LGBTQ+ community members are in your workplace. As awareness grows about their unique needs, it’s important to practice equality and inclusion in your benefit offerings. In honor of LGBTQ+ history month, I sat down with Julie Stich, Vice President of Content for the Foundation, to chat with her about the most frequently asked LGBTQ+ benefit offering questions. In this Q&A, Stich explores the significant impact that diversifying your benefit package could have on attracting, retaining and impressing potential workers.
Q: Do you think equality and inclusion in the workplace make for better working relationships? If yes, how?
A: Yes, it’s important because it will promote feelings of belonging and acceptance for all employees, including LGBTQ+ employees. It really will foster an understanding, openness and awareness among employees to be open to discussing challenges that they might be facing because of their sexual orientation. It also can show employees that confrontational, discriminatory or judgmental actions and behaviors—things like belittling and bullying—are not acceptable. When employers say, “We are not accepting this in this workplace,” hopefully it will make for better working relationships between employees.
Q: What are some necessary benefits that employers should be providing their LGBTQ+ workers?
A: A Supreme Court decision from 2020 covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation; Title VII also, in the employment context, does prohibit treating employees differently with respect to their compensation, their terms and conditions of employment, or privileges of employment—and that includes employee benefits.
On May 10, the Biden administration, through the Department of Health and Human Services, put out an interpretation saying that they want to enforce LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination in health care. There are transgender (also known as gender affirmative benefits) and, according to our Employee Benefits Survey Report, employers are covering things like transition surgery, prescription drugs, and any kind of mental health counseling that might be needed for the transition. This also includes any physician visits, lab tests, procedures that would traditionally be considered cosmetic surgery and any type of birth gender preventive care that must be given post-transition.
Another benefit that employers might want to look at is fertility benefits. If there’s something written into the plan that requires a diagnosis of infertility before fertility benefits coverage goes into place, that will work for some situations but doesn’t always work for the LGBTQ+ community if they are a same-sex couple (for example, if a same-sex couple is trying to get pregnant and have a child).
Another thing employers should look at is domestic partner benefits. If an employer wants to be inclusive and recognize all types of families—however an employee chooses to define their family—they may decide to offer domestic partner benefits.
Other benefits that could be offered are employee support or resource groups, which can help build community and connection between employees. Organizations may want to offer some sort of allyship education or training as well as other types of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) education for employees to better understand LGBTQ+ and other diverse communities and to increase understanding and awareness to build inclusivity.
Another benefit is the idea of providing concierge health care benefits or a health care navigator. The LGBTQ+ community does find some challenges with getting health care, because they may not feel that their doctor understands them or their issues, or they might feel more comfortable going to a provider who is also LGBTQ+. These navigators or concierge service providers might be able to help direct individuals and employees to a health care provider who’s more inclusive and understanding of their issues. Regardless of the benefits offered, we find that leadership support is paramount to have an inclusive culture in your organization.
Q: What is your advice for an employer that may be worried about the cost when considering all of these benefits and offerings for their LGBTQ+ employees?
A: You want to make sure that you are complying with legalities and that you’re going to reduce liability risk. Providing this type of benefit and embracing an inclusive culture could potentially help with employee retention. Transgender benefits or gender affirmation benefits can be costly, but LGBTQ+ employees will be a small percentage of your employee population, generally. These could be benefits that are highly valued, but they may not be utilized all that much. It’s good for morale, and it’s good for retention. And it can be a great recruiting benefit as well.
Q: How do you think an inclusive plan that allows for necessary medical care of/for LGBTQ+ employees will help with recruitment and retention?
A: LGBTQ+ individuals will be looking for a company that provides the benefits that they need, along with an inclusive culture. These inclusive benefits will reduce employees’ stress or anxiety about certain issues. It might make them feel more welcomed and a greater sense of belonging to the company. These benefits can help reduce turnover and stress, promoting employee engagement and productivity.
Most of these recommended benefits are not limited to your LGBTQ+ staff. Inclusive benefits often promote a positive, mindful workplace that can help retain employees. To help support October’s LGBTQ+ history month, consider your current benefit options and the populations that they serve. Survey your employees about existing benefits they value and benefits they need or would like added. Search for inclusivity gaps within your current offerings to ensure a more comprehensive benefits package.
Developed by International Foundation staff. This does not constitute legal advice. Please consult your plan professionals for legal advice.
Marketing Communications Specialist at the International Foundation
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