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Should You Extend Benefits to Unmarried Couples?

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

The trend of unmarried couples living together is leading to some unintended consequences, including issues regarding the extension of employee health benefits.

Traditionally, companies that provided health benefits offered them only to the spouse and dependents of an employee. That meant boyfriends and girlfriends weren't included, even if they were in a stable, long-term relationship.

While that model is still the dominant one, some companies are now offering more. What began as an effort to help same-sex couples get benefits has had some important benefits for young opposite-sex couples too.

While "domestic partner" is a legal term that connotes a specific relationship, on insurance policies it can include unmarried couples in long-term committed relationships.

When companies consider covering same-sex domestic partners, the issue of covering opposite-sex parents sometimes comes up. For many of those companies, it's the right choice. Coverage for unmarried opposite-sex couples has gone up almost as fast as for same-sex couples, reports The Huffington Post.

Depending on your employee base, it may be a good idea for you as well.

When considering which insurance plans to offer, the primary issue is usually your cost as an employer. So when you review your coverage, it's a good time to figure out if additional coverage for non-spouses is something your business can afford.

If you can afford it, then consider if it's something your current or future employees would appreciate. It may also help to speak to an attorney or insurance broker about the legal requirements of expanding your plan and how it could affect your business.

Unmarried committed couples are more likely to be in their 20s and 30s, according to USA Today. If that's a large portion of your employee base, they may appreciate the option to extend benefits to their significant other.

Benefits for unmarried couples do exist, but they're far from typical, so it's up to you whether your company should provide them. Consider your options before you make your choice.

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