Domestic Partner Benefits

Domestic partner or domestic partnership identifies the personal relationship between individuals who are living together and sharing a common domestic life together but are not joined in any type of legal partnership, marriage or civil union. The individuals that are domestic partners can be also categorized into sexual preference, such as gay, lesbian or even transgender. Many companies today offer a wide variety of benefits to employees, ranging from health, dental, life, and even pet insurance.

Although the sharing of these benefits to a spouse is allowed, offering the same luxury to a domestic partner is often not extended. Overall, the implementation of domestic partner benefit plans can be difficult for employers. Care must be taken to avoid discrimination for moral and legal reasons (Savasta, 1997). This paper will show the positive results for the company by offering employees domestic partner benefits. The research will show the added value the company will benefit from, and what it will do for the company’s public image.

Employees should feel that they are being treated equitably, which promotes company morale and productivity, but domestic partner benefits could introduce disparity among employees if the benefits are offered exclusively to same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, but not to both (Savasta, 1997). Will the company justify the decision to offer domestic partner benefits simply to be a diverse company, or to be fair to employees? Cost Factors The cost of health insurance is continually on the rise, which makes health care compensation more of a concern for employees and their dependents.

However, the total costs of adding domestic partner benefits to the employees’ benefits packages are insignificant. A study taken in 2005 by Hewitt associates shows that the majority of employers experience a total benefits cost increase of less than one percent (Luther, 2006 ). When a company needs to stay competitive, the last thing it needs to neglect are the necessities of its own employees. Adding to the constantly growing number of solid companies to consider when seeking employment; Company’s should consider which benefits are offered. J. D.

Piro, chairman of the health law group at Hewitt, says the major driver of health care costs for many employers are triggered by women of child-bearing age because of maternity expenses. For “obvious reasons,” he says that is not a factor for gay couples (Moon, 2005). Health benefits are shown to be a greater portion of a persons compensation offered by an employer as opposed to receiving wages and salaries alone. Since the 1950s’ the average compensation one receives from an employer in the form of either salary or wages has decreased by 14% (Luther, 2006).

Numerous studies have shown that domestic partner benefits do not have a significant impact on the overall cost of health care insurance and can have a positive impact on hiring, retention and employee morale. Domestic partner benefits have a positive effect on productivity because it provides a safety net to employees. “As of March 1, 2006, 49% of the Fortune 500 and 78% of the Fortune 100 largest corporations offered health benefits to employees’ domestic partners, compared to just 25 % of the Fortune 500 in 2000” (Luther, 2006).

Although conservative groups such as the American Family Association call domestic partner benefits a “prohibitively expensive” and says they “increase costs across the board for all employees. ” A recent study by Hewitt associates disputes that allegation. Less than 1% of workers opted to enroll their same-sex spouses in Massachusetts even after same-sex marriage was legalized in the state two years ago (Moon, 2005). Value and Company Image Companies that provide benefits plans for domestic partners know the need is a necessity; companies should also know that is the right thing to do.

The profit that comes from providing benefits to domestic partners is priceless. Employers increasingly look to domestic partner benefits as a means to promote a diverse workforce and ensure maximum employee productivity. Designing a benefits package that appeals to a diverse workforce enables an employer to maintain a recruitment edge and demonstrates that the employer values diversity. Adding in benefits for employees who live alternative lifestyles can only benefit companies. “Pro-gay company policies can add to the company’s bottom line.

While some businesses, especially those with strong religious influences, may be run with a specific moral agenda in mind, most ultimately operate for profit. Publicly held companies are more dependent than others upon working for profit to insure stockholders’ continued investment and commitment to the company. ”(Clermont, 2006) Whether or not people know it, chances are that people work amongst homosexuals. Their unique situation differs from that of race which is identified by ones skin color. Therefore, it is easy for everyone in the workplace to assume that all their peers are heterosexuals.

Once their existence is accepted their productivity will increase. A lesbian worker for Eastman Kodak found “closeted gays spend a lot of energy monitoring their own conversations” (Melymuka). A second benefit to becoming a more gay friendly company is that of earning what is called the “ pink dollar “ or gay dollar. In the past companies did not think to steer their advertisements towards gays and lesbians but recently it is evident that they are a major spending group also referred to as DINKS. “DINKs stand for dual-income, no kids – a common situation in many gay relationships.

These relationships are compared to a traditional heterosexual couple where the woman takes the fulltime role of supporting her children. “(Clermont, 2006) According to the Society for human resource management employers that have offered domestic benefits reported that coverage for domestic partners is no more expensive than the coverage for other dependents. By implementing domestic partners benefit programs the company is motivating and retaining employees. The plus side of these benefits will help to create a dialogue on orientation and other discrimination issues in the workplace.

In addition, providing benefits it is a matter of fairness to all the employees. When weighing in the effects of maintaining a competitive edge, it seems unlikely for businesses to not provide for these needs. Companies whose concerns show interest for their employees are more likely to have a competitive advantage over others by demonstrating a diversified workforce. Companies are offering domestic partner benefits in an attempt to maintain a more varied workforce, and retain the talented workforce they already have. The overall morale and productivity of such a diverse workforce is, in itself, an asset.

Employees are more apt to show a good work ethic knowing their employer shows concern for the welfare of its’ employees by offering such a thing as domestic partner benefits. In a Mellon human resource study the author writes; “More employers are offering domestic partner benefits, according to the Nontraditional Family Benefit Coverage Survey by Mellon’s human resources and Investor Solution business thirty-one percent of more than 550 U. S. employers now offer domestic benefits coverage, up significantly from 19% in a similar study Mellon conducted in 2001.

For the study, “domestic partners” are defined as either opposite-sex or same-sex non-married partners. Most employers offering the benefits required an established relationship to qualify for coverage: 73% required the partnership to exist for a minimum period, and 88% require proof of domestic partnership. Among employees who take the benefit, 66% are in same sex partnership. ” With that in mind, this means before employees can qualify for domestic partner benefits the company should consider all factors when offering benefit packages.

For the long-term it will injected a new sense of fairness in the company’s approach to compensation and benefits. Companies offer domestic partner benefits to attract the best employees they can to be the most competitive in the industry. According to Hewitt’s survey, more than one-half of 281 companies surveyed offered domestic partner benefits, up 36%, from about one-fifth of companies five years ago (Moon, 2005) With the added value this would bring, some possible backlash could develop with groups that oppose gay and lesbians receiving those benefits.

In the case of the Walt Disney Company was a target of a boycott from the American Family Association due to the company extending benefits to domestic partners in 1996, it lasted almost 10 years (Moon, 2005). The argument against this practice is fleeting because of the large amount of fortune 500 companies that offer these benefits; therefore it is less of a risk for the company to take on. Conclusion There are an increasing number of homes across America with families whose needs are not being fulfilled.

For the population whose households consist of lesbian, gay or transgender people the importance of health benefits are just as significant as it is to the rest of America. How well does the average worker who has an alternative lifestyle perform at work knowing that their employer does not recognize their needs as it does everyone else? Overall, it looks better for a company to offer benefits to its employees’ partners. Over the last decade it has been a steadily growing trend for companies to offer such packages.

In order to retain dedicated employees, businesses are more likely to begin offering health benefits to employees with domestic partners. As people are living more of an alterative lifestyle, corporate America needs to adjust to fit how employees are living. Statistics have shown that it is a growing trend to offer benefits the employees’ with those situations. The amounts of employers have increased 31% since 2001, and studies have shown that domestic partner benefits do not have an impact on the overall cost of health care.

Those actions do however have a huge positive impact on hiring, employee moral, and retention. The company should justify the decision to offer domestic partner benefits simply because it is fair. Many companies have realized the drastic impact offering domestic partner benefits can cause on a company. Employees can now work in an environment that is willing to help support their life partner and offer them piece of mind for the future. References Savasta, M (1997, Sept).

Into the mainstream? Employers examine domestic partnership benefits. Risk Management, 44(n9), 70-73. Human rights campaign foundation. http://www. hrc. org/Template. cfm? Section=The_Issues=/TaggedPage/TaggedPageDisplay. cfm=26=31366 Moon, S (2005, August 1). Making a business case for domestic partner benefits.. Financial Times Ltd, p NA. Melymuka, K (2001, July 23). Sexual Orientation Is a Bottom-Line Issue.. Computerworld, 35(30), 36. Clermont, B (2005).

Insight business. Retrieved August 29, 2006, from Marshall Insight Web site: http://www. usc. edu/org/InsightBusiness/archives/fall2005/ProGayPolicies. htm Luther, S (2006, March). Human rights campaign foundation. Retrieved August 29, 2006, from Domestic Partner Benefits: Guide to Employer Trends and Benefits Equivalency for the GLBT Family Web site: http://www. hrc. org/content/NavigationMenu/Work_Life/Get_Informed2/The_Issues/DomesticPartnerBenefits-March2006-Final. pdf

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