More than 110 million Americans over the age of 18 are currently unmarried, but many companies have been slow to adjust to support modern relationships, creating an unnecessary value gap between married and single employees.
Looking to dig a little deeper, we asked 300 U.S. HR decision makers about the differences in their benefits programs based on employees’ marital status. We found that an overwhelming 90% of companies offer additional benefits to employees who are married. Disparities between single and married co-workers can be seen across the entire benefits ecosystem with everything from PTO to healthcare and flexible working. Here are four ways singles are losing out to their married counterparts.
1) Unmarried employees have less time to spend with family and friends – and it’s costing them
Unfortunately for most, if you are unmarried you are likely to receive less PTO than if you are legally married. There are significant monetary differences here: married employees receive an average of 3.6 additional days off compared to those who are not. Those days could come in the form of additional paid time off for a wedding and/or honeymoon in the case of 22% of companies. With the U.S. median household income at $56,516 (or $217 per working day), single employees are missing out on approximately $775 in PTO value.
Married employees also receive healthcare contributions totaling $461.80 per month on average. That’s more than $100 extra than the average amount paid to employees who are single ($344.35). Multiplied over a 10-year period, single employees can expect to miss out on $14,094 in healthcare benefits compared to their married counterparts.
As if that weren’t enough, married employees also receive additional pension contributions from 34% of companies.
2) They get fewer days to care for relatives in need
The Family Caregiver Alliance reported that in 2019 there were approximately 39.8 million caregivers providing care to adults with a disability or illness in the U.S. This amounts to a sizeable number of Americans (17%) who need additional family support outside of caring for children.
While almost three quarters of companies offer weeks of paid family leave to employees with children, only 44% offer that option to those who have other family caregiver responsibilities – that’s a 26% gap between the two.
3) They are presented with fewer working options
There is a strong belief that married employees, and especially parents, should be prioritized when it comes to flexible working. More than half of HR decision makers say their firms offer 4-day work weeks to employees with children versus 36% who offer it to everyone. HR decision makers justify this preferential treatment, with 69% saying that “flexible working is more important for colleagues with children.”
More than 60% agree that the benefits system currently works best for the nuclear family model and that “it’s unfair that colleagues without partners don’t receive the same flexible benefits as those that have partners or children.” Despite their acknowledgement that change is needed, they have yet to make flexible arrangements equally available across their workforce.
Personalization is the answer
The importance of benefits flexibility, choice and personalization cannot be overemphasized. More than 80% of HR decision makers agreed that all employees should have access to personalized benefits that suit them best. Unfortunately, only 59% are actually offering these to all employees. And of those respondents who do not yet offer personalized options, just 15% are planning to do so in the future.
Now is the time for greater recognition of diverse lifestyle choices and new family structures in the workplace. The current strategy – in which organizations reward some employees but not others – will only breed resentment. Instead of getting more out of those who are single, companies could wind up with employees who are unhappy with their working arrangements. Unhappy employees are less productive and less likely to remain loyal to their employer, creating another unnecessary issue: turnover.
If organizations want to attract and retain top talent, they need to understand that fair treatment must be extended to everyone. Failing to do so could lead to unintentional discrimination against the average single person. By carefully evaluating the needs of every employee, companies of all shapes and sizes can create a benefits offering that’s truly appreciated – and is valuable and inclusive for all.