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Now gift your live-in partner a mediclaim

ET Bureau, 01 September, 2011


This September, Mumbai-based IT services firm iGATE Patni allowed its employees to include their live-in partners for health insurance benefits. Within a month, 36 employees filed such requests. A declaration by the employee and details of the partner were the only requirements to avail a health insurance cover of Rs 2.5 lakh each.
 
Only the spouse or immediate family were entitled to these benefits till recently."We want a global image and would like to give employees more options," says S Kandula, HR head, iGATE Patni. The company employs 26,000 people.
 
Queries started pouring in
 
Six Indian companies, mostly IT and financial services firms, have also asked for such covers for live-in partners of employees, according to Metis Insurance Brokers, a Mumbai-based firm that acts as an intermediary between companies and insurance firms. "Queries started pouring in at least three years ago, mainly from American firms with branches in India," says Mallika Sheth, director, business development, Metis Insurance Brokers. Now, Indian firms are also offering this.
 
The law allows live-in partners to avail insurance benefits if they have stayed together for a long duration (the number is not mentioned) and this has helped companies broaden insurance cover.
 
Riders differ across firms
 
Metis officials say some Indian firms have lock-in periods where an employee can get his /her partner covered only after staying together for couple of years after applying for the insurance. These riders however differ across firms, says Sheth. "When I am paying for an insurance cover, who cares whether it is a legally-wedded nominee or a partner," says R Elango, HR Head of Bangalore-based IT services provider Mphasis. The company plans to include their live-in partners from February onwards when the insurance comes up for renewal.
 
"Maternity benefits to have a child out of wedlock have also pushed some to go for an insurance cover," says Sudhir Sarnobat, CEO of Medimanage Insurance Broking. The Mumbai-based insurance broking firm has worked around employees who wanted to have a child out of wedlock and get the company to foot the bill like just another insurance cover. "Our online drop box only specifies spouse and we fill in the same for live-in partners as well," says Sranobat. Those who demanded such provisions were from the junior and middle management and medical insurance was about Rs 3 lakh on an average.
 
Complicated documentary evidence is a deterrent
 
It is Corporate India's attempt to mirror an inclusive and global approach. But not all companies are game yet. The HR Head of a Mumbai-based logistics firm feared that such a change would not be accepted by his employees.
 
Bangalore-based IT firm Wipro allows its employees in US to get their partners insured but is not looking to do the same in India. "There the law forbids you from asking personal questions like the relationship status of the employees etc which is not the case in India," says Samir Gadgil, compensation and benefits head for Wipro. For the Essar group, companies have ability to negotiate on insurance covers only when the size is large and the number of employees who would come out in the open to declare the live-in status are very few. Complicated documentary evidence is a deterrent that prevents the company for going for this option.
 
Insurance brokerages have received many queries on cover for same gender partners as well. This is still not possible in India.

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