prospective employees so they can easily factor this into their decision. However, that's not really the point. We're hiring *individuals* — not their families. We never claim that this is "truly beneficial financially" for most people with families. Instead we cover 100% of the individual and provide low-cost ways for them to cover their families. I've actually done a comparison of our plan with my wife's plan (she works at a major hospital in Boston and they have a standard benefits plan). While our plan is indeed more expensive for our family, the cost differential is negligible.

  • William

    It's definitely unusual but I don't see any problem with that. The thing is, you should always maintain the health of your employees and what you should do is give them health insurance plans

  • health insurance australia

    Private insurance is much more prominent in Australia, but the costs are easy to handle because of laws favorable to health care.

  • Maia Dobson

    We are all hoping that the medical plans would be complete with dental plans as well. While medical and dental tourism are becoming popular, I still chose the services that I get with my dentist in Champaign IL.

  • Grace Johnson

    The employees' benefits does not only covers a specific insurance cause it includes all the other individual supports a worker needs, like the dental insurance arkansas or their perspective health insurances. It's good to hear that you are showing sincere care to all your workers.

  • Derrick Patterson

    Working in a company that is concern about the well-being of its employee is really a blessing. But I wonder if it also covers Novated Leasing Brisbane.

©2019 Matt Douglas