Wal-Mart Health Benefits Move Seen As a Gay Rights Win

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 12:00 am  

Wal-Mart said health benefits to its U.S. workers’ domestic partners will start in January.

Wal-Mart’s definition to receive health benefits is for an employee’s legal spouse, as long as they aren’t legally separated, or domestic partner. The domestic partner can be the same or opposite sex “as long as you live together in an ongoing, exclusive, committed relationship similar to marriage and have been doing so for at least 12 months and intend to continue to do so,” Hargrove said.

Hargrove said no proof will be required to enroll a spouse or partner in the coverage. “Our basic beliefs are built on the foundation of integrity,” he said.

The domestic benefits are one of the benefits being offered for next year’s health care coverage.

Wal-Mart also is offering a vision plan for the first time, and covered employees can receive knee and hip replacements at one of four facilities across the country at no cost to them.

The vision plan for an employee-only plan is $2.62 for every bi-weekly pay period. The health care premium for an employee-only plan will rise in 2014 from $17 to about $18 every bi-weekly pay period.

To qualify for health insurance, employees who were hired after Feb. 1, 2012, have to work more than 30 hours a week. Hargrove said employees hired before Feb. 1, 2012, have to work 24 hours a week to be eligible for the company’s health care plan.

A Matter of Competition

For employers that offer domestic partner health benefits, the cost “has been negligible,” the Human Rights Campaign said on its website.

Coverage for domestic partners was “no more expensive than for other individuals and enrollment overall is far lower than original estimates,” HRC said.

Elliott, of the Society for Human Resource Management, said the reason companies offer domestic partner benefits is to give them a competitive edge in recruiting, attracting and retaining employees.

Fidas, of the HRC, agreed. “In no way is it a political statement or any other sort of statement, but a very straightforward decision to keep pace with peers and competitors to ensure more equitable benefits for the entire workforce,” she said.

Wal-Mart has been making moves to support gay rights for at least a decade, Fidas said.

 

 

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