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In 2003, I wrote a BusinessWeek cover story called Unmarried America about how the U.S. was on the verge of becoming a nation of singletons. The story catalogued the vast implications of this unprecedented demographic shift. A big battle ground will be the workplace.
Comes now a stellar sequel in HR magazine entitled “Are You Too Family Friendly?” The piece questions whether companies have taken rah-rah, family-friendly political correctness too far. The story also explores what companies are doing about the fact that much of their benefit infrastructure is tailored to a workforce that is no longer the majority.
Given how many employee benefits are catered—or skewed favorably—toward employees with spouses and children, there is, in some cases, a wealth transfer going, with singles the losers. Some even believe family-friendly policies are an unseen tax on singles. Unmarried people wind up making an average 25% less than married colleagues for the same work because of the marriage-centric structure of health care, retirement, and other benefits, calculates Thomas F. Coleman, a lawyer who heads the Los Angeles-based American Association for Single People.
Consider the employee with a spouse and four kids, all of whom are on the company health plan, versus the singleton who never gets sick.
This is one reason why vanguard HR executives at companies like Microsoft and Best Buy are looking for ways to customize benefits to individual employees.
Meanwhile, is a new social warfare brewing within the corridors of Corporate America?
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