Ensuring LGBTQ+ inclusive benefits
Creating an inclusive workplace isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s vital to attracting and retaining a loyal workforce. With 7.1 percent of Americans identifying as LGBTQ+, it’s important to work for an employer that creates an inclusive workplace culture.1 Furthermore, whether or not an employee personally identifies as LGBTQ+, more and more workers want to know that their employer is caring for the needs of all employees.
Organizational culture can impact workforce emotional wellness. Members of historically underrepresented groups — including LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx workers — believe that a company’s culture should support mental health. In fact, over half even go so far as to say that mental health is a DEI issue, up from 41 percent in 2019.2 Workers with the highest self-reported emotional health share some similar characteristics — they are part of a corporate culture that values flexibility and inclusion
Laws governing benefits for LGBTQ+ workers vary from state to state, but as an employer, you may have the option to offer equitable benefits even if they are not mandated by laws in your area. Going above and beyond to offer truly inclusive benefits can show you’re committed to fostering a diverse workforce, and employers with more diverse workforces are 35 percent more likely to outperform their industry counterparts in revenue and earnings growth.3 A workplace that supports all employees isn’t just good for people, it’s good for business too.
Making sure your benefits package covers the needs of LGBTQ+ workers can show your commitment to cultivating a diverse workforce. Currently, 67 percent of organizations say their benefits policies and communications are inclusive of their LGBTQ+ employees while only 58 percent of LGBTQ+ workers agree.4 Making sure your employees, and the people they love, are supported by benefits like group life and health insurance, retirement plans, or paid leave can not only show how much you value your employees, but it can also promote better financial well-being for these workers, who tend to experience more financial stress than the average worker.
To support transgender employees, make sure your medical leave policies cover leave for gender transition treatments or surgery and communicate this provision in employee literature so workers know this coverage is available without having to ask. Inclusive benefits can also involve taking another look at parental leave policies to make sure you offer leave to workers of any gender and for adoptive parents who are welcoming a new child to their lives. While LGBTQ+ inclusivity may be the driving force in revamping your family leave policies, updated, flexible policies can benefit workers of all different backgrounds who need to take time off to care for a new child.
How to make your workplace more LGBTQ+ inclusive
Inclusive benefits aren’t enough on their own. Workplace policies should demonstrate the same spirit of inclusion. Equitable policies can help ensure that employees are adequately informed of the benefits available to them, that they are fairly administered, and that LGBTQ+ employees do not face any additional hurdles in receiving benefits.
For benefits to be truly inclusive, you should effectively communicate them to employees so they can take advantage of all the benefits available to them. This may mean sending out communications specifically highlighting how spousal or partner benefits, and family leave or medical leave policies apply to LGBTQ+ workers.
The process for applying for benefits should be the same for all employees. For instance, LGBTQ+ employees should not have to provide more documentation of their marriage or partnership than other married employees do. Employers should have the same processes in place for claiming partner benefits or taking family leave regardless of how an employee identifies.
Benefits materials should use the correct and most current terminology in referring to LGBTQ+ employees, their loved ones, and their relationships and experiences. Regularly update documents to make sure the appropriate language is being used, using a reliable resource like this guide from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (GLAAD).
Being inclusive goes beyond your benefits policies. Review your employee handbook and look for areas to demonstrate more inclusion. Dress codes, for instance, should not require gendered dress, and you may wish to explicitly state that employees should be allowed to dress in a way that reflects their gender identity. You may also wish to clearly state that employees should be comfortable using the restrooms that best suit their gender identity. And it can be a good idea to have procedures in place for situations like an employee’s gender transition, whether or not this has come up in your workplace before. Being prepared with policies and procedures ahead of time will make it easier for employees to navigate these situations at work and will show how much you value your LGBTQ+ workforce.
A diverse and inclusive work culture is becoming a business imperative for employers who want to attract and retain top talent. Businesses of any size can and should demonstrate inclusion in their workplaces, and an inclusive benefits packages is one of the most important ways to show how much you value all your employees.
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