D&I focused training is essential, and so are statements from leaders on the importance of diversity and inclusion. However, many companies focus solely on "soft" D&I initiatives, ignoring more codified changes, either because they don't understand the importance of backing up D&I initiative with policy, or they believe that it is simply easier to pay lip service to diversity without doing much to change. One of the most important and tangible steps a company can take to ensure all employees are treated equally is to examine current employer benefits policies and update them as needed. After all, if all employees aren't guaranteed equal treatment under corporate policy, how can we guarantee that they will be treated equally in the workplace? Many mainstream benefits packages are written to support a very narrow group of individuals, and don't take into consideration the needs of all employees. To truly deliver on promises to improve diversity and inclusion in an organization, companies must enact benefit policies that guarantee quality and support the challenges that employees belonging to minority groups may face. So, which benefits are the most impactful? The answer is not a simple one-size-fits-all. While some benefits may aid the majority of employees, there are some often overlooked benefits that are vital to specific minority groups.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling preventing discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation has been vital in protecting and advancing LGBTQ+ employees' rights. However, it's still essential to ensure that your company is giving LGBTQ+ individuals the same rights as other employees in practice, not just in theory. Healthcare and insurance language should be written in gender-neutral terms to provide all employees and their spouses with the same coverage. Instead of or in addition to granting maternity benefits, give all employees a set amount of parental leave. This allows non-traditional families the same freedom to raise care for their newborn children as heterosexual couples. It's also vital to provide pro-LGBTQ+ resources and coverage to employees. Providing mental health counseling that includes gender and sexuality counseling is critical, as is ensuring that your health insurance plan covers gender-affirming surgery.
Black Employees and other POC
In this time of social injustice and unrest, it's more important than ever that your company's commitment to racial justice goes beyond lip service and instead genuinely works to improve POC individuals' experiences. Since our social institutions have continually disenfranchised the Black community, it's crucial to ensure that health insurance and retirement benefits are easily accessible to all employees. Furthermore, comprehensive health insurance is vital. This is because doctors are more likely to dismiss POC people's reports of health issues, especially when the individual in question is a Black or a female POC. It's also vital that Black individuals and other people of color can speak out about their viewpoints and struggles without fear of repercussions. Facing discrimination and fighting for fundamental human rights is already a burden; fear of punishment should not be another.
Employees belonging to a Non-Christian Religion
An often-overlooked minority group is those who follow a non-Christian religion. Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are two glaring examples of the kinds of hatred and bigotry that face non-Christian individuals worldwide. Therefore, it's essential to support your employees' religious freedom by creating policies that allow them to practice their religions freely. Creating flexible holidays, instead of only recognizing Christmas and other Christian-centric holidays, is an excellent first step. It's also essential to provide additional accommodations so that employees aren't unintentionally excluded because of their religion. Proving Kosher, Halal, and Vegan options at events where food is served is an excellent example of a step that a company could take to be more inclusive. Additionally, health insurance coverage shouldn’t be Christian-centric, but instead have a secular basis for its policies. This ensures that coverage policies don't unintentionally push Christian ideals and values onto non-Christian employees.
While the examples listed above are not an exhaustive representation of minority groups in the workplace, they provide a clear picture of how crucial it is to carefully review and adjust company policies to fit each employee's unique needs. At Level, we can help your company identify problem areas and develop inclusive policies. An outside viewpoint is essential when assessing the diversity and inclusion problems the company possesses.Enlisting a D&I consulting company's expertise ensures that your time, money, and efforts go toward producing real and positive change, not just the illusion of it.