Executives at Nationwide had to know the decision would be controversial. They did it anyway. Good for them. I hope other Central Ohio companies follow suit.
After all, extending benefits to employees financially dependent relatives, roommates and domestic partners thoughtfully addresses the ever-evolving needs of todays work force. Its not a political statement. Its not condoning or condemning any particular lifestyle. Its simply recognizing and acting upon a need for change.
Traditional insurance coverage for spouses and dependent children isnt enough anymore. Some households now include aging parents who can no longer care for themselves physically or financially, but either dont want to live in a retirement home or cant afford it.
Other households include younger employees who share expenses with college friends who have no insurance or siblings who work part time and arent eligible for benefits at their own companies. Then, of course, there are families that include domestic partners of the same sex or different who depend on each other financially.
Face it: The once-heralded nuclear family is becoming increasingly rare. Whether we like that or not, its reality. Companies which recognize and address that shift on the homefront are apt to come out on top in the office.
Extending benefits to more loved ones will not only ease the minds of employees who fear the financial fallout of a sudden medical emergency involving someone they care about, but it is apt to make for a more loyal work force as well. Employees want to work for a company that cares about them. This policy change shows Nationwide not only cares for its workers as human beings with responsibilities outside the office, but that it recognizes employees face differing circumstances at home.
Some business owners may be hesitant to extend benefits to more members of their employees households since the cost of health care is expected to rise this year. Yet experience has shown that very few nontraditional dependents actually elect such coverage.
Other companies shy away from offering benefits to nonmarried couples and extended family because they fear negative publicity from those opposed to alternative lifestyles. Thats cowardly. Doing whats best for your employees is what matters here. It takes guts to stand up for what you believe is right.
Kudos to Nationwide for daring to do just that.
Nancy Byron (email@example.com) is editor of SBN Columbus.