Survey: Domestic Partner Benefits Up, Signing Bonuses Down in 2005

January 25, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The number of employers offering domestic partner benefits is on the rise, but so are health care deductibles, according to the annual BLR Survey of Employee Benefits.

The annual survey for 2005 shows that the number of employers offering benefits to domestic partners has increased over the past two years, with 13% offering such benefits in 2003 compared to 19% in 2005 for exempt and nonexempt office employees. Nonexempt plant employees see less of the benefits, however, with only 11% of employers offering such benefits in 2005, according to an executive summary of the report. This is up from 8% in 2003.

Fewer employers are demanding that proof of domestic partnership status be provided, according to the report. Because of different policies in different states, BLR found that employers are being increasingly flexible about how domestic partnership is established. Only 65% of employers will require proof in 2005, down from 71% in 2003. Despite the rise in overall domestic partner benefits, however, BLR found that the number of employers offering COBRA benefits is decreasing, with only 50% offering such benefits, compared to 58% in 2003.

With the good news (for employees) for domestic partnership benefits comes the bad news of increasing deductibles for health care, according to the study. The number of employers offering a deductible of more than $1,000 for exempt and nonexempt office employees increased from 18% in 2002 to 27% in 2004. BLR cited the passing-on of costs to employees and the offering of HSAs as two possible reasons for the higher deductibles being offered by employers.

The study also found that employers are offering fewer floating holidays – or days that an employee can self-designate as a holiday in order to take a day off. Despite an increasing trend over the long-term, the study found that the number of employers not offering such a system increased to 66% in 2005, up from 51% in 2003.

Fewer employers are offering signing bonuses as well, according to BLR. This can be seen most prominently in the IT field: in 2005, only 3% of employers offered such bonuses to IT employees, down significantly from the 15% seen in 2003. Management (13% to 10%), non-technical positions (5% to 3%) and Web positions (4% to 2%) all also saw decreases in the number of employers offering signing bonuses, according to the survey.

Finally, the survey found that the number of employers maintaining full pay for employees serving in the Reserves or National Guard has dropped from 2003. For exempt employees, 33% of employers were paying full salary in 2003; in 2005, the number is expected to be 15%. Non-exempt plant employees also saw a drop with only about 15% of their employers offering full salary in 2005. This is down from 25% and 18% respectively. Correspondingly, the number of employers offering no pay to has jumped, with 50% in 2005 not paying such workers at all. This is up from 31% in 2003. The remaining percentage (34%) have offered to make up the difference between what workers earn in the military and in their old jobs, a figure that is down 2% from 2003.

The BLR survey looked at over 3,000 employers across the country. Employers may obtain a free Executive Summary of BLR’s 2005 Employee Benefits Survey athttp://www.blr.com/82008500/WBP1211.

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