Put a Ring On It or Lose Domestic Partner Benefits

Following the Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, a growing number of employers are requiring same-sex couples to marry to receive health care benefits.

For many employers, domestic partner benefits were a way to provide equal coverage to employees in both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships. However, with the legalization of same-sex marriage, same-sex couples now have the ability to marry—meaning that domestic partner benefits are no longer needed to provide a consistent benefit package.

Put a Ring On It or Lose Domestic Partner Benefits

In 2014, one year before the ruling, employers reported that:

  • 51% provided benefits to same-sex partners in a civil unions
  • 59% provided benefits to same-sex domestic partners
  • 79% provided benefits to same-sex spouses.

In 2016, one year after the ruling, the number of employers offering health care benefits to unmarried same-sex couples has dropped. Employers report that:

  • 31% are providing benefits to same-sex partners in civil unions (down 20% from 2014)
  • 48% are providing benefits to same-sex domestic partners (down 11% from 2014).

At the same time, the number of employers offering health care benefits to same-sex spouses increased.

  • 86% of employers are providing benefits to same-sex spouses (an increase of 7% from 2014).

The results are perhaps not surprising, given that immediately after the 2015 SCOTUS ruling, three out of ten employers reported they were likely to discontinue providing benefits to same-sex domestic partners.

[Related: Certificate in Strategic Benefits Management, October 9-14, 2017, San Jose, California]

By dropping domestic partner benefits and requiring all couples to marry, employers are able to ease some of the administrative burden that comes with maintaining a separate domestic partner policy.

However, it’s unlikely that domestic partner benefits will disappear completely. Competitive employers are always working to provide an inclusive benefit package and offering domestic partner benefits can build a culture of inclusion and help the company attract the best talent.

Larger organizations are the most likely to be maintaining same-sex domestic partner benefits. Three out of four organizations (77%) with 10,000 or more employees continue to offer domestic partner benefits.

Findings above were drawn from Employee Benefits Survey: 2016 Results, Domestic Partner Benefits After the Supreme Court Decision: 2015 Survey Results and Employee Benefits for Same-Sex Couples: The DOMA Decision One Year Later.

Brenda Hofmann
Brenda Hofmann
Senior Communications Associate at the International Foundation

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