November 13, 2019: Thomsons Online Benefits today reveals new research investigating the benefits gap between married and single employees. The study, which surveyed 300 U.S. HR decision makers, found nearly all companies (90%) are offering more benefits to employees who are married, leaving those without a legal partner out of pocket.

Disparities between single and married employees have been found across the entire benefits ecosystem and have a significant monetary impact. For example, married employees receive, on average, 3.6 more days of paid time off (PTO) per year than single employees. In part, this is as a result of 22% of companies offering additional PTO for weddings and honeymoons. With the median household income in the U.S. equating to $217 per working day it means married employees are enjoying $775 more in PTO value each year.

Benefits program disparities can also be found in the following categories:

  • Healthcare: The average monthly employer contribution to a married employee’s healthcare plan is $462 versus $344 for a single employee. Over ten years, this would result in an additional $14,160 in benefits value for married employees
  • Family leave: While approximately 39.8 million Americans provide care to adults with a disability or illness, 70% of companies only offer paid family leave to employees with children
  • Pensions: Married employees receive additional pension contributions from 34% of companies
  • Bereavement leave: Only 29% of companies offer bereavement leave for a friend’s funeral. Shockingly, even fewer (25%) would offer time off for the funeral of a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Flexible working: In addition, 56% of companies offer 4-day work weeks to employees with children, while only 36% offer it to employees without children. The survey reveals a strong underlying belief that traditional family units should be prioritized over the relationships of single employees, with 69% of HR decision makers stating that flexible working is more important for colleagues with children. 

However, not all is lost for single employees. HR decision makers do recognize the wider implications of the benefits gap. Over 60% agree that the benefits system works best today for nuclear families and that “it’s unfair that colleagues without legal partners don’t receive the same flexible benefits as those that are married or have children.”


Eighty-three percent of HR decision makers agree that all employees should have access to personalized benefits that suit them best. However, only 59% are offering personalized benefits programs to everyone. Companies that want every employee to feel supported through their benefits program, regardless of marital status, are offering personalized benefits such as paid time off for personal development days (51%) and charity days (41%).

“Organizations need to recognize and respond to the changing nature of and lifestyle choices,” explained Matthew Jackson, Vice President of Client Solutions at Thomsons Online Benefits. “Offering packages that significantly benefit people who make some life choices over others breeds resentment amongst employees and could harm retention. Fair treatment needs to be extended to all employees through a personalized benefits offering that’s truly valuable and inclusive for all.”


About Thomsons Online Benefits

Thomsons Online Benefits is a SaaS provider of global employee benefits and employee engagement software. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mercer, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and career. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE:MMC). Thomsons’ award-winning platform, Darwin™, is the global market leader for automated employee benefits administration. With over 2 million lives on Darwin™, it connects employees with their benefits in over 97 countries and 30 languages. By using the right combination of editions, Darwin™ provides a tailored solution to meet a variety of employee benefit and reward needs, including employee engagement, managing risk, controlling costs and streamlining benefits administration. Its ability to constantly evolve and cater for shifting workforce needs has made it the provider of choice for eight of the world’s top ten technology companies. Thomsons has received109 industry awards, including the prestigious Brandon Hall Group gold award for Best Advance in Rewards and Recognition Technology in 2015, and the latest win, Most Effective Use of Benefits Technology at the Employee Benefits Awards 2017 for our work with Bristol-Myers Squibb. Mercer and Thomsons combine world-class consulting and broking with innovative technology, driving transformation in the way that benefits are designed, communicated and administered.