The future of workplace benefits: How can employers support LGBTQ+ workers?

It’s vital that employers demonstrate that they are committed to supporting everyone in their workforce by offering inclusive employee perks.

Benefits are a huge factor in employee recruitment and retention. According to a recent survey, around half of respondents said they would be happy to forgo their pay if their workplace offered more individualised benefits.

While employers generally offer support such as training and wellness perks, as people prioritise working for inclusive, forward-thinking workplaces, people in the LGBTQ+ community are looking for more from their benefits packages.

Only half of LGBTQ+ workers in the UK report feeling comfortable being ‘out’ at work according to Deloitte’s 2023 LGBT+ Inclusion @ Work study. One in five said they were considering leaving because of a lack of focus on LGBTQ+ inclusion. It’s therefore imperative that employers step up their support and convey a culture of inclusivity to ensure they cultivate a diverse workforce.

With a record 4.4 million people now being covered by health insurance through their employer, according to The Association of British Insurers, it’s important that this is being introduced by workplaces in an inclusive way as demand increases.

So, what are people in the LGBTQ+ community looking for from their workplaces today and how will this shape the future of benefits?

Making fertility benefits accessible to all

There are barriers for same-sex partnerships and individuals when it comes to accessing fertility treatment. It is currently required that same sex partners fund at least six cycles of IUI before they are eligible for NHS treatment. Heterosexual couples on the other hand can be referred for NHS IVF if they have been trying to conceive for two years.

Research by Manchester Metropolitan University has shown that workplace policies can often neglect partners and non-normative families, so employers have an important role to play in helping to implement benefits that consider all individuals who want to start a family.

Employer benefits can include financial support for egg or sperm freezing, adoption and IVF or paid leave and mental health support. At Healix Health, we advocate for a healthcare trust and believe this gives businesses more choice and flexibility over the provision they offer and for whom. Any benefits which aren’t used in a certain financial year can be used to fund treatments in the following year, meaning as people’s needs change, employers can be adaptable.

An inclusive approach to parental leave

It’s important that all employees have access to enhanced parental leave, not just long-standing members of staff. Senior leaders should ensure that they introduce a gender-neutral parental leave policy regardless of the make-up of a family to ensure all team members have access to the same benefits.

Policies should also be written in inclusive language, with no assumptions being made as to who the primary caregiver is. Ensuring adoptive parents have the same amount of leave is also crucially important, as well as allowing them time off to attend appointments.

Mental health support should be a priority

While being LGBTQ+ does not mean you will automatically struggle with mental health, recent research by UCL has found that people in the LGBTQ+ community are more than twice as likely than their straight peers to experience suicidal thoughts and self-harm. A new report by The Equality and Human Rights Commission has also found that the pandemic had a significant impact on the mental health of LGBTQ+ people.

It's therefore important for employers to introduce mental health support in an accessible way, including counselling and therapy which can be taken up remotely. Wellbeing platforms can also be provided that allow people to keep track of their symptoms, and which can offer practical advice on how to manage them.

While more employers are introducing gender-affirming procedures as a benefit, it’s essential that these are introduced alongside tailored mental health support to ensure people are supported properly through the process.

The importance of company culture

Employers must prioritise educating colleagues and line managers to understand diverse needs, while demonstrating care and respect for every employee. This can be achieved through organising sessions where feedback is sought for how the workplace can improve its inclusive practices. Employee resource groups can also be implemented that offer people the opportunity to network and share experiences. Internal surveys can also be run which allow employers to understand what support people require and how this can best be rolled out and communicated.

As employers navigate the future of work, they must make the effort to understand the nuances of people’s experiences to ensure they are providing appropriate benefits, and an inclusive environment for all.