As many organisations have already recognized, diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are intrinsically linked with health and wellbeing. The diverse communities within a workforce, and the recognition of their different health needs, has driven the need for a more segmented approach in health and well-being strategy.

 

COVID-19 in particular has highlighted the many health inequities both at work and within broader society, and the extent to which they have widened is concerning.

 

Many LGBTQ+ employees suffered a sharp deterioration in health and well-being during the pandemic, with more than one in three reporting that COVID-19 had a negative impact on them.

 

As annual PRIDE events return post COVID-19, it’s the perfect time for organisations to promote the support they offer LGBTQ+ employees. However, could employers be doing more? Yes, according to the latest findings from the MMB Health on Demand report.

Acknowledge the problem

 

Mental health challenges have almost become a pandemic in themselves, with three in 10 LGBTQ+ employees saying they are “extremely” or “highly” stressed on a daily basis, compared to fewer than two in 10 of those who do not identify as LGBTQ+, according to the Health on Demand report.

 

A shockingly high number of LGBTQ+ employees — one in 10 — also report that they are in “not good” or “poor” health, compared with one in 16 employees who do not identify as LGBTQ+.

 

Inevitably, these health and well-being inequalities are reflected in the workplace.

 

While more than two-thirds of the workforce who do not identify as LGBTQ+ say they are highly energised at work on a daily basis, this falls to just over half of LGBTQ+ employees.

How well are you doing?

 

Employers can play a vital role in narrowing this divide. However, only two in five LGBTQ+ employees rated support from their employer during the pandemic as “good” or “very good,” so many organisations will need to address this with a new health-equity strategy.

 

The first step is to gather data (where permitted by law) to find out how your organisation performed prior to COVID-19. Do your LGBTQ+ employees believe they are as well supported as other employees? And what do LGBTQ+ employees need and value?

Source: Mercer Marsh Benefits Health on Demand Report


Mind the gaps

 

LGBTQ+ employees may have different — and additional — needs to other employees, so we recommend that organisations review workplace practices and their benefits offering.

 

  • Pay particular attention to content and language, especially inclusions, exclusions and gaps in coverage. For example, does your organisation’s benefits policy cover family planning for LGBTQ+ employees, as well as surgeries for transgender employees; and do all employees have equal access to these benefits? Only 77% of LGBTQ+ employees report having access to medical coverage, compared with 84% of employees who do not identify as LGBTQ+.
  • Remember to make both well-being support and mental health treatment part of the plan. Six in 10 LGBTQ+ employees rate support with mental health, resilience and personal relationship concerns as “highly” or “extremely” valuable, compared to half of employees in general.
  • Ensure your strategy takes into account the way work has changed and technology has evolved. Flexible working arrangements and time off during the workday to spend on health and well-being appointments were rated as “highly” or “extremely” valuable by 60% of LGBTQ+ employees. This shift in working patterns has also led to an increase in the use of telemedicine, which half of LGBTQ+ employees intend to use more, following the pandemic. As technology evolves, so will convenience and access. This also includes choice, as over half of LGBTQ+ employees find the ability to customize benefits extremely valuable.

The next step is to devise a new health-equity strategy. In addition to key metrics, timeframes and accountability, ensure there is comprehensive training to embed new policies.

Measure your progress

 

Addressing decades of health inequality will not happen overnight. But it is still important to measure progress and discover what works and what doesn’t.

 

  • Mental health and well-being can be surveyed annually. Include an annual health risk assessment to identify levels of anxiety, depression, stress and self-care habits.
  • Take-up of new benefits can be tracked on an ongoing basis with regular employee surveys to determine whether they are valued by all employees and LGBTQ+ in particular.
  • Don’t be complacent. The landscape is changing continually, so actively look out for new, high-quality health/mental health solutions. Review these innovations regularly to ensure they benefit all employees: There should be no exclusions/barriers to different demographics benefiting from these developments.

Communicate... and listen

 

Promote the initiatives underway to provide equal, fair and accessible benefits for all employees, regardless of identity or orientation.

Remember, communication should be two-way: It is important that employees have a say — for example, through employee networks.

 

Tackling health and well-being inequality is just part of being an inclusive LGBTQ+ workplace — and, as such, any review should be part of a continual process of improvement to the culture of your organisation, not just an annual tick-box exercise to mark PRIDE.

Tony Wood
Tony Wood

Region Leader and Managing Director, Continental Europe, MMB


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