Job lock occurs when a person feels unable to leave a job which is strongly disliked or unsuitable to their abilities because doing so will result in the loss of employee benefits (usually health or retirement related). It is more common in the
United Stateswhere most people have health insurance through their employer.
An example of job lock due to health benefits would be someone who takes a job, planning to save up money to and move on later, but before this can happen they develop an expensive medical condition. In these circumstances the person is locked to their job as leaving would require being unemployed and hence without health coverage which can no longer be afforded.
An example of a job lock due to a defined benefit plan would be someone who has been working for a company for 20 years, thus accruing higher insurance benefits. If they leave to work for another company their benefits are reset and they eventually realize a lower level of retirement benefits. For more on the specifics of defined benefits plans, see http://retireplan.about.com/cs/retirement/a/aa_defined_a5.htm
It is true that health insurance can be purchased as a private individual, however, not only is it more expensive to purchase in that form, once a person member is known to require expensive coverage insurers will either refuse to cover or set very high premiums and impose many limitation clauses (
loop holes) in the contract.
In a looser sense, Job lock may describe a condition where an employee is being paid higher than scale or has accumulated significant benefits, so changing jobs is not a realistic option as it would result in significantly lower pay, less vacation time, etc.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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