Online benefits orientation

Welcome to the University of Washington and congratulations on the new job! As a UW employee, you receive an excellent benefits package (upon meeting eligibility criteria) that includes an array of health plan options, generous retirement plans, life insurance coverage, and many other benefits.

Use this orientation as your guide when picking plans and coverage options. Here you’ll find links to all the enrollment forms you need plus straightforward information to help you make the most of your benefits.

While we provide many helpful resources online, we also encourage you to register for in-person benefits orientation where you’ll be able to get your questions answered and pick up hard-copies of all your enrollment forms. If you plan to attend, feel free to explore this online orientation beforehand.

Have questions about Benefits enrollment or accessing Workday? The Integrated Service Center (ISC) provides frontline customer support for benefits-related questions. Contact the ISC at or 206-543-8000.

Don’t miss the deadline

Don’t delay — you’ve got important benefits decisions ahead and only 31 days to make them. Before the deadline, you must choose your plans and complete your enrollment.

Complete your online enrollment within 31 days.

But don’t worry — you’ve got a lot of resources at hand to help you choose. Start with this orientation, and don’t hesitate to contact the Integrated Service Center if you need help.

Specific deadlines

Different benefits have different deadlines. Generally, your enrollment window begins on your first day of eligibility, and you have a certain period of time for completing your elections and submitting all necessary documents. You will receive a notice through your Workday portal that provides your personal deadlines.

If you miss the deadlines:

If you miss your deadlines, you will be automatically enrolled in the default medical and dental plans and required to pay the tobacco surcharge. You won’t be able to make changes until the next open enrollment period. For life insurance and long-term disability insurance, you’ll only get basic coverage and will need to submit your medical history if you want extra coverage.

For retirement plans, you’ll be enrolled in the default plan for your particular job class and eligibility. You won’t be able to change your plan.


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Before you start

Some of your benefits are managed by UW while others are administered by state agencies. You’ll find all the information and forms you need to enroll right here on this website; however, it’s helpful to know the names and acronyms of the various state agencies, as you’ll see them often:

  • HCA: The Washington State Health Care Authority administers the health plans and other insurance plans, except retirement plans, as determined by state legislature and the PEBB
  • PEBB: The Public Employees Benefits Board is appointed by the governor and determines insurance benefit plans; contracts with insurers, and sets eligibility policy. They also approve plan design, and generally determines what plans are offered to state employees
  • DRS: The Washington State Department of Retirement Systems administers the state retirement plans, such as PERS, TRS, LEOFF as well as the Deferred Compensation Plan 457(b) (DCP)

The UW administers some retirement plans, including the UW Retirement Plan (UWRP) and the UW Voluntary Investment Program (UW VIP).

If you are eligible for a retirement plan, you are required to participate in one. Your plan options depend on which plans you’re eligible to participate in.

Know your employment program

During your first few days on the job, it’s important to learn your employment program. This will prevent any confusion when you learn about your benefits. For example, make sure a retirement plan is applicable to your employment program before you spend time considering the plan.

This orientation is tailored specifically for these five groups:

  • Classified staff
  • Professional staff
  • Faculty, academic staff, and librarians
  • UW police
  • Benefits-eligible temporary or hourly employees

Your offer letter should say which one applies to you, though if you’re unsure ask your supervisor.

Download the enrollment guide

Each year, PEBB publishes an Employee Enrollment Guide (PDF) that describes your PEBB benefits and provides enrollment information. If you attend the in-person Benefits orientation, you’ll receive a hard copy of this guide. You can also request a packet by contacting the Benefits Office.

How to enroll

You will enroll in most of your benefits through Workday.  See more information here, and contact the Integrated Service Center at for assistance.

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Choose a medical plan

Here’s the steps you should take to pick a plan that’s best for you and your family:

  1. Determine which plan network contains the doctors, clinics, and other providers that you want to use
  2. Estimate how often you visit the doctor, then compare two important health plan costs: premiums and deductibles
  3. Review plan details: Uniform Medical Plan, Kaiser WA, or Kaiser Permanente NW
  4. Before the deadline, enroll in the plan that’s best for you

You may elect to waive health insurance coverage for yourself and your family members.

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Choose a dental plan

Smile, the UW pays your monthly premium for the dental plans, even if you enroll eligible dependents. Of course, you may pay a portion of the cost for services you receive, but those costs depend on the plan you choose.

All you need to do is pick a plan and enroll. Because every person and family has different dental needs, we provide you with three different dental plans to choose from.

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Life insurance and long-term disability insurance

The income you’re able to earn is one of your most important assets. Should something unfortunate happen, insurance provides important financial protection not only for yourself, but also for those you care about.

While it’s not fun to make decisions about life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance, and long-term disability (LTD) insurance, it’s important to carefully consider your options and enroll before the deadline.

To learn more and enroll, see:

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Choose a retirement plan

Most of us aren’t yet ready for retirement, at least not financially. While there’s no magical formula for retirement planning, the primary objective for everyone is the same: save money. Fortunately, the generous UW retirement plans help you build a secure financial future for yourself and your family.

The plan you’re eligible for depends on your specific employment program.

Plans for professional staff, academic staff, and librarians

If you’re professional staff, academic staff, or a librarian, you have 30 days to choose a plan; otherwise, you’ll be automatically placed in the default plan. You have two options:

Plans for classified staff and most temporary or hourly staff

If you’re classified staff, you have 90 days to choose a plan; otherwise, you’ll be automatically placed in the default plan. You have two options:

Plans for faculty

If you’re teaching faculty, you have 30 days to choose a plan; otherwise, you’ll be automatically placed in the default plan which is the UW Retirement Plan 403(b). You have two options:

  • UW Retirement Plan (UWRP), a tax-deferred 403(b) plan, much like a 401(k), where you choose the investments, make the required contribution, and receive a matching contribution from UW
  • Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) 3, a hybrid plan that combines a traditional pension plan (defined benefit plan) with investments funded by your contributions
Plan for UW police

Available to commissioned UW police officers (in a full-time, 100 percent FTE position), the Law Enforcement Officers’ and Fire Fighters’ (LEOFF) 2 retirement plan is a traditional, defined-benefit pension plan.

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More ways to save for retirement

If you want to take full advantage of all the tax breaks and save more for retirement, enroll in the UW Voluntary Investment Program (VIP), the Washington State Deferred Compensation Program (DCP), or both. These are tax-advantaged savings programs, and because they are separate programs you can contribute funds to both if you wish.  In addition to the VIP pre-tax option, VIP also offers a Roth (after-tax) feature which provides for tax-free growth.

Most UW employees are eligible to participate in these optional plans, even if you are not participating in a basic retirement plan.

Retirement advice and planning

Conveniently meet with an investment professional, either in person or over the phone through Fidelity Investments or TIAA. You’ll receive guidance that helps you maximize your retirement savings and achieve other financial goals.


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Optional benefits

These optional benefits save you money on some of life’s everyday expenses.

Save money on taxes

A flexible spending arrangement (FSA) gives you a way to pay for routine medical expenses while also reducing your taxes.

Similar to an FSA, the dependent care assistance program (DCAP) helps you pay for child care and elder care using a pretax portion of your salary.

You can get a health savings account (HSA) by enrolling in a consumer-directed health plan (CDHP). An HSA is also tax advantaged, but unlike an FSA, you don’t lose unspent funds at the end of the year. However, there are specific eligibility requirements for an HSA, and you can only get one by enrolling in a CDHP. If you elect a CDHP, you cannot participate in an FSA.

Discounts on auto, home, and renter insurance

UW employees receive group-rate discounts on auto, home, and renters insurance from Liberty Mutual, one of the largest property insurance providers in the country.

Home-buying help and discounts

Get discounts on mortgage fees and advice from home-buying experts with the Hometown Home Loan program, a benefit offered to UW employees through a partnership with HomeStreet Bank.

Credit unions and financial education seminars

Two credit unions, Inspirus and WSECU, have partnered with the University, and as a UW employee you qualify to join either. Plus, both credit unions offer free financial education seminars open to all employees.

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