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More domestic, same-sex partners receiving mobility benefits 

By Ken Tysiac 
July 11 2012

More companies are expanding the concept of who constitutes an employee’s family when they make accommodations for international assignments and are increasingly including unmarried domestic partners in such mobility benefits – a move that comes amid increasingly stiff competition for the best workers.

Fifty-five per cent of organisations include unmarried domestic partners of the opposite gender in their mobility plans, according to KPMG’s Global Assignment Policies and Practices survey. That’s more than twice the 24% of companies surveyed in 1999 who offered mobility benefits to unmarried domestic partners of workers on international assignment.

The percentage of mobility plans including same-sex partners, meanwhile, has almost tripled. Forty-nine per cent of companies surveyed now offer such benefits, compared with 17% in 1999.

These developments have occurred as employers in some industries are reporting difficulties finding the right people to fill vacancies and are fretting about keeping their key talent, said Achim Mossmann, a principal in KPMG’s International Executive Services practice. He added that changes in social acceptance also have played a role in the increased mobility benefits available over the last ten years to unmarried domestic partners of both the same and opposite sex.

Sixty-five per cent of respondents in a survey of human resources professionals by nonprofit WorldatWork said retention is a major concern of management. Most companies in that survey reported that they have retention programmes that offer above-average pay and benefits such as flexible scheduling to attempt to keep key talent.

The broadened definition of family began with traditional benefits such as health insurance for domestic partners and has been expanded into mobility policies, Mossmann said. He said some companies that do not offer such benefits as a matter of policy provide them on an individual basis.
 
Restrictive immigration policies, however, can trump mobility benefits for domestic partners in some locations.

“If immigration does not allow for non-married partners to live or work in the temporary assignment location, all the policy benefits don’t really get you anywhere,” Mossmann said. “If you come to the United States, if you are not married, your domestic partner will not get a residence permit here. It’s just not going to happen.”

The greatest proliferation of these benefits occurs at companies with headquarters in Europe and Asia, according to the survey. Seventy-seven per cent of European companies and an equal percentage of Asian companies surveyed provide mobility benefits to domestic partners of the opposite sex. Same-sex domestic partners receive mobility benefits from 63% of European companies and 60% of Asian companies surveyed.

At companies based in the Americas, opposite-sex (40%) and same-sex (41%) domestic partners are less likely to receive mobility benefits.

“The highest acceptance is in Western Europe,” Mossmann said. “… The U.S. is a little behind Western Europe in terms of providing mobility benefits to same- or opposite-gender domestic partners.”

Financial sector employers were most likely to offer assignment-related benefits to opposite sex (73%) and same-sex (67%) domestic partners, while the energy and manufacturing sectors were significantly less likely to do so.

Ken Tysiac (ktysiac@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

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