Inclusivity: Supporting LGBTQ Employees When It Comes to Benefits

May 22, 2019

flag-1494846_640The rights of LGBTQ people are making the news and being recognized across Canada. From changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code with the introduction of Bill C-16, to the celebration of 50 years of equality with a newly minted loonie in circulation, consideration is being given to individuals who identify in a number of different ways.

Conversations about what needs to change and how to implement these changes are taking place at the government level as well as in the workplace. At the forefront of this change lie benefits providers, who must quickly adapt to meet the unique needs of LGBTQ plan members and their employers.

What Employers Are Asking

As insurance benefits advisors, we’ve received an increasing number of questions from clients around benefits for sexual and gender diverse employees. Issues such as fertility drug coverage and who can be covered (i.e. surrogates in same sex partnerships), how sex changes are reflected in an employee’s benefits plan and if they are eligible for disability coverage during recovery from sexual reconstructive surgery, how to acknowledge and incorporate preferred pronouns, as well as gender differentiations and how those affect premium rates, are all increasingly common questions.

How Benefits Insurers are Responding

To understand what’s being done to accommodate the LGBTQ community, we reached out to major insurance benefits companies across Canada. While no single insurer is currently doing all of the things we discovered, several common practices emerged around considerations being made to benefits programs.

A few insurance companies are working to remove gender from optional life premium rate tables, while others are adding third and fourth gender options to forms. A number of systems are being updated to accommodate gender-neutral options for plan members, a few are creating separate products for gender affirmation to help gender diverse plan members and their dependents through their transition with coverage for related surgical procedures, and many are reviewing products and services to ensure they reflect the diverse needs of each client and plan member.

The language used in plans is also being reviewed and updated. Gender-neutral language is being incorporated by some insurers into contracts and communications (replacing he/she with they/them), titles such as Mrs./Mr. /Ms. are being omitted, and references to family members are being replaced with gender-neutral words (using the word child instead of son/daughter).

What More Needs to be Done

Much of what benefits insurance companies are developing is heading in the right direction for LGBTQ plan members. However, further questions and requirements are being raised by plan members and sponsors, such as making Life Rate or LTD rating tables gender-neutral, as insurance companies currently use individuals’ sex as designated at birth.

Not all benefits insurers are at the same stage of change when it comes to gender inclusiveness. While some are already implementing numerous changes and are open to further considerations, others are still in the preliminary review phase, and some have not yet begun. There is still much to be done to ensure consistent, considerate, and inclusive treatment of plan members across all circumstances.

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