A vested benefit refers to an asset or a privilege that may be granted to an employee as part of a guaranteed financial package offered to any person or entity. Usually, the term “vested benefit” is used to denote the retirement savings that a person may become eligible to access upon reaching their retirement age.
Vested benefits may include several types of financial rewards. They may consist of cash, 401(k) plans, pension plans, retirement plans, and employee stock options. One example of a vested benefit that vests gradually may be the shares in the stock of a company.
A vested benefit refers to an asset or a privilege that may be granted to an employee as part of a guaranteed financial package offered to any person or entity.
In a situation where ownership of benefits is not involved or when an employer does not contribute to the plan, the benefits offered to employees are considered to be non-vested benefits.
In the U.S., the rules for the protection of the retirement assets of Americans are determined by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
Principle of Vested Benefit Explained
The underlying principle is that vested benefit is only offered an employee who already met the complete terms of service that must be fulfilled in order to become eligible to receive a full rather than a partial payment. As employees accumulate more time with the company, they gradually acquire the full amount. The process is also known as cliff vesting or graduated vesting.
After a predetermined number of years spent in service with the company, the employee earns full rights to the benefits. Companies often offer such benefits to their employees in order to incentivize them to stay with the company.
Vested vs. Non-Vested Benefits
In a situation where ownership of benefits is not involved or when an employer does not contribute to the plan, the benefits offered to employees are considered to be non-vested benefits. For example, if a company offers its employees a 401(k) plan that does not include any contribution by the company, it is considered a non-vested benefit. Usually, health insurance and retirement plans are non-vested profits.
How Do Vested Benefit Plans Work
The exact structure of a vested benefit program is usually subject to negotiation. It is usually done at the time of recruiting or hiring new employees or as a part of the process of the collective bargaining agreement of labor unions. The time required for a benefit to becoming fully vested can vary depending on what type of benefit it is. For example, 401(k) plans usually vest the moment an employee begins to participate in it.
Example of a Vested Benefit Plan
Assume a situation wherein an employee may be eligible to receive a performance bonus after they complete one year of employment with the company, the reward being one hundred shares of stock. As part of a graduated vesting plan, after completion of Year 2, the employee can acquire full ownership of 20% of the shares they are entitled to.
After Year 3, it may increase to 40%, after Year 4, 60%, and so on. Here, the employee can only claim 100% of the shares after completion of year six. Thus, from Years 2 to 5, the stock bonus is considered a partially vested benefit. It will only be a fully vested benefit after completion of Year 6.
Rules and Regulations
In the U.S., the rules for the protection of the retirement assets of Americans are determined by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The safeguards offered include setting the minimum standards required for participation, benefit accrual, funding, and vesting. It is also the organization that ensures that employees are able to access the benefits promised to them after the completion of a prescribed period at their job.
In Switzerland, the Vested Benefits Foundation holds the retirement savings contributed by companies to the Pillar 2a category of retirement savings. The money is considered the vested benefit. Usually, Swiss companies and their employees jointly contribute to occupational pension funds.