THE BLOG
07/09/2015 02:28 pm ET Updated Jul 09, 2016

Will Domestic Partner Benefits Stay or Go After the Supreme Court Decision?

The U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 26, 2015 means all states must now license same-sex marriages or recognize those performed in other states. The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans administered a survey to find out how the Obergefell v. Hodges decision will affect employers.

Over the years, I've watched with interest as employers have discussed the idea of offering domestic partner benefits--should it be only to same-sex couples? Opposite-sex couples too? Neither? How does it impact costs and administration? Discussions like this led us to conduct this survey.

Slightly more than half of employers responding to the survey believe the Supreme Court ruling will have an impact on their organization. Here's what else we found:

Same-Sex Domestic Partners

  • More than half of employers (57.4%) offered benefits to same-sex domestic partners at the time of the ruling.
  • Among those organizations, more than 70% are likely to continue providing those benefits and 30% are unlikely.

What's the main reason 30% of employers are unlikely to continue providing benefits to same-sex domestic partners? They only offered it in the past because same-sex couples couldn't legally marry - and now they can.

Opposite-Sex Domestic Partners

  • Almost half of employers (45.4%) offered benefits to opposite-sex domestic partners at the time of the ruling.
  • Among those organizations, more than 80% are likely to continue providing those benefits and less than 20% are unlikely.

Despite the Supreme Court's decision to make same-sex marriage legal, many employers are deciding to continue offering benefits to unmarried domestic partners. They see providing benefits--to both same- and opposite-sex domestic partners--as a way to ensure employees and their loved ones are happy and healthy.

Employers that offer benefits to same- and opposite-sex domestic partners said their main reason for continuing to offer them is the desire to be equitable (if they offer to one type of domestic partner, they feel they should offer to both). Other reasons include attracting and retaining quality employees, recognizing all types of families, and feeling it's the right thing to do.

Employers also weighed in on how the decision will impact their benefits administration. When employment laws change, there can be a significant impact on the administration requirements placed on employers. In this case, most employers are reporting that their work either stayed the same (53%) or got easier (38%). Only 8.9% report that their administration difficulties are increasing due to the decision.

To review the findings of this survey, visit www.ifebp.org/domesticpartnerbenefits.