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Best Employers for Workers Over 50

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National Institutes of Health

Winner: 2009 Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Winning Years: 2009, 2008
Industry: Federal Government
Location: Bethesda, Md.

Highlights of 2009 Winning Strategies

This year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) makes a return appearance to the AARP Best Employers list after premiering in 2008.

The many benefits and opportunities available to employees through the NIH Recreation and Welfare Association have promoted an active workforce and an active retiree group. R&W supports more than 30 clubs, including photography, bicycling, and skiing, and administers volunteer activities, such as NIH Charities, Camp Fantastic, and Children's Inn.

Retirees can maintain relationships with NIH through employment opportunities, on-site fitness memberships, and community events. Thirty-nine percent of NIH employees are age 50+.

Workplace Culture/Continued Opportunities: NIH offers several learning and development opportunities, including tuition reimbursement, in-house classroom training, online training, certification classes, and student-loan repayment for both full- and part-time employees working at least one hour per week. In the past 12 months, 100 percent of NIH employees have used at least one of the educational benefits. That means each employee received an average six hours of training.

NIH celebrates workers' long-service anniversaries with announcements, parties, and awards ceremonies. Employees receive pins and plaques to commemorate anniversaries of 10, 20, and 30 years. 

Development opportunities at NIH include temporary job assignments in other departments, team projects, and interest-group projects. Employees may also job shadow or become involved in formal job-rotation programs.

The NIH Senior Leadership Program gives senior scientific and administrative employees opportunities to strengthen their leadership-development plans and to receive one-on-one coaching.

In addition to professional development, NIH is committed to the safety and occupational health of its employees. Through the Industrial Hygiene Service Program, employees can receive a number of workplace modifications, ranging from specialized computer programs for the hearing and visually impaired to individually tailored and ergonomically designed work spaces.

Benefits/Health: Full- and part-time employees working at least one hour per week receive individual and family medical insurance and prescription-drug coverage, individual and family vision and dental insurance, individual and family long-term-care insurance, and short- and long-term disability. 

Retirees under and above age 65 are eligible for individual and spousal medical insurance, individual and spousal vision and dental insurance, individual and spousal long-term-care insurance, employee assistance program (EAP) services, and individual and spousal life insurance or death benefits. Upon retirement, all new hires are eligible for the retiree benefits.

NIH offers health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts to employees to help defray the cost of medical care.

Benefits/Financial: NIH offers the following financial benefits to full- and part-time employees: a defined-benefit plan and a 403(b) retirement plan with an employer match. All employees are automatically enrolled in the Thrift Savings Plan for federal employees. In addition, workers at NIH can choose to invest in life-cycle funds, and employees over age 50 can make catch-up contributions. Employees receive financial-planning information from fellow NIH staff members, from representatives of the firm administering the plan, and from external financial-planning experts.

During the five years before retiring, employees can take pre-retirement classes. NIH also offers retirement-savings courses specifically for mid- and early-career employees.

Employees at NIH can receive paid time off for caregiving. The Institutes also allow short- and long-term leave without pay for caregiving duties.

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