Married Workers Get Better Benefits

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Jan 2, 2019

Marriage has a host of tangible benefits – from married couples living longer to getting significant tax breaks – but new research shows that tying the knot also improves many Americans’ employee workplace benefits over their single co-workers. Based on a survey of 300 US HR decision makers, our study examined the impact of marital status on flexible working options and paid time off (PTO), as well as other benefits. The results were striking – the vast majority of companies (90%) offer more benefits or benefits of higher value to employees who are married.

Major disparities

Married couples certainly have an advantage. More than 40% of employers say that they only offer flexible working hours to their employees who are legally married. Paid time off is also allocated to those getting hitched, with 22% providing additional PTO for a wedding and honeymoon. This leaves single employees with less flexibility, but the disparities don’t end there. Regarding childcare benefits, 43% of HR decision makers say they are reserved for married couples, leaving parents who aren’t married with fewer benefits.

Employers often refer to these bigger moments – getting married or having children – as “life events” or a “change in circumstance.” But they should be thinking much more broadly when considering the moments that matter to employees.

In addition to the aforementioned life events, employees might appreciate PTO to seek assistance for mental health issues. Or they might need extra time off to care for a sick relative. These moments where extra support is needed are applicable to everyone, not just those who are married with kids. In turn, they provide employers with more opportunities to connect with their employees.

With married employees receiving an average of 3.6 more days of PTO per year — in part because of those companies that offer additional time off for honeymoons and weddings, it’s clear who benefits most at work.

Put another way, the US median weekly salary for full time workers is about $184 per working day. That means married employees enjoy $662 more in PTO value each year. As if that weren’t enough, 34% of those surveyed offer additional pension contributions exclusively to those who are married.

Benefits attract talent

This is great news for anyone who ties the knot, but employers need to understand the importance of offering greater benefits to everyone, especially as marriage rates continue to decline. In this highly competitive marketplace, job seekers are looking for an employer that values their talent. Benefits packages are an essential way for a company to highlight that value.

For example, those who offer flexible working can more readily connect with their employees. Whether offering compressed hours or the ability to work remotely from home, flexibility is highly valued by employees. In fact, 40% of Americans say they are in favor of a four-day work week. Shorter weeks can bolster morale, foster a better work-life balance, and increase productivity throughout the week. Those working a four-day schedule have also shown higher energy.

The number of unmarried people over 18 make up 45% of all US residents. While companies tend to offer more benefits to married employees, our study found that HR decision makers are starting to understand that this disparity isn’t right. Over 60% agree that it’s unfair that colleagues without legal partners don’t receive the same flexible benefits as those that are married. And 83% agree or strongly agree that “All employees should have access to personalized benefits that suit them best.” The disparity in benefits may also have potential legal implications.

While companies tend to offer more benefits to married employees, the study showed encouraging results regarding the number of individualized benefits programs being offered. Some of these benefits include education/tuition reimbursement (56%) and flexible working policies (49%). Many organizations are receptive to the idea of offering PTO to employees who wish to volunteer (46%). Some even provide pet insurance (16%).

More organizations now understand that benefits that meet the needs of all employees are not just “nice to haves,” but imperative to providing an individual, equal and fair offering to everyone, no matter their marital status.

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