How Important Is Domestic Partner Benefits to HR?

In reflecting on the 2010 SHRM Conference in June of this year, where I attended a session called Employee Benefits; Just How Competitive Is Your Company? where the speaker Steve Williams Ph. D., SPHR threw out the number that now 33% of companies offer benefits for domestic partners and said that if you’re not providing this benefit you need to get with it, suggesting that if your organization did not offer domestic partner benefits you may be losing out on a large segment of the population, which got me thinking:  Is this what we need to be advocating for our employers, as HR Professionals?  As a member of SRHM National and a local chapter is that what we need SHRM to be advocating for its members?

So I looked a little deeper at SHRM. According to one of the knowledgeable advisors that I spoke with about this matter, SHRM does offer Domestic Partner benefits for its employees. Additionally, SHRM advocates for employers to provide this benefit and provided me with a number of documents which state this position.

In contemplating this, I recall a vivid memory from my past that helped shape me and the way I feel about those who are gay.  I consider myself to be a middle-class, old, white guy who grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in the 1960s. I was out on my own at young age; my father passed away when I was fourteen, and then four years later my mother suddenly died. The Viet Nam war was starting to wind down.  I give you all of this, so you know a little bit about me.  As a not-too-worldly young man in 1974, I was befriended by a nice, seemingly well-to-do, gentleman who worked in state government, who I will call John.  John was actually a friend’s older sibling’s friend.  John got me a decent job in state government, with his connections.  John had also promised my older sister, who was away at college and worried about her little brother, that he would do what he could to help me, and make sure I was ok.  Some years later, after John drifted away from my circle of friends, someone told me, You know John is gay.  I remember being troubled, thinking that was an unnecessary thing to say. I thought, even if it is true, why put it out there in such a disparaging way.  After pausing for a moment, I responded, No I don’t know that, but what I do know about John is he is one hell of a nice guy who has helped me on several occasions.

So back to my question:  Is this what we need to be advocating for our employers, as HR Professionals?  Well, I agree with Mr. Williams, I think the time has come, so consider me out of the closet on this issue. And, by the way, I ran into John about a year ago and exchanged pleasantries with him. Is he gay?  I still don’t know but it doesn’t really matter anyway.

Guest blogger on Blogging4Jobs is Dave Ryan has been in HR since it was called Personnel. Dave is active with SHRM in many different aspects.  Dave is also a certified U.S.A. Hockey Official and a frequent speaker at local colleges who speaks about H.R. topics and social media in the workplace. Dave enjoys reading blogs, staying current on H.R. topics, officiating ice hockey, golf, computers and all gadgets electronic. You can find Dave on LinkedInDavetheHRCzar. and on twitter, @davethehrczar.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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  1. I would agree that companies who DON’T offer Domestic Partner Benefits should get with the program. This isn’t “cutting edge” anymore. REAL cutting-edge benefits teams are actually going a step further, and reimbursing recipients of DP Benefits for the increased taxes that they have to pay to insure their partners (that legally married people don’t). Just sayin’.

  2. First, I need to ask, is domestic partner the same as same-sex partner? Would using either verbiage be correct? What legal implications does it instill since domestic partners can be gay or straight?

    In addition, if a company wants to attract top talent, it is crucial to provide same-sex partner benefits. It communicates that the company embraces diversity and is the most appealing aspect for most GLBT individuals. In addition, it fosters a work environment that supports a gay-friendly environment. Since the benefit is available, employees are aware that the company is supportive of GLBT employees and therefore are less likely to harass these individuals.

  3. RedSeven thanks for your comments. I agreet that while DP Benefits is not cutting edge, there are still a number of companies who do not provide this benefit.

    Ian- in my world DP benfits are for hetero and was a home sexual couples. My fear is anything less would probably result in litigation, sooner or later. I think however when people hear talk of DP benefits this typically conjures up thoughts of benefits for homosexual couples. Regarding diverse reruiting, I agree that a company must provide a workplace that embraces diversity to make everyone feel welcome, to do anything less would make DP benefits a moot point.

    Thanks for your responses.- Dave Ryan

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