Half of Private Bay State Employers See Same-Sex Couple Benefit Requests

January 14, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A survey of private sector plans in Massachusetts following the state Supreme Court ruling on benefits for same-sex couples has found that only 55% of organizations have received requests to enroll a same-gender spouse in a benefits program.

Although they admit that their sample size is too small to be statistically significant, The Segal Company stated that most of the respondents (64 out of 76 who responded to the question) who have received such requests indicated that they have enrolled fewer than five same-gender married couples. The largest number of respondents (26) stated that they had only enrolled one, according to Segal.

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When asked if their companies will provide identical benefits to all legally married couples, 62% answered in the positive. Twenty-two percent said they would not offer identical benefits, while 16% said they did not yet know.

When asked whether they will provide retirement benefits to same-gender spouses that are the same as opposite-sex spouses, 35% responded in the positive and 34% in the negative. Thirty-one percent did not yet know.

Of those who sponsored qualified retirement plans, 44% defined spouse as the federal government does – as a person of opposite sex. – while 30% did not.

As of right now, 61% of organizations polled provide domestic partner benefits. Of these, 56% offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples only. Of those who offer domestic benefits partner benefits, 52% said they would not cancel them in states recognizing same-gender benefits.

Segal also noted six benefits and human resources issues raised by the Massachusetts same-sex benefits decision. They are:

  • addressing federal tax withholding and reporting for benefits provided.
  • reviewing implications for COBRA, FLMLA, flexible spending under Code Section 125, HSAs, and qualified retirement plans.
  • ensuring that communication pieces are accurate.
  • maintaining consistent enrollment procedures for all types of couples.
  • coordination with diversity initiatives and other benefits programs.
  • updating payroll systems and program administration.

In October, Segal released findings from public companies in the Bay State. The number of plans experiencing requests for same-sex benefits coverage was slightly higher in the public sector at 61% (See Segal Finds Slow Start for Same-Sex Enrollments ).

A summary of the private-sector research is at http://www.segalco.com/publications/surveysandstudies/fall04MApriv.pdf .

The Segal Company ( www.segalco.com ) is a national benefits, compensation, and human resources consulting firm.