Two months after the decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), employers are still trying to figure out how the ruling will impact their employee benefit offerings, new research shows.
A study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans revealed that two-thirds of employers still need further clarification and guidance on the complete impact of the ruling, which overturned DOMA's definition of marriage as exclusively between a man and a women. As a result, these employers are awaiting more information before they can make major changes to their employee benefits and policies.
Julie Stich, research director at the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans, said the Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA is a step forward for married same-sex couples but poses a number of questions for both workers and employers that provide spousal benefits.
"The decision impacts various types of employee benefits and retirement plans, and poses tax questions for both employers and employees," Stich said. "Employers have to consider how this ruling affects their health insurance in the midst of implementing Affordable Care Act provisions."
Despite some uncertainty on how to proceed, some employers are moving forward with expanded benefit offerings to same-sex couples. The research found that 13 percent of companies have begun to adjust their benefits, while 25 percent have had initial planning discussions on how to do so.
Overall, more than 40 percent of organizations currently offer benefits to unmarried, opposite-sex domestic partners, with an additional 10 percent now considering adding benefits for unmarried opposite-sex couples. In addition, 5 percent of employers are going in the opposite direction by considering dropping benefits for unmarried, opposite-sex couples.
The study discovered that many multistate employers will now provide benefits to same-sex couples even in states that don't recognize same-sex marriage. More than a quarter of the businesses with locations in states where same-sex marriage is and isn't legal will now extend benefit rights to all married same-sex couples even if they live in a state that does not recognize or allow same-sex marriage.
The research was based on surveys of 915 corporate human resources and benefits professionals and other industry experts who represent a comprehensive range of organizations with respect to size, industry and region.