Employers expanding LGBT benefits

Employers are evolving their workplace policies to address lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender -rights issues for employees in an ever-increasing combat for top talent.

Although many employers don’t have a diversity and inclusion policy that specifically addresses the treatment and care of LGBT employees, most have adopted a policy that protects those workers from workplace discrimination or harassment, according to Mercer’s LGBT Benefits around the World Survey, released Wednesday.

“In the global war for top talent, companies perceived as non-discriminatory and progressive enhance their attractiveness as a workplace by creating a welcoming, supportive and productive environment,” says Ilya Bonic, president of Mercer’s career business.

According to the study, a little more than half of employers reported having tailored policies to specifically accommodate LGBT employees, while one-third do not have a designated program for LGBT employees within their diversity and inclusion policy.

Notably, Mercer notes, most groups that have adopted a stand-alone policy for LGBT employees (28%) have done so as a global policy.

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Supporters gather for a news conference outside City Hall after the U.S. Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Friday, June 26, 2015. Same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a historic ruling that caps the biggest civil rights transformation in a half-century. Photographer: Josh Edelson/Bloomberg

Two-thirds of global employers say they have a separate anti-discrimination policy that covers LGBT employees and an additional 6% plan to adopt such a policy within the next year, Mercer notes. Further, a smaller portion of companies (28%) allow employees to self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender for the purposes of workforce analytics.

“By not allowing employees to identify as LGBT, companies are unable to track LGBT engagement, which increases the risk of poor or low awareness of the breadth and scale of LGBT issues within their own business,” says Tony Wood, UK Leader for Mercer Marsh Benefits. “To attract and retain the best talent in the market companies increasingly need to demonstrate that they are an inclusive employer with a diverse workforce.”

And knowing these metrics allows employers to better tailor benefits coverage for the LGBT community.

Employers worldwide have revisited language in their benefits programs to ensure LGBT couples are eligible for the same company benefits as opposite-sex couples. In many cases, Mercer says, this includes amending programs to recognize same-sex couples in locations where civil unions are prohibited.

According to the research, a majority of companies worldwide (81%) offer the same life, medical, and retirement benefits to LGBT couples as they do to heterosexual couples.

“With all the uncertainty of the past year and the spotlight on human rights issues, it is more important than ever for organizations to reassess their position on LGBT-rights issues,” Bonic adds.

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