Domestic Partner Benefits
Many employers provide health insurance coverage to the domestic partners of their employees. Domestic partner benefits generally include medical and dental insurance, but they may also include disability and life insurance, family and bereavement leave, education and tuition assistance, relocation and travel expenses, and inclusion of partners in company events.
Since same-sex marriage is now legal in every state, some employers have dropped their domestic partner benefits and require that couples get married in order to qualify for employee benefits. However, some employers—especially those that offer same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partner benefits—are continuing to provide domestic partner benefits for a variety of reasons.
Reasons for Offering Domestic Partner Benefits
Companies offer domestic partner benefits for many reasons. Some of the most commonly cited reasons for providing domestic partner benefits include:
- Hiring and retention—Domestic partner benefits can have a positive impact on attracting and retaining top talent by recognizing that some people need health benefits for their partners, but prefer not to marry.
- Improved employee productivity—One purpose of a benefits program is to provide a safety net for employees and their families, thereby allowing them to better focus on work. Employee morale and productivity improve in environments where employees believe that the employer values them. Offering domestic partner benefits is a way for employers to adapt to the changing needs of their employees by expanding the eligibility of existing benefits programs
- Ethical concern for others—Many employers offer domestic partner benefits for ethical reasons, like to allow non-married couples to have the same rights as married ones.
- State law requirements—Some states, such as California, have laws that require health insurance coverage for domestic partners.
Reasons for Not Offering Domestic Partner Benefits
Companies choose not to offer (or to eliminate) domestic partner benefits for many reasons. Some of the most commonly cited reasons for not providing domestic partner benefits include:
- Availability of same-sex marriage—Some employers offered same-sex domestic partner benefits because employees did not have the option to legally wed their same-sex partners. Because same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states, some employers have decided to require employees to marry their domestic partners within a certain time frame or risk losing their partners’ health insurance coverage.
- Fraud concern—Another reason cited for not offering domestic partner benefits is the fear that employees will misrepresent their relationships to obtain benefits for individuals who are not their domestic partners. To address this concern, many employers require employees to sign a legally binding statement attesting to the existence of the partnership.