Domestic Partner Benefits on the Rise

April 9, 2001 ( - At a time when competition for employees is fierce, and comprehensive benefits are used to lure the most talented, the number of companies offering domestic partner health benefits has risen.

Typically, businesses that do so choose to cover their workers’ domestic partners for medical and related care and, for example, life insurance.

Since the majority of employees are straight, more unmarried heterosexual couples than gay couples are currently benefiting from these offers, but a larger trend towards equal treatment of employees is developing.

Gay rights advocacy groups note that:

  • More policy notices affirming equal treatment for gay workers are appearing in internal communication.
  • While only 121 of Fortune 500 businesses offer or plan to offer these benefits, some 52% of these companies ban discrimination against gays
  • Among the largest 50 companies, 82% ban workplace bias

Survey Says

A recent survey of 570 large employers by management firm Hewitt Associates found that:

  • Companies that offer domestic partner benefits more than doubled from 1997 to 2000.
  • Of those that did not offer the benefit, 35% will consider offering it within three years.
  • Some 85% of those offering the benefit said that it increased their total benefit costs by less than 1%.
  • Just 1% of all unmarried employees requested the benefit.

Of firms offering the benefit, Hewitt Associates found that:

  • almost three quarters did so to attract and retain employees
  • just under a third did so to comply with a nondiscrimination policy
  • and 17% did so to comply with local government regulations