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Addressing health disparity: Closing the gap for LGBTQ employees

We share the core barriers preventing health and benefits equality in the workplace for LGBTQ+ colleagues — and the strategies firms can take to overcome them.

LGBTQ+ employees face health inequity in the workplace — Here are 3 ways employers can close the gap

This Pride Month, Mercer Marsh Benefits shared the core barriers preventing health and benefits equality in the workplace for LGBTQ+ colleagues — and the strategies firms can take to overcome them. 

LGBTQ+ employees need more support from their employers and their benefits, according to data from our Health on Demand 2023 research and are more likely to experience health inequities than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts.

Many factors can contribute to these inequities, including discrimination, stigma and potential barriers to access to healthcare. LGBTQ+ employees are also more likely to delay or forgo needed medical treatment.

These challenges have only become more pressing in recent times. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing inequities, and LGBTQ+ employees were disproportionately impacted.

Addressing these gaps is of utmost importance as organisations strive to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. Doing so can also play a vital role in attracting and retaining key talent and skills — a core priority for firms in the current economic environment.

Employers must therefore prioritise the provision of comprehensive healthcare coverage and benefits that are inclusive of LGBTQ+ individuals. Such benefits will create a safe and productive environment for their entire workforce.

We have identified three key areas where companies must improve: equitable healthcare benefits opportunities, mental health support, and inclusiveness and training.

The good news is that there are clear steps businesses can take to tackle these issues, ultimately creating safe and positive environments for all their employees.

Healthcare and benefits equity

Many LGBTQ+ individuals have encountered barriers to accessing inclusive healthcare, such as a lack of knowledgeable providers or limited coverage for treatments, for example. MMB’s global Health Trends 2023 Survey, found that only 50% of insurers had or were going to change eligibility requirements and eligible expenses to make coverages more inclusive for LGBTQ+ employees.

This may explain why only 57% of employees say their organisations’ leaders are committed to and support a healthy culture.

By offering broader coverage for LGBTQ+ healthcare needs, like gender-affirming treatments or HIV preventive medicine, employers can ensure these employees have access to essential care.

Family benefits should also be inclusive. Employers should provide equal access to adoption and reproductive health benefits, and implement inclusive parental leave policies.

More broadly, broadening benefits eligibility to include same-sex partners and domestic partners is another way to support equitable coverage.

Mental health support

According to our Health on Demand report, LGBTQ+ employees are more stressed in everyday life in comparison to the general population. This may explain why an alarming 57% of people in this community say they have worked while mentally unwell within the past year.

Despite this clear need for mental health support and services, not many employees state that it’s easy for them to obtain timely mental healthcare support and treatment.

Mental health support is crucial, and employers should provide access to LGBTQ-friendly counselling services and resources to address the higher rates of mental health challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals.

Inclusiveness and training

Nondiscrimination policies and fostering an inclusive work environment are essential for employee well-being.

LGBTQ+ resource groups and support networks within the workplace play a significant role in addressing inequities by providing a sense of community, support and mentorship.

Training and education programs are necessary to raise awareness about LGBTQ+ issues and challenges among employees and management— and they’re essential for creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture.

Eliminate inequities and gaps to create an LGBTQ+ supportive workplace

It’s imperative for employers to take action to eliminate health inequities and benefits gaps for LGBTQ+ employees, creating a workplace that truly supports the well-being of all individuals in today’s challenging landscape.

Organisations can make strides toward this by providing comprehensive insurance coverage, offering inclusive workplace policies, and creating a supportive and welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ workers.

By actively working to bridge these gaps, employers can attract and retain talented LGBTQ+ individuals, enhance employee satisfaction and productivity, and contribute to a more equitable and inclusive society.

Four steps your organisation must take now to close the health equity gap for LGBTQ+ employees

  • Get to know your employees: Ask them what’s important to their health and how they would like to access their benefits. For example, seek to understand how health and benefits needs differ within the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Continue to advance efforts to reduce the mental health burden on LGBTQ+ individuals by assessing the psychological safety of your workplace culture and providing access to mental health support.
  • Understand the types of discrimination LGBTQ+ individuals experience in their day-to-day lives, and explore ways to help them overcome these inequities.
  • Consider focus groups and safe spaces for employee listening to see what specific groups need from their benefits experience.

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This publication is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. The information contained herein is based on sources we believe reliable, but we make no representation or warranty as to its accuracy. Marsh shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. This publication is also created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. LCPA 23/310