Changes signal shift in diversity and inclusion benefits 

September 06, 2018

Diversity and inclusion isn’t only about implementing nondiscrimination polices anymore. Current corporate initiatives are much broader than that and benefits play an important role in helping companies achieve their goals. To learn what programs and policies are making a difference, start with the Corporate Equality Index, published by the Human Rights Campaign. It’s a coveted “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ” list that provides insight into what other companies are doing.

The 2019 CEI survey covers the four pillars of equality: (1) nondiscrimination policies across business entities; (2) equity in benefits for LGBTQ workers and their families; (3) internal education and accountability to promote LGBTQ inclusion; and (4) public commitment to LGBTQ equality. With respect to benefits, the 2019 CEI survey contains two important changes that signal a shift in thinking about domestic partner benefit equality and transgender-inclusive benefits.

Domestic Partner Benefits
While recognizing the importance of marriage equality and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriages nationwide, the Human Rights Campaign has cautioned that LGBTQ employees may be exposed to discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere if they enter into marriage. For this reason they advocate for parity in benefits between same- and opposite-sex spouses and between same- and opposite-sex domestic partners. According to Mercer’s National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, currently, 56% of employers with 500 or more employees offer same-sex domestic partner coverage – but this is down from its peak of 62% in 2015. In fact, 13% of employers say they have dropped domestic partner coverage because of the Supreme court ruling. This is a trend that the Human Rights Campaign is hoping to reverse. Going forward, a company that does not offer benefits to same- or opposite-sex domestic partners will not receive full credit on the 2019 Corporate Equality Index.

Transgender Inclusive Benefits
Companies previously received full credit if one of their medical plans provided transgender-inclusive care without limitations for medically necessary care, including care for medically necessary services related to gender transition. Moving forward, a company will receive full credit only if all of the medical plans offered by the company (insured and self-funded) provide for transgender-inclusive care for medically necessary services, including care for medically necessary services related to gender affirming procedures. In addition, companies must remove transgender exclusions from all benefit plans.

Currently, many companies only offer comprehensive care for these services under only one of their medical plans, and some don’t offer it at all. Although Mercer’s survey found that, among the largest employers (20,000 or more employees), 62% cover gender confirmation surgery in at least one plan, fewer than two-thirds also cover hormone therapy and only about half cover reconstructive surgery.

We all love benchmarks and this area is no different. If your company is making strides in diversity and inclusion and would like to be recognized for it, you may want to review your domestic partner and transgender-inclusive benefits to see if they need updating to meet the new standards.

More Mercer posts