Inclusion | Employee benefits for LGBTQ+ staff “insufficient”, study finds

Employee benefits for LGBTQ+ staff “insufficient”, study finds

One-third (33%) of employers think there are insufficient benefits for LGBTQ+ employees, according to research from digital health platform Peppy.

Although the corporate world has taken great strides towards becoming more diverse and inclusive in recent years – with the CEOs of M&S, PageGroup and the Co-operative Group recently co-signing a pledge to ‘Move the Dial’ on diversity in 2022 – nonetheless, 63% of employees who contributed to the Peppy research felt that it can be hard to get senior management to buy into benefits that do not support the majority of employees.

Despite that, 34% strongly agree that employee benefits play a key role in fostering diversity and inclusion within the workplace – however, it’s important to recognise that different employees may be at different stages in their identity journey, or simply may not wish to share details about their gender or sexuality with colleagues. As Dr Mridula Pore, CEO of Peppy, says: “It’s important to bear in mind that not everyone in minority groups or the LGBTQ+ community wants their private life to be known within the workplace, and some employees will be on a journey to determine their own identity. With this in mind, it’s important not to label certain benefits as only being appropriate for certain employees as this could prevent people from accessing help when they most need it.

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“Not all employee benefits may meet the needs of the LGBTQ+ community but many will, whilst also offering comprehensive support to the wider employee community too. Employers need to be selective about which employee benefits providers they choose to partner with and should raise the issue of support for different minority communities when looking at who to work with.”

What are LGBTQ+-friendly employee benefits?

The LGBTQ+- friendly employee benefits mentioned on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRCF) website include:

  • The health insurance policy’s definition of ‘spouse’ including same-sex spouses

  • Healthcare benefits are provided to domestic partners

  • Bereavement leave benefit including the death of a domestic partner or the partner’s immediate family

It also recommends additional support for LGBTQ+ employees including:

  • The adoption of written gender transition guidelines documenting supportive policies and practices on issues pertinent to a workplace gender transition

  • Recognising an LGBTQ+ employee resource group

  • Specifically including LGBTQ+ in the organisation’s D&I initiatives

  • Organising anonymous employee engagement surveys which would allow them to identify as LGBTQ+ (and have their say without necessarily having to divulge their identity to their place of work).

The Peppy research also highlighted that fertility is an area in which LGBTQ+ employees can feel isolated, particularly as it can involve additional costs and complications in terms of egg donation, donor sperm, surrogacy and adoption. LGBTQ+ campaigning group Stonewall and DIVA’s 2021 LGBTQI+ Insight Survey 2021 found that 36% of respondents who had children experienced barriers or challenges when starting their family.

Currently, female same-sex couples can’t access NHS-funded IVF treatment unless they’ve had at least six rounds of intra-uterine insemination (IUI), which may or may not be funded by the NHS. As IUI costs between £350 to £1,600 at a private clinic, according to Stonewall, the barriers to parenthood faced by LGBTQ+ employees can be extremely daunting.

The Peppy researchers highlighted the importance of employers supporting their employees through challenges such as this, and also said that “[B]espoke support from specialist clinical experts is a great benefit and confidentiality is a must.”

The business case

Interestingly, the Peppy research also found that two thirds (65%) of respondents believe that, outside the moral and societal imperative, there’s a strong business case to provide benefits that foster diversity and inclusion.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation concurs with this, stating on their website: “Competitive employer-provided benefits’ packages are critical to attracting and retaining talent. From healthcare coverage to retirement investments and more, ensuring LGBTQ-inclusive benefits to employees and their families is an overall low-cost, high-return proposition for businesses.”

With the ‘Great Resignation’ raging on, the message is clear: if employers want to find and retain the best talent, they need to listen to the LGBTQ+ community and ensure they’re offering appropriate and attractive benefits.

Dr Mridula Pore said: “It’s vitally important that employers select benefits that are appropriate for everyone but with sufficient breadth and depth to meet the needs of every individual.”

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