UPS Did (and You Can Too)! How to Dump Your Spouses on Someone Else…


I was pumping gas and reading the news on my phone this morning when I almost dropped my phone – “UPS Drops 15,000 Spouses from Insurance.”

My mind was reeling at the news. The first article I read sensationally left out the word “spouses” to make it even more salacious—as if 15,000 employees were losing individual benefits. However, as I read through various other news sources, the picture got a LOT clearer.

So let’s back up and regroup now that the initial fit of hysteria is settling.

Yes. UPS IS planning to eliminate coverage for 15,000 spouses. But only those spouses who are eligible for coverage through their own employers. No one is getting left completely in the lurches or sent packing without healthcare coverage! That’s just media hype and sensationalist journalism.

Many large employers already tack on an increase in fees for employees whose spouses are covered by their plan instead of one provided by their spouse’s own employer.

UPS has taken a difficult stance to help cover increasing costs for providing healthcare to their employees. With a significant part-time workforce the company will be faced with an increase in costs to either provide coverage to those employees or pay the fees for failing to do so—all new provisions that go into effect with the ACA in 2014.

It’s a controversial decision, but UPS is not alone in this trend.

This year 4% of large employers surveyed by consultants Towers Watson excluded spouses if they had similar coverage where they work. Another 8% planned such a change for 2014, according to the survey. (source USA Today)

It’s never easy to tell your employees that benefits costs are rising, or worse yet—that benefits are going away. Proper timing, planning, and communications are key to helping employees weather these storms. Reportedly, a memo was issued to the 15,000 employees who will be impacted by this decision.

We don’t know what other forms of communication were distributed, but here’s what we would advise:

  • Create a comprehensive communications plan to help guide employees and their spouses through this transition.
  • Know HOW you’re going to deliver those details—email, meetings, online, print, or a combination of all of these.
  • Issue an Employee Memo to those affected by the change (good move UPS). Explain why the company is making this decision. Don’t JUST blame external factors like the ACA. Map out a clear support strategy that employees can follow. When will they get more details? How? Where? 
  • Issue a Managers Memo with best practices, talking points, and a schedule of upcoming opportunities for managers and employees to learn more about the pending changes.
  • Set up an Employee Hotline/Inbox dedicated exclusively to this topic. 15,000 people are bound to have tons of questions. The sooner you answer them, the sooner they can get back to work.
  • Schedule employee town halls/webinars – sharing information about the pending changes in a group forum allows employees an opportunity to voice their concerns directly to managers. It also allows them a chance to see who else is affected by these changes and lean on one another for additional support.
  • Mail a postcard home – yes, it’s a little odd to still receive snail mail from your employer – but that’s precisely why it still works. And since spouses bear the brunt of this bad news, we have to advise that at least ONE mail piece be sent directly to the homes of your employees with a link to online resources or a hotline they can call about the pending changes.

The cost of a communications campaign like the one above far outweighs the damage done by isolating and confusing employees who will be hit hard by the pending changes in their benefits. Engaging employees with support resources and key information about next steps helps alleviate the stress of uncertainty so they can focus on priority number one – their work.

Ultimately UPS is just like any other business right now. We’re all being forced to make some tough decisions about the future of our companies’ healthcare benefits. But are we making hard-lined business decisions based on dollars, or are we doing what’s right for our employees and their families? We think it’s important to remember that ultimately its your PEOPLE who drive your company’s success.

UPS may have found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place—covering all of their part-time employees or covering spouses who have alternative options. Regardless of the decision they’ve made and what we think about what a business should do, we hope that UPS is working closely with their employees (and their spouses) to make the next steps clear.

And if they’re having any trouble staying ahead of the message, we’re sure they’ll give us a call. Lab Monkeys are standing by…