Pride Month | LGBTQIA+ Benefits Programs & Policies

Jul 7, 2023

June arrived and PRIDE ads and articles tipped me into a reflective steep. I asked myself, “What can I do to help HR professionals in the benefits arena to support them, as they work to support their employees?” I am a cisgender human trying to grow my awareness and support of other humans. I started where I usually, do….humbly recognizing that I really don’t know what I don’t know. I plugged into the webinar world for basic facts, then reached to a kind former colleague, who introduced me to other kind humans, whose experiences and life needs are different than mine. My goal: to start to answer the question I asked of myself, and tip other HR and Business leaders on a reflective evaluation of their own. Great thanks to Eve Keller, Chris Handberg, and Shelly Snider for being amazing resources offering time and information during a very busy time.

With each web search, webinar, and article, my lens expanded with new phrases and ideas. “Family Forming benefits” was my first educational “ah-ha”. It’s not just about infertility and adoption benefits but it’s about the programs, policies, and benefits that help families form. Traditional benefits don’t necessarily cover what a same-sex couple might need in terms of support to overcome an additional set of challenges in fostering and adoption processes.

Does your organization:

  • Have legal and financial planning to help an employee prepare for adding to their family?
  • Offer New Parent Leave to support time away with a new family member? 

When talking with Chris, I was advised that not all LGBTQIA+ individuals are biologically connected the members of their families. Your LGBTQIA+ employees may experience different levels of acceptance by their biological families. Some employees may live in homes with families who love, support, and complete familial bonds without a biological connection. Employer support for all families can be seen in the company’s definition of household. For an employer, having the company define care for households rather than those coupled within a sexual relationship (which used to be documented by the domestic partner affidavit) would serve better to cover the wider range of relationship definitions and dependent needs. Employers providing a welcome safe and comfortable workplace through offering inclusive benefits, policies and services that meet LGBTQIA+ employee needs and addresses their challenges.

Does your organization:

  • Have a way to support employee family/households as the employee defines it?
  • Are bereavement policies updated to go beyond biological relationships/titles?

For inclusive medical benefits, Chris encouraged a review of benefits to confirm employee access to Gender Affirming Care. Include benefits to support an employee being evaluated for a trans medical diagnosis, enabling treatment with prescriptions, and access to mental health. Confirm that prescriptions used are covered, such as HIV medications.

[Further information that helped me learn a little more: Gender Affirming Care as defined by the World Health Organization, encompasses a range of social, psychological, behavioral, and medical interventions “designed to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity” when it conflicts with the gender they were assigned at birth. The interventions help transgender people align various aspects of their lives — emotional, interpersonal, and biological — with their gender identity. As noted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), that identity can run anywhere along a continuum that includes man, woman, a combination of those, neither of those, and fluid.  What is gender-affirming care? Your questions answered | AAMC]

A major surgical alteration request is not received with frequency by employers. Humans have different levels of information, experience, and acceptance around sex and gender that may impact the frequency of physical adjustments. These requests continue to evolve as our society continues to learn more about gender and identity. For an employer, offering access to the benefits, just having those out there demonstrates a caring, thoughtful company. They may never be used, but the company is prepared to help, and shows to all employees they are an ally.

Within our medical benefits discussion, Shelly emphasized the need to carefully consider mental health benefits; having access to therapists and working to remove the stigma of seeking help for all employees is certainly needed. Leadership visibility to this support and having programs in place to reach into employees’ need for life balance.

Does your organization:

  • Understand the limits of its medical benefit offerings, both physical and mental, and what it’s signaling in terms of employee support?
  • Offer gender affirming care?

LGBTQIA+ employees also have generational perspectives to be considered. There may be members of your work community who are now concerned more than ever before with retirement planning. Chris advised a generation of men never thought they would live into their 50s, 60s, or 70s. A whole generation didn’t think they would be growing old because of AIDS and are less prepared for the later stages of their lives.

Does your organization:

  • Provide access to financial planners who can help assist a current employee’s position and help build a plan to get them where they need to be?
  • Provide Long Term Care benefits to employees who are growing older who may have concerns that their savings will not cover their needs through the end of their lives?

Stronger, welcoming, supportive, workplace cultures can be achieved if we have room for diversity, inclusion, and equity.  We all continue to learn about each other as humans – it’s a daily journey.  I am appreciative of those who helped me bring this to you:

Sharing their experiences as members of the LGBTQIA+ community: Eve Keller, Director, Client Solutions with Interaction Associates, Chris Handberg, of Chris Handberg Consulting, and Shelly Snider, Executive Director of Indy Pride, Inc.

Regarding benefits, programs, and policies — contact the team at McGohan Brabender.


Written By: Business Development Representative, Miriam Posluszny