Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Job Benefits Equality for Singles

Declaring your love for someone and committing to faithfully spend your life with that person doesn't require a priest, a lawyer, or a gathering of people. All it takes is personal integrity. Loyalty, honour... all those things that have fallen out of fashion.

When you get right down to it, marriage is simply a legal contract between two people that defines property ownership and sharing of assets. In fact, the law extends almost all of the benefits of a formalized marriage to common-law couples, so there's not a whole lot of incentive to get married (especially if you already have assets which could be split in case of divorce).

But what I'd like to address is this: when you're married or living with someone, you can extend your job benefits (medical, pension, insurance, and so on) to include that person, usually at no cost. In the past few years, this benefit has been extended to same-sex couples.

I think it's past time the same consideration was given to single people.

What? Who do single people need benefits for? Well, I'm sure there are many people who would appreciate being able to extend their prescription drug coverage to an elderly parent, or their medical coverage to a disabled or unemployed sibling. How about extending dental coverage to a friend who needs their wisdom teeth removed?

Now, of course there would be reasonable limits on this. Just as with common-law couples, benefits coverage would only be extended to one person, and restricted as to how often the beneficiary could be changed (likely once per year). That's a reasonable restriction.

In fact, freedom in assigning benefits would benefit married people as well. With two people working at different employers, one of them could extend their benefits to their spouse, and the other could extend theirs to the elderly parent, for instance.

The point is, unless single people have freedom in assigning their benefits, they're really only receiving half the benefits of their co-workers. While society is examining what it means to be married, this might be an opportunity to examine job benefits and make them equal for singles.

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