Many companies plan to retain domestic partner benefits

The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) today released a new poll on health benefits offered by their members to domestic partners that shows about half of large employers are considering eliminating those benefits. This survey of ERIC members focused on the reaction of large employers to the legalization of same-sex marriage after two important decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in Windsor and Obergefell.

ERIC says it wanted to know whether companies plan to continue offering health benefits to same-sex domestic partners now that same-sex marriage is legal in all states. The poll is the third and final poll that addresses the evolution of domestic partner benefits over the last three years.

Influence of legalization of same-sex marriage. The poll found that currently large employers overwhelmingly provide domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples (87% of respondents), and 64% of respondents offer them to opposite-sex couples. With marriage now legal for same-sex couples, 40% of those companies that participated in the poll are considering ending domestic partner benefits, while an equal number do not plan to end these benefits. Almost 15% of respondents have dropped domestic partner health benefits within the last two years.

“ERIC members have had a strong history of providing health and retirement benefits to same-sex partners long before Obergefell v. Hodges,” said Gretchen Young, Senior Vice President of Health Policy, ERIC. “This new poll shows that despite same-sex marriage being legal, many of ERIC’s members will continue to offer these important benefits.”

Reasons given. When companies that plan to maintain domestic partner benefits were asked why were doing so, absolutely none said that it was for ease of plan administration. Just under 17% said they were maintaining benefits because of requirements by some states and localities, and nearly 50% said they were doing so because they saw themselves as companies that value diversity. Almost 17% said they were maintaining domestic partner benefits to attract and retain talent and just under 14% said they were doing it because they did not want to be seen as reducing benefits for employees.

ERIC advocates exclusively for the employee benefit and compensation interests of the country’s largest employers. Its members consist of companies with 10,000 or more employees.

SOURCE: ERIC survey and press release, www.eric.org, March 10, 2016.

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