BY G. A. FINCH
As the saying goes, the only dumb question is the unasked question. Sometimes employees and sophisticated executives are unsure about the concept of “vesting.” The terms “vest” and “vested” are part and parcel of any employee benefits system. It pertains to when an employee’s right to a benefit becomes ripe and irrevocable.
For example, “vest” is a term that is used in describing and accessing employee benefits like retirement payments or grants of stock to employees.
Vesting is the time when specified benefits provided to an employee become certain and complete and are no longer contingent on the employee continuing to work for the employer. When vested, the entitlement to the benefit becomes an absolute right. Obviously, this right to a benefit may not mean much if the employer becomes insolvent.
When an executive leaves his employment for any reason, he must scrutinize his benefits materials, employment contract, if any, and his separation agreement, if any, to ascertain what benefits to which he is entitle and which benefits have vested. If the benefits materials are dense and confusing, then he should consult his benefits or human resources department to ensure his understanding. If the employee has engaged an attorney to represent him in his separation, the attorney may also help the employee to evaluate what benefits have or have not vested.