LGBT Benefits on the Rise, but Efforts Inconsistent

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By Genevieve Douglas

Employers are increasingly adopting benefits and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees as federal mandates remain in flux, but companies are inconsistent in their efforts, according to new research.

Organizations around the world are increasingly recognizing the distinct needs of LGBT workers, and more employers are recalibrating corporate policies to accommodate them, global consulting firm Mercer found in its recent survey on global LGBT benefits. But budget considerations, a lack of capable vendors and a lack of knowledge on how to provide these benefits present challenges, Diego Ramirez, global health management consultant for Mercer in San Francisco, told Bloomberg BNA March 30.

The broader global business community has yet to establish a consensus surrounding LGBT diversity and inclusion policies, Mercer found. A full third of respondents neither have nor plan to implement a designated policy for LGBT employees and nearly 20 percent of companies rely on other corporate policies to provide for LGBT individuals.

When it comes to protections, however, most employers have adopted a policy to prevent discrimination or harassment of LGBT workers. Sixty-six percent of global organizations have an anti-discrimination policy that covers LGBT employees and an additional 6 percent plan to adopt such a policy within the next 12 months, according to the survey.

Employers must also ensure that all recruitment, hiring and placement procedures are devoid of LGBT discrimination or even the appearance of discrimination, Bettina Deynes, vice president of HR at the Society for Human Resource Management, told Bloomberg BNA via email March 31.

Another critical consideration is seeing that all employees are encouraged to collaborate in an environment of teamwork and mutual respect, Deynes said. HR’s role “is to make sure that this group of employees is embraced in all aspects of policy, practice and cultural integration, and is not missing out on benefits that are eligible to them,” she said.

One way of accomplishing this is to ask what’s missing in the overall employee cultural experience for LGBT workers and rectify gaps, she said.

Mercer’s findings are based on 680 responses from 500 companies across 50 countries in November 2016.

New Benefits on the Horizon

Some of the new offerings Mercer saw are transgender medical benefits, HIV benefits and family planning assistance tailored to LGBT workers, Ramirez said. However, employers that would like to offer these kinds of benefits have to find vendors that are experienced in providing health care to LGBT people, he said.

“It’s clear that there are still some barriers to access to care for LGBT individuals because of discrimination or stigma in the workplace, and that in turn can block access to necessary treatment or preventive exams,” Ramirez said.

Many employers need more education in this area, and human resources departments will need to figure out how to get the right information to design the right kinds of benefits, he said.

Offering such benefits is not only the right thing to do, but also gives employers a competitive edge in today’s tight labor market, Ramirez said. Financial and high-tech companies and employers in other hot industries have been looking at these benefits to make themselves attractive employers, he said.

Offering such benefits is also a way to appeal to a broader base of consumers who want to buy from companies that are LGBT-friendly, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at tharris@bna.com

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