As Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is becoming more top of mind and workforces are becoming more diverse, HR and People Leaders need to rethink their company’s benefits and perks to cover LGBTQIA+ employees. The LGBTQIA+ community does not have the same privilege and “perks” as non-LGBTQIA+, and race and ethnicity also play a hefty role. The standard benefits the companies offer (ex: medical, health, dental, vision, etc) disproportionately affect underrepresented employees.
The LGBTQIA community has been fighting for equal rights for decades now; equality in the workplace, health care, mental health, retirement plans, family planning, and more. While the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), state laws, and federal court rulings have created legal protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals from discrimination, more than half of all LGBTQIA Americans live in a state that does not clearly protect them from employment discrimination or benefits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Financial hardships and stress are higher among LGBTIA+ employees than non-LGBTQIA+ workers, following long-term care costs and paying off college debt. While some company cultures have positioned themselves as “LGBTQ-friendly,” only 3 in 10 employers extend workplace benefits to same-sex couples or those living as married. [The] larger the organization, the more likely it is to offer them benefits,” according to a 2020 study by the Guardian Life. Organizations have the opportunity to be more than just an LGBTQIA+ culture-friendly workplace. Here are some ways to make a bigger impact and provide support.
Health Benefits, Medical, and Parental Leave Policies
Re-evaluate your health benefits and medical and leave policies to cover medical and recovery leave for gender transition treatments or surgery. While it is illegal for health insurance plans to discriminate and refuse to cover medically necessary transition-related care, some health plans generally discriminate against transgender people. Is your company’s health benefits inclusive to LGBTQIA? Here are some things to consider:
- Review your health plan’s provider network to ensure reasonable access to providers experienced with and supportive of LGBTQIA+ health care (SHRM)
- Expanded family planning benefits to include LGBTQIA+ (parental leave for adoption, fertility, and reproductive options)
- Revise heteronormative language used in benefits packages. Use language that acknowledges same-sex couples and protects their circumstances (ex: maternity/paternity vs. primary/secondary)
- Expanded health insurance coverage for gender reassessment surgery and transition
- Review mental health benefit options that are inclusive to LGBTQIA+
- Review benefit plan administration and benefits claim forms for potential sex-discrimination concerns, including issues related to sexual orientation and gender-identity discrimination (SHRM)
Require LGBTQIA Awareness Training
Learning and development programs are the best way to raise awareness and educate your workforce on specific topics and issues. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training, in general, is in high demand for many organizations. As part of your DEI training program, ensure that your company has LGBTQIA+ awareness training as well. It’s crucial that inclusive language, use of proper pronouns, and communication among co-workers are practiced with respect and empathy.
Consider covering the following topics in your next inclusion training program:
- Proper pronoun usage
- Gender-neutral language
- Building allyship with LGBTQIA+ employees
- Hiring deficit for trans people
- Mutual respect
Update Your Company Policy & Communicate Clearly
Federal inconsistencies have given some states and companies the unfortunate opportunity to ignore discrimination towards gender identity and sexual orientation (See the map). Creating an inclusive workplace culture means creating inclusion and belonging for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, culture, religion, demographic experience, etc.
Your company policy should reflect the mission and values that your organization publicly showcases and abides by. Explicitly communicate your updated policy to your company so everyone is aware of the recent changes which address LGBTQIA+ equity and inclusion. Consider revising the following policies to explicitly cover LGBTQIA+ discrimination and harassment prevention, equity, inclusion, and belonging:
- Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)
- Harassment Prevention in the Workplace
- Code of Conduct & Ethics
- Office Policy: introduce gender-neutral bathrooms, modify dress code to avoid gender stereotypes (ex: men in suits, women in dresses)
By revising and re-evaluating your company’s benefits, policies, and training programs, you’re taking another leap into establishing an inclusive workplace. Simple changes such as updating the language of your policies go a long way. If you’d like to learn more about DEI training and short, video-based lessons (microlessons) to roll out in your organization, check out Emtrain’s microlessons or contact us!