Domestic Partner Benefits

Generous benefits have long helped employers recruit and retain some of their best employees. If making a business case for domestic partner benefits has not gone unnoticed by corporate America, why is it that we contemplate the decision to offer it? Why have many companies throughout the world decided to accept and offer domestic partner benefits? The answers to these questions come down to one simple word, change. Many businesses out there realize the need for hiring and recruiting the best talent possible out in the market. It becomes our choice to go with the changing times or to be left behind.


What are domestic partner benefits? What does it mean for our company? “Domestic partner benefits generally extend the same pension rights and health insurance to beneficiaries that married spouses would receive, although the range of benefits to survivors can vary.” (Marshall, pg. 1, 2005). It is meant for people of the same sexual orientation and or people that are living together for a number of years but do not wish to get married. Offering these benefits within our company will greatly enhance our companies profile and business. It will allow us to recruit and retain those employees that have and will be assets to our company. People rely on not just the hourly wage or salaries; they also look at what types of benefits are offered to them. By offering domestic partner benefits, we will be able to market ourselves as one of the few businesses that are moving ahead to the future.

The decision to offer these benefits to domestic partners is an asset to the company in more ways than one. While it is still a relatively new approach to Human Relations in the workforce it is starting to become a trend. “Five years ago, only about half of the fortune 500 companies headquartered in the city gave couples the option to sign up for benefits. Today, more than 80% of those firms offer the benefits.” (Marhall, pg. 1, 2005). These numbers require any successful business to take notice at what is motivating the change in the business world.


Considering the ever changing world of business, we need to make ourselves marketable to all prospective employees, including the gay and lesbian community. We need to be on the lookout for fresh new staff that will be able to give us ideas and take the company to the next level. In offering these types of benefits we will be able to attract people with diverse backgrounds and experience. This will enable the company to have a wide perspective on issues that arise in the company.

According to Robin Pierce (2003), by offering a domestic partner benefits program it enhances the overall morale of employees, resulting with an increased of production. Every company recognizes the importance of morale between employees and their employers’ relationships. The importance of attracting and keeping qualified, highly skilled employees are one of the major priorities in any successful company. For those employees who happen to be gay, lesbian or unmarried maintaining morale is even more essential to the overall success of any business. Maintaining morale in the company is very important. If your employees are not happy and have low morale it has a way of reaching all those employees within the company; not to mention those that deal directly with the company as well. Meaning, all it takes is one person to be unhappy within the organization to start the domino effect. The domino effect could result in unproductive employees and less accountability within the workplace. Low morale creates an environment that is hard to work in. All the staff that is experiencing these types of feelings will not be totally concentrated on the company or the work at hand. It creates an atmosphere that can be stifling to work in.

Frequently, benefits offered at no additional cost include but are not limited to, sick leave or leave of absence to care for a partner or their dependents. These are offered to employees of a heterosexual orientation without any reservation. When those that have a different sexual preference are not offered the same benefits. This could result in discrimination or feelings of inequality. “If one purpose of a benefits program is to provide a safety net for employees and their families, thereby enabling employees to focus better on work, a plan that does not include domestic partner benefits ignores a growing portion of the workforce.” (Pierce, pg. 3, 2005) If we continue to ignore the growing workforce how can we as a company grow and change with the times?

Contracts today negotiated with Chief Executive Officers and sports figures demonstrated a corporation’s attitude towards an individuals worth. If we would use the same mentality towards employees, it would send a positive message to the employees throughout the company. Negotiations open important lines of communication to know how or what employees think. Input boxes are strategically placed within the workplace to collect employee concerns, opinions and ideas. The ideas from the employees will also help and aid us in finding out what our current employees think about the new benefits program proposed.

A companies profile can usually be found on a website so that potential employees can see what the company has to offer. Employee comments and feedback can also be posted on the website. It can be seen throughout the corporate community and the affects of negative connotations on domestic partner benefits can cost a company future employees and clients alike. Would we be setting ourselves up for failure by not offering the same benefits to all associates in our company? The answer would be yes, because we would not be allowing ourselves to treat all employees the same with the same benefits. “Participation in benefits programs serving a diverse employee workforce exhibits a company’s commitment to recognize the importance of the relationship it has with its’ workforce.” (Pierce, pg. 5, 2005).

One of the main reasons why companies are hesitant to offer these benefits is because of the cost. Most companies believe that the cost of offering domestic partner benefits will be high. However, studies have shown it not to be true. A recent article found on Salary.com (2005), stated that “perceived cost remains the primary disincentive for employers when deciding to enlist domestic partner benefits, as they believe adding more enrollees to a plan will increase premiums and add further risk, however, it cost nothing extra. Same-sex couples tend to be cheaper.

A Hewitt Associates survey of companies offering them for the first time found that only 1.2% of employees signed up, compared with the 10% employers originally expected” ( Marshall, pg.2, 2005). The enrollment for these benefits is not as high as we once feared because of several reasons. One reason is that most gay and lesbian couples already have benefits from their current employers and do not need to acquire benefits their partner. “Privacy concerns and lack of comprehensive laws protecting gays and lesbians are also a contributing factor to keeping enrollment in these programs low.” (Pierce, pg. 4, 2005). It will not hurt the company financially to offer these benefits to the employees. It will actually be the opposite. In offering these benefits the positives outweighs the cost and the negatives that might be associated.

Most companies that offer domestic partner benefits require documentation for enrollment. These types of documentations vary from different companies. For example, some companies require that couples show proof of cohabitations such as a bill with both names or an apartment or house rented together. Other companies may require that the couple register with the city as a domestic partner couple. It is important to set a standard or criteria when offering these benefits. One way to do so would be in having all domestic couples that sign up for enrollment sign an affidavit. This way the company would be taking precautions against fraud and also ensure that the employee has met all the requirements required by the company to enroll in this benefit program. The person enrolling in the program should provide at least two or three documentations showing that they are indeed a domestic couple. While this is not a guarantee against benefit fraud it does hold the employee responsible for their actions in participating in this program.

The changing ways of our society and the way that we now define “family” compels us to rethink the existing benefits offered to our employees. Society is changing and the way that people think and view things are changing with it. We need to adjust our company’s benefits to meet the needs of our employees, both current and future hires. In offering these benefits to our employees we have the opportunity to be one of the few companies that are viewed as a diverse company to work for.


References

Hanneman, T. (2005). Benefits for gay partners more common. Workforce Management, 84(7), 24. Retrieved from Proquest Database.

Marshall, S. (2005). More benefits for gays. Crain’s New York Business, 21(26), 3. Retrieved from EBSCOhost Database.

Moon, S. (2005). Making a business case for domestic partner benefits. Employee Benefit News, 1. Retrieved from EBSCOhost Database.

Pierce, R. (2003). Domestic partner benefits. Retrieved August 6, 2005, from http://www.arbitratorwilliams.com/robynpierce.htm.

By the numbers: Domestic partner benefits. Deseret News. Retrieved from ProQuest Database.

Domestic Partner Benefits; Marginal to mainstream. Retrieved from http://www.salary.com/benefits/layouthtmls/bnfl_display_nocat_Ser78_Par167.html

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