While many studies have been conducted over the years to understand the value employees place on their employer-sponsored benefits, a recent Sun Life survey caught my eye due to its unique approach. The objective of the study was to determine whether group insurance plans are meeting the needs of those belonging to diverse communities.
DE&I in the workplace
Diverse teams drive more innovation and stronger financial results; not to mention that candidates are now demanding more inclusive workplaces. In fact, Monster’s State of the Candidate study found that 60% of job candidates would decline a job offer from an employer that did not value diversity in the workplace. As the war on talent persists, it’s no surprise that more organizations are now investing in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives. As a Benefits Advisor, the question of how DE&I relates to benefits is therefore both interesting and relevant.
Group benefits are valued by all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or ability
One finding that did not surprise is that group benefits are valued by all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or ability. Overall, 92% of respondents agree that group benefits are valuable to them. Furthermore, the majority in each group surveyed agree that their employer benefits helped retain them in their job, although LGBTQ2+ were less likely to say this.
Group insurance remains a key part of total rewards and an important way to attract and retain talent in this tight labour market.
Warning to employers seeking diversity that do not offer group benefits
When surveying individuals that work in organizations that do not offer group benefits, diverse communities were more likely than Caucasians to be seeking employment elsewhere, from employers that do offer benefits.
This finding supports that offering group insurance is a basic DE&I strategy that levels the playing field and helps sustain a diverse workforce.
Furthermore, there is a general consensus in the workforce that providing benefits that are equitable and inclusive to all is important. When asked whether they would be willing to pay a bit more for inclusive coverage, even if that meant adding services that were not relevant to them personally, a majority of respondents in all groups surveyed were in agreement.
Reasons diverse groups aren’t utilizing their employee benefits
While all employees see value in their plans, it’s interesting that not all groups actually use their benefits plans to improve their overall health & wellbeing.
Indigenous workers and ethnicities other than White or Black were less likely to utilize their plans. When asked the reasons for not utilizing their plans, diverse groups were less likely to cite lack of need.
Indigenous communities’ top reasons were that they felt they would be better served through other resources or that they had had bad experiences in the past.
Both LGBTQ2+ and Persons with Disabilities citing access being too complicated, while ethnicities other than White and Black where uncertain how to access these services.
Respondents from all diverse groups also valued the ability to have access to network of providers with experience treating patients from diverse backgrounds.
Indigenous, Black and Ethnic respondents also placed noticeably more value on complementary and alternative medicine like sacred medicines, ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, naturopathy, body movement therapy, herbal medicines, reiki, and electromagnetic therapy.
What can be done to make group benefit plans more inclusive?
Recently, employers have been asking us: We are really investing in DE&I initiatives, is there anything to be done on the benefits side of the equation? This survey asked participants what services would be highly valued if added to their benefits plan and came up with the following solutions to making your benefits plan more inclusive.
- Virtual Health: Due to the difficulties in accessing primary medical care across Canada (particularly Quebec and BC), this benefit stood out as being valuable to all groups surveyed
- Virtual Mental Health: The pandemic brought mental health concerns to a new level with access to care becoming more challenging. Over half of respondents with mental health concerns have not received medical support. Top barriers to care include affordability (25%) and embarrassment (23%). Access to virtual mental health was viewed as valuable to all groups, in particular LGBTQ2+. Since there may be additional stigma to accessing care within diverse groups, offering virtual mental health support can reduce barriers to care.
- Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: Usage of such therapies has become more mainstream in recent years. While many alternative therapies are not recognized under traditional group insurance plans, a Personal Spending Account can be a creative way to allow for coverage.
- Family-building programs: There is a greater diversity of people starting families, including same-sex couples. Such programs support the cost of surrogacy, adoption and fertility treatments.
- Gender affirmation benefits: The cost of gender affirmation surgeries as well as feminization and masculinization procedures can be sign significant, with very little financial contribution from provincial health care plans. Proving such benefits can be an important way to show support to transgender employees.
- Diverse and Allied Practitioners: Access to such providers goes far beyond preference and can have an important impact on health outcomes. Such a network would not only include practitioners that are themselves members of diverse groups but also those that have had diversity training, are qualified to treat some of the unique health concerns, and are allies of different ethnic, religious, sexual and disability communities. Support for this initiative was strongest among Black and LGBTQ2+ respondents. For ethnic groups, seeking healthcare can also be easier when patients can get treatment in preferred language.
- Expanding eligible dependents: When asked what types of dependents could be added to group insurance plans, ethnic groups were more likely to request adding coverage for aging parents and grandparents. Unfortunately, Canadian tax laws currently define who can be eligible for group insurance plans but benefits can be provided outside of traditional benefit plans.
A strong case for inclusive communication
Communication can go a long way to making members of diverse groups feel represented and more comfortable accessing care. While visual representation may be easier to achieve, language is also important. Consider swapping vocabulary like “fertility” to “family building” or “substance abuse” to “substance use”.
Read the complete results of the 2022 DE&I Survey
Click through to view the complete results of the 2022 Sun Life Financial DE&I survey conducted by Ipsos.