5 ways employers can support transgender employees

Transgender Healthcare

As the transgender community continues to battle discrimination, employers can be valuable allies by creating a positive environment that promotes diversity and inclusivity in the workforce.

Transgender employees are already one of the most underserved communities in the workforce when it comes to healthcare benefits.

Indeed, only 29% of U.S. employers offer transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, an organization that offers education for the employee benefits community.

Insurance often looks at medically necessary treatments transgender employees require as elective or cosmetic, and therefore doesn’t provide adequate coverage, despite the fact that such care is viewed by the medical profession as necessary procedures.

“Healthcare related to gender transition has been universally recognized by every major medical organization that has spoken on the issue as medically necessary care,” said Joshua Block, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “Not only do these exclusions violate the contemporary standards of care of the medical community, but they also violate federal and state anti-discrimination laws.”

Read More:How employers are failing transgender employees in a crucial way

Transgender individuals are battling discrimination on an number of fronts. However, employers are uniquely positioned to be an ally and create an environment that banishes this discrimination on every level.

Here are some strategies that employers can use to create a more trans-inclusive workplace.

Provide trans-specific benefits

“Many companies seek to create trans-inclusive benefits packages, but their employees oftentimes don’t use the benefits provided because of fear of harassment in the process of accessing healthcare,” says Soltan Bryce, head of growth at Plume, which helps clients access hormone replacement therapy via mobile devices. “Everything we do centers on the unique needs of the trans community, which employers won't find with typical benefit programs.”

Read More:Transgender health company Plume jumps into employee benefits space

Be proactive, not reactive, about your policies

“By proactively incorporating gender-identity-specific nondiscrimination practices and policies throughout their businesses, employers can help support their trans employees and make their workplace more equitable,” says Anita Chauhan, director of marketing, at Crescendo, a workplace solutions provider for diversity and inclusion strategies. “As a base, a robust gender-identity-specific nondiscrimination policy involves protecting and promoting the rights of people of all gender identities. But it should not stop there. While trans-supportive policies are vital, companies must also ensure that they provide comprehensive education and resources around increasing their employees' understanding and acceptance of their trans colleagues.”

Provide LGBTQ+ inclusive voluntary benefits

Fertility benefits often exclude the LGBTQ+ community because a diagnosis of infertility is required for treatments.

“This of course precludes LGBTQ+ members or single parents by choice,”says Lisa Greenbaum, the chief client officer at Progyny. “They have to meet that strict diagnosis definition of infertility, and so regardless of what service is offered to help [employees] get pregnant, [LGBTQ+ employees] may not even have that service offered to them.”

However, Progyny doesn’t require an infertility diagnosis; instead the company allows the physician and patient to work together to determine what the most appropriate path to pregnancy is.

Read More:Your fertility benefits may be excluding LGBTQ+ employees from treatments

Guard against workplace harassment

A Glassdoor survey conducted by the Harris Poll, found that 53% of LGBTQ+ employees reported that they have experienced or witnessed anti-LGBTQ+ comments by co-workers.

“Many employers have an opportunity to build or strengthen the foundation for an inclusive culture that encourages employees to bring their full selves to work,” Jesus Suarez, Glassdoor’s LGBTQ+ and ally employee group leader, said in the Glassdoor survey.

Have a clear definition of workplace inclusion

“At Limeade, we define inclusion as a sense of belonging, connection and community at work. Inclusive organizations help people feel welcomed, known, valued — and encouraged to bring their whole, unique selves to work,” says Laura Hamill, chief people officer at Limeade.

There are three key tips employers can use to create an inclusive culture: listen to employees, act on their feedback and provide education.

“Employers should regularly provide resources and educational materials and activities to employees on topics such as gender identity and the importance of pronouns. Leadership should be setting the example and using inclusive language in meetings,” Hamill says.