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5 Countries to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage & Its Implications for Payroll

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Erez Greenberg
June 07, 2022

If you’ve ever heard a grumpy singleton bemoan that “marriage is just a savvy business arrangement anyway”, you’ll know that marriage can come with serious financial benefits for those who are lucky in love. According to a Thomsons survey, 63% of companies offer more benefits to married employees than those who are single.

From reductions in taxes, to healthcare benefits or pension provision – let’s wave our Pride flag high and celebrate five countries that have recently legalized same-sex marriage, and what that means for LGBT couples who are looking to tie the knot, and those who employ them!

Switzerland

In December 2020, the Swiss Parliament passed legislation that allowed same-sex couples to be legally married, with a public referendum in September 2021 confirming the support. The law will go into action as of July 1st 2022.

Interestingly, this is one of those cases where married couples may end up paying more in their income taxes than if they had stayed unmarried, as in Switzerland, married couples taxes are filed jointly, which can often push couples into the higher tax-rate bracket. You might also want to inform employees that they will be capped in terms of a pension to 75% of the maximum amount they could claim as a single person.

However, it’s not all bad news! If one member of a couple is employed and the other is not working, or earns substantially less, the earning spouse can pay social security contributions to ensure that the other receives benefits in their old age. This can also push a tax bracket down, as a higher-tax payer’s earnings will still be assessed as part of a couple, not on their own. Another perk to discuss with married employees is Survivor’s benefits, which will provide payment to a widow or widower as long as you have been married 5 years and are above the age of 45.

Chile

While same-sex civil unions have been an option for LGBT community since 2015, earlier in 2022 the president signed the marriage equality bill into law. This gives same-sex couples all the same rights and benefits as those of the opposite sex, and joins Chile to an exclusive club of LATAM countries to legalize same-sex marriage, including Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina.

Tell employees to start planning the honeymoon, because all married couples are entitled to 5 consecutive days of paid leave after their wedding, and many companies will offer extra vacation days on top of that allowance. If couples are one of the lucky few who makes it to their 50th wedding anniversary, they’re also entitled to a Golden Wedding Anniversary Grant of 321,474 pesos, if they have lived in Chile for 4 out of the last 5 years before their claim.

Chile is also generous with a spousal pension for survivors, which can be 60% of the deceased partner’s base salary.

United Kingdom

Northern Ireland was the last territory of the United Kingdom to sign same-sex marriage into law in January 2020. LGBT marriage has been recognized in England, Wales and Scotland since 2014.

Marriage allowance in the UK is a smart way to transfer a portion of employee’s personal tax-free allowance to their spouse, currently £1,260 per year. In addition, employers are usually more likely to offer family healthcare and dental plans to married couples, and private healthcare providers will usually offer a reduced rate for couples looking for premium healthcare.

Some of the differences for married couples may come down to culture. According to one comprehensive study of more than half a million workers “employees who are either married or in civil partnerships receive the equivalent of an estimated £2,390 extra per year in the form of additional benefits, compared to their single or cohabiting peers.” However, in law at least – most benefits remain equal in the UK. For example, there is no specific pension benefit for married couples, and each individual will need to accumulate their own pension pot in advance of retirement.

Taiwan

Taiwan was the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage back in 2019, and remains so to date, although Israel and Cyprus have enacted a wide range of LGBT rights for their citizens.

There are many important rights for married couples in Taiwan that employers should be aware of, all of which are now accessible for same-sex couples, too. These include shared parental leave, honeymoon leave, bereavement leave, and time off to take care of families. Marriage also gives couples more flexibility over how they file their tax returns.

However, Taiwan has a long way to go before its employee benefits are as progressive as its attitude to same-sex rights. According to the Ministry of Labor, Taiwan has the fourth-longest working hours in the world, with employees working an average of 2,033 hours per year, compared to 1,800 in the United States. As all married couples are entitled to 8 days of leave after their weddings – this prompted one couple to think outside the box, and divorce and marry four times in order to gain a 38-day vacation!

Costa Rica

The first country to legalize marriage equality in South America, Costa Rica joined the Pride parade in 2020. There is a tax incentive for married persons in Costa Rica, currently 29,160 per year. On top of this, same-sex couples can now extend health insurance coverage to their spouse.

The law also has interesting ramifications for those same-sex couples who want to retire to Costa Rica. For a married couple, the government simply requires documentation that at least one spouse has retirement income of $1,000 USD per month. This allows a couple to gain temporary residency, and after three years they can apply for permanent status. For younger people who want to live and work in Costa Rica, a couple can invest $200,000 in property, shares or projects that are based in-country, despite unmarried couples needing to double this investment. With this stipulation covered, they could continue to work for a company abroad, remotely, something to discuss with married employees who want to work abroad while remaining hired by your organization.

30 countries and counting…

Currently, 30 countries recognize and facilitate same-sex marriage, allowing LGBT employees and their spouses to benefit from essential rights such as health insurance and pension coverage, paid-time off, parental leave, survivors’ allowances and more.

For employers, proudly adjusting benefits to show that “love is love” can also impact your own business outcomes. Perhaps because of a decrease in discrimination, the United States have experienced a growth in employed LGBT workers since same-sex marriage was legalized across the country. This shows that marriage equality can actually stimulate the economy at the same time as communicate to the world that your country recognizes that discrimination will no longer be tolerated.

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