Biglaw, Health Care / Medicine, Perks / Fringe Benefits

Biglaw Perk Watch: Deterring Dependents

It’s been a while since we did a perk watch that didn’t involve things getting better for gays and lesbians. Ever since the recession, Biglaw has acted like having a job also counts as a fringe benefit.

But benefits haven’t been frozen in time since 2007. We have extensively reported on the “gay gross up” (or “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits”) trend. But there have been some interesting health benefit trends happening at law firms beyond extending basic fairness to same-sex couples.

Adam Okun has done a round-up of Biglaw perks on the blog Frenkely Speaking. It’s not going to come as a galloping shock that Biglaw is punishing to families….

These findings are based on a survey of 52 firms, averaging 500 employees. You can read the full report here. What jumped out at me was the Biglaw trend toward punishing employees who want to cover their dependents under their firm health care plans:

It is increasingly popular to charge families a higher percentage of plan costs in an attempt to incentivize employees to move dependents off the plan. Particularly as a result of the recession, many of the stronger surviving companies were “dependent magnets” for spouses who lost jobs or coverage, bringing along the children with them onto the employed spouse’s plan. Nationally, employers charge their single employees 20% of the single premium rate, and families pay a punitive 32% of the already higher family premium. However, this trend is even starker for law firms, that, at the median, charge single employees 17% of premium and families 38% of premium. Law firms are clearly indicating that they place great value on the benefits of their own employees, but they don’t feel an equal responsibility to provide affordable coverage for the employees’ dependents.

As if having kids while working in Biglaw wasn’t hard enough, Biglaw health care plans are making the decision to start a family even more punitive. Yay, private health care system.

Biglaw might not care about your kids, but they want you to be healthy. Or, they at least don’t want you to drop dead at your desk:

Wellness programs – One of the most surprising findings in our survey was just how prevalent wellness programs are in the legal environment. Nearly 70% of law firms offer wellness newsletters, 64% offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and 43% offer health club discounts. The national numbers for these categories were 36%, 42%, and 23%, respectively. Law firms also lead other employers in offerings of blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, and smoking cessation and weight loss programs. However, given the slow embrace in healthcare consumerism, it is our strong belief that the motivation in law firms offering these programs is less a cost reduction tool than an additional employee benefit. This is in stark contrast to other employers who offer these programs in an attempt to aggressively manage employee health. Indeed, 80% of Law Firms surveyed had no expected five-year ROI on their wellness programs.

Yeah, cleaning your dead body out of your office is inefficient.

In general, Biglaw is pretty good about benefits as compared to other industries. The don’t-call-it-collusive nature of Biglaw means that good benefits tend be adopted by all the top firms. But for the most part, partners just want to keep employees healthy and billing.

And, perhaps sterile.

Key Findings from Frenkel’s 2011 National Law Firm Survey [Frenkely Speaking]

Earlier: Biglaw Perk Watch: Has the Gay Gross-Up Hit the Tipping Point?

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