From traditional . . . to domestic
partners . . . to extended families
. . . to cafeteria-style benefits

In the 1950s and 1960s, employee benefits plans were based upon a traditional family model. Employers assumed that everyone would marry and that couples would consist of a wage-earner husband and home-maker wife with children.

Based on this assumption, employee benefits plans provided coverage for a worker, a spouse, and dependent children. Singles were ignored.

Then came the social and sexual revolution of the 1970s and 1980s. Women entered the workforce in larger numbers than ever before. Adults delayed marriage or did not marry at all. Couples lived together prior to marriage

 or simply cohabited without ever marrying. Many married couples chose not to have children. Many single adults had
children prior to or without marriage.

These social changes put pressure on  personnel managers to redesign employee benefits plans to respond to the needs
 of an increasingly diverse workforce.

Domestic partner benefits plans emerged. For many years, the plans were gender neutral and open to all unmarried couples – same-sex and opposite-sex partners alike.

Then came the push for same-sex marriage, with a major media on gay couples pressing for change and leaving unmarried heterosexual couples in the background. Many employers responded to the "squeaky wheel" and instituted domestic partner plans limited to same-sex couples.

Then Bank of America took a bold step by instituting an "extended family" benefits program, eliminating the issue of sex as a focal point of employee benefits compensation.




Under its program, each employee may select one adult household member as a benefits beneficiary – either a spouse, a domestic partner of the same or opposite sex, or a dependent blood relative.

Other financial institutions soon adopted this broad and inclusive model, including Bank Boston, Fleet Bank, Nations Bank, Merrill Lynch, Prudential Insurance, American Century Investments, and Citi Group.

But despite these progressive changes, one group of employees has been neglected by all of these programs – single people.

Where Bank of America has left off, Xerox Corporation has taken the lead in providing "equal pay for equal work" and showing respect for diversity.

Within a few years, Xerox plans to compensate its 47,000 U.S. employees based solely on their jobs, not the particular configuration of their families.

"Ultimately," explains far-sighted  benefits director Patricia Nazemetz, "we want to be indifferent to what your family 
status is just like, quite frankly, we're indifferent to that when we give you your paycheck."

Every Xerox worker – single, married, straight or gay would receive an annual lump sum allowance that could be spent on a vast cafeteria of individual and family benefits.

Since benefits compensation accounts for up to 30% of a worker’s overall pay, single workers really suffer when benefits are not distributed fairly. The Xerox plan is one way to fix this.

Equal pay for equal work? Pay based on productivity and merit? Respect for diversity? Acknowledging the value of single people?. How revolutionary!

Single workers everywhere would surely benefit if other companies were to copy Xerox.

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