Employers Recognize Importance of LGBT benefits to Accommodate Evolving Workforce

April 5, 20178:34 am1542 views

The expansion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights and awareness has had profound impacts worldwide. As norms shift in society and the court of law, organisations are reassessing how they address LGBT-rights issues.

According to Mercer’s LGBT Benefits around the World Survey, while many global organisations have adopted broader diversity and inclusion policies, just over half have tailored these policies to specifically accommodate LGBT employees.

In addition, one-third of organisations do not have a designated program for LGBT employees within their diversity and inclusion policy and 20 percent of organisations rely on other corporate policies to accommodate for LGBT individuals. Notably, most organisations that have adopted a stand-alone policy for LGBT employees (28 percent) have done so as a global policy for all locations. 

“With all the uncertainty of the past year and the spotlight on human rights issues, it is more important than ever for organizations to reassess their position on LGBT-rights issues,” said Ilya Bonic, President of Mercer’s Career business. “In the global war for top talent, companies perceived as non-discriminatory and progressive enhance their attractiveness as a workplace by creating a welcoming, supportive, and productive environment.”

Even though many organisations have not created a diversity and inclusion policy that specifically addresses the treatment and care of LGBT employees, most have adopted a policy that protects them from workplace discrimination or harassment.

According to Mercer’s survey, two-third of global organisations have a separate anti-discrimination policy that covers LGBT employees and an additional 6 percent plan to adopt such a policy within the next 12 months. A smaller portion of companies (28 percent) allow employees to self-identify themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender for the purpose of workforce analytics.

“In Asia, diversity and inclusion, including LGBT employees, is becoming an increasingly popular topic amongst organisations,” said Godelieve Van Dooren, Regional Benefits Leader at Mercer.

“Adapting current policies or introducing LGBT-related policies is important to attract and retain employees as well as label the brand a responsible corporate citizen. With many LGBT rights in parts of Asia still developing, when compared to the West, this can be a key differentiator to organisations as well as for employees looking for new roles in Asia as it allows employees to ‘be themselves’ and feel accepted into an organisation.”Infographic_Companies in NA twice as likely than Asia to offer same leve...-page-001

Benefits Coverage

In an effort to provide benefits coverage equally to all employees, organisations globally have revisited the language of their health and wealth benefits programs to ensure that LGBT couples are eligible for the same company benefits as opposite-sex couples.

In many cases, this includes amending programs to recognise same-sex couples in locations where civil unions are prohibited. Mercer’s survey findings reflect this trend with the majority of companies worldwide (81%) offering the same life, medical, and retirement benefits to LGBT couples.

“Organizations have started to understand the power they have to influence the markets to protect LGBT employees providing equal and inclusive benefits” said Diego Ramirez, Principal in Mercer’s Global Health business.

See: LGBT Inclusive Policies in the Workplace: The Hidden Cost of the Glass Closet

“In a climate where key talent is scarce and public scrutiny of corporate behaviour is increasing, organisations cannot afford to overlook their global LGBT policy and how it is articulated on the ground consistently across the borders.”

The reason organisations do not offer equal benefits to LGBT employees varies. According to Mercer’s survey, half of organisations stated they are constrained by national laws, while approximately one-third reported they do not offer benefits due to cultural, societal preconceptions, or the company’s inability to implement such a benefit plan.

Legal restrictions disproportionately inhibit organisations in Central and Eastern Europe (86%), Middle East and Africa (81%), Western Europe (75%), and Latin America (61%). By contrast, less than one-third of organisations in North America (31%) do not provide equal benefits for this reason.

Family planning and care

Family planning and care is a critical component of a company’s health benefits program, yet LGBT employees traditionally have been excluded from family planning and care policies due to rigid policy language that stipulates employees must be legally married to qualify for these benefits, thereby excluding same-sex couples or LGBT employees that are unable to marry in their home country.

Attitudes are shifting and Mercer’s survey shows that half of organizations worldwide provide benefits to help LGBT employees, plan and care for a family, whether through fertility treatment, surrogacy, adoption, or parental leave.

Even more compelling than the global prevalence of family planning and care benefits is the prevalence of these benefits within specific regions. Companies in North America are 31 percent more likely to provide family planning assistance to LGBT employees than those in Asia — the markets with the highest and lowest prevalence, respectively.

Also read: A Perspective on Thinking Diversity at Work

Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net

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