Build an Inclusive Workplace for LGBTQ Employees
Workspan Daily
June 06, 2023
Key Takeaways

  • LGBTQ+ employees continue to face challenges. Due to historical discrimination, LGBTQ+ employees may be at a disadvantage when it comes to achieving financial well-being and receiving quality health care.  
  • Offer employees equitable access to benefits. Options such as family-starting benefits, financial wellness programs or mental health resources can help recruit and retain LGBTQ+ employees and increase their job satisfaction. 
  • Create an inclusive environment. Employees need to feel supported in order to be their authentic self at work. Fostering an inclusive work culture shows LGBTQ+ employees that you support and value them. 

For many organizations, creating an inclusive workplace is a strategic imperative — one that can pay dividends in improved employee engagement, satisfaction and retention.  

Today, more than 7% of U.S. adults identify as LGBT; for Gen Z (those born in 2001 or later), that number rises to over 20%. Providing equitable policies and benefits that address the needs of this employee population goes a long way in fostering an inclusive workplace culture. 

Gallup reports that most Fortune 500 companies have taken steps to provide benefits that support their LGBTQ+ employees. As ARAG Legal Insurance’s director of culture and people, I strive, along with my team, to provide benefits that support our entire workforce — but there’s always room for improvement.  

Even though they have gained increased legal protection against discrimination in recent years, LGBTQ+ colleagues can still face significant challenges when it comes to equality in areas like health care, financial well-being and feeling welcome in some workplaces. Pride Month is a great time to take a closer look at how well your organization is doing in creating a more equitable environment.  

Here are four key areas to evaluate: 

1. Access to Quality Health Care 

For members of the LGBTQ+ community, accessing health care can be intimidating. Some fear that they will be judged or may not feel comfortable being honest with their health care provider. According to a study by 19th News and SurveyMonkey, LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to be refused medical services, blamed for their health problems and discriminated against at the doctor’s office than cisgender and heterosexual individuals. On top of that, LGBTQ+ individuals are more than twice as likely to have a mental health issue, like anxiety or depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association.  

Because seeking and receiving medical care can be difficult for this population, providing them with access to high-quality medical providers is vital. Having the ability to access care via telehealth may help these individuals feel more comfortable. Also consider how you can support your employees’ mental health by assessing the mental health services covered under your medical insurance plans.  

2. Financial Well-Being 

According to the Movement Advancement Project, 66% of households headed by LGBTQ+ individuals had at least one serious financial problem between March and December 2020, during the earliest months of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with 44% of non-LGBTQ+ households. Members of this community also face financial barriers because of a lack of generational wealth. 

As an employer, it’s essential to support your employees’ financial well-being given that it’s their No. 1 stressor. Consider providing financial planning resources to help team members reach their short- and long-term savings goals. At ARAG, for example, new employees are required to attend an informational session about the 401(k) plan and various financial planning resources we make available. Offering a competitive 401(k) employer match can make a huge difference for employees, especially women and LGBTQ+ individuals who may feel they need to play catch-up to be prepared for retirement. 

3. Family-Starting Benefits 

LGBTQ+ individuals face a unique set of challenges when it comes to starting a family. No matter the path they choose — adoption, foster care, egg or sperm donors, or surrogates — it’s an expensive journey that often requires the preparation of legal documents. Starting a family can also take a toll on employees trying to balance work and new parenting responsibilities.  

To support your LGBTQ+ employees who have become parents, consider creating a gender-neutral parental leave policy. In addition, find out whether your health insurance covers procedures like intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Taking some of the financial strain off fertility and family-starting treatments can be very impactful for parents-to-be. Lastly, offering legal services as an employee benefit can provide affordable access to counsel and document preparation. 

4. An Inclusive Corporate Culture 

Showing that you understand, respect and value all of your employees’ unique needs and diverse thoughts is one of the biggest ways you can support your LGBTQ+ employees. When employees feel supported in their job and are confident that they can show up as their authentic self, it’s good for their self-worth — and for your business.  

One actionable way to help foster a supportive, inclusive culture is to form employee resource groups specifically for this community. An ERG gives employees a safe space to discuss their struggles and allows them an avenue to provide feedback on how they could be better supported. It’s also important to have your workforce include their pronouns in email signatures and intranet profiles so their colleagues can properly address them. At ARAG, if an employee has not indicated their pronouns, we use they/them gender-neutral pronouns in articles and other communications.  

HR’s Vital Role 

Overall, as an HR professional, you play a vital role in helping your organization support its LGBTQ+ employees. By understanding their specific needs, you can help make sure they are supported — particularly when it comes to providing equitable benefits. And by setting an example for employees on how to create a supportive, inclusive culture, you’re fostering an environment where your LGBTQ+ employees can be their true, authentic self at work. 

Editor’s Note: Additional Content 

For more information and resources related to this article see the pages below, which offer quick access to all WorldatWork content on these topics: 

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