Plant and business closings, downsizings, and reductions in hours affect employees in numerous adverse ways. Workers lose income, the security of a steady job and, often, the health and retirement benefits that go along with working full time. Dislocated workers may have many questions, some of them concerning health and retirement benefits. For instance, Do I have access to my retirement funds? What happens to my health benefits? Can I continue health coverage until I get another job?

Most retirement and group health plans sponsored by employers must comply with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), a Federal law that sets standards to protect employee benefits. Dislocated workers may have rights to certain retirement protections and health benefits under ERISA even if they lose their job. If a company provided a group health plan, the dislocated worker may be entitled to continued health benefits for a period of time if they cannot find a job immediately. When they find a new job, they may have fewer barriers to health care coverage. And with a change in employment, dislocated workers should understand how retirement benefits are affected. Knowing their rights can help a dislocated worker protect their family until they are working full time again.

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