A message from President Milliken on employee benefitsColleagues,
Many of you have expressed your support in recent years for expanding the university's employee benefits plan so that it would be more fair, equitable and competitive. Today we will outline a proposal for such a plan before the Board of Regents.
During the Board's Business Affairs Committee meeting, Vice President for Business and Finance David Lechner and I will present a proposal to expand eligibility for participation in the University's benefits program to include employees' same- and opposite-sex partners and their dependent children. I believe our proposal would put the University in a stronger position to attract and retain talented faculty and staff, address the changing needs of our employees, and help us fulfill our goal to serve Nebraska. Most importantly, I believe that providing equitable benefits is the right thing to do for our employees.
Our proposal would create an "Employee Plus One" category for benefits coverage that would allow an unmarried employee to elect coverage for a partner who shares the employee's household and with whom the employee is financially interdependent. A new category of family coverage also would be added that would allow an employee's partner and their dependent children to receive coverage. The proposal also would extend "soft" benefits such as paid leave to qualifying unmarried couples and their dependent children.
As you know, partner benefits have become an increasingly common component of competitive benefits plans in the workplace. A growing number of public and private sector employers have extended benefits programs to include employees' partners to recruit and retain talented people and promote workplace equality. Every other Big Ten university provides partner benefits, as do a majority of the peers of the NU campuses. Nationally, more than 300 higher education institutions offer such benefits, including public universities in at least 30 states and most of the highly ranked research universities. Furthermore, a number of leading private companies in Nebraska offer partner benefits, including ConAgra Foods, Union Pacific, Mutual of Omaha, Ameritas and HDR.
I think it's time for the University of Nebraska to do the same.
We are in a global marketplace for talent and I believe that by not offering partner benefits, we will be at a competitive disadvantage. This is an issue of fairness and competitiveness not only for the University, but also for the state. If we cannot compete on par with our counterparts around the country, talented people may go elsewhere – and in fact anecdotal evidence that some of you have shared with us suggests this may already have happened. This carries significant consequences for our University and our state.
All four of our faculty senates have formally asked the university to provide such expanded benefits coverage, as have three of our student governments. The University-wide Fringe Benefits Committee also supports the proposal, as do all four chancellors. Your support has been a key factor in our decision to bring the proposal before the Board.
Today's discussion on expanded benefits will not include a vote. The earliest a vote on this issue would occur would likely be the Board's next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Dec. 8. If the proposal is approved, benefits would become available beginning July 1, 2012.
If you have questions or comments about our proposal, please let us know. Thank you for all you do for the University of Nebraska.
James B. Milliken
University of Nebraska