Avneet Kaur: Diversity, equity and inclusion policies must align with employee benefits

avneet kaur

A global pandemic and economic volatility, along with Black Lives Matter and trans rights movements, have all brought about seismic shifts in attitudes. Added to this, the modern workforce is multi-generational and diverse in culture, experience, and identity.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies must therefore align with employee benefits in order to meet the needs of the people they serve. The wider the focus, the better. Our global study identified a correlation: organisations with a broader DEI focus had higher engagement levels, where policies cover six or more categories including age, disability status, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.

The Aon Diversity Equity and Inclusion survey, published in November 2022, polled over 1,200 respondents across 55 countries to gain a deeper understanding into organisationsā€™ DEI practices in the context of employee benefits, work environment and culture. Here are the main findings.

Disability is commonly covered in DEI

Disability status is most commonly covered in corporate DEI policies. Although the duty to make ā€˜reasonable adjustmentsā€™ is already enshrined in EU law under the Equality Act 2010, the majority of organisations surveyed by Aon go over and above this. Globally, 58% offer changes in working practices to accommodate disability requests for workforce adjustments, such as flexible working hours or modified shift patterns, while 42% of organisations offer changes in working policies, such as sickness absence or additional work breaks.

Health coverage gap between high and low-income earners

Health and wellbeing benefits have moved up the corporate agenda in recent years: Aon’s UK Benefits and Trends Survey 2022, published in February 2022, showed that 95% of employers acknowledge it is their responsibility for employee health and wellbeing. Yet the recent Aon Diversity Equity and Inclusion report identified a health coverage gap between the highest paid employees and the lowest paid: Globally, 40% of employers offer additional health coverage to high income earners, in comparison to just 8% of additional health coverage offered to low-income employees.

Mental health coverage also varies; 43% of organisations globally provide access to a psychiatrist, while 32% provide in-patient mental health coverage. The EMEA region accounts for 30% of in-patient coverage. However, the UK and much of Europe relies on state health systems, reducing the need for private mental health coverage in these regions.

Gender sensitive needs

The majority of healthcare for trans and non-binary employees is accessed through state healthcare systems in Europe and Latin America, yet a small percentage of organisations surveyed in the EMEA region (4%) also offer hormone therapy, in comparison to 11% globally. 41% of organisations globally also provide mental health support relating to trans issues.

Holistic support for modern families

Employers now recognise the importance of supporting the modern family, whether same-sex couples, those of the sandwich generation – individuals with financial responsibility for both children and parents – or those going through the process of adoption or surrogacy. This is reflected in a truly modern benefits offering. The survey identified the huge range of available benefits in this area, such as coverage for infertility treatments, healthcare insurance for parental or elderly relatives and various family leave policies including caregiver leave, miscarriage or still birth leave, and sabbaticals.

In particular, compassionate leave policies for miscarriage or still birth, as well as leave for adoption or surrogacy are the most common family-related leaves on a global level (50% and 49% respectively). 23% of organisations globally provide caregiver leave, while just 6% offer sabbaticals.

Ageing population

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that by 2030, one in six people will be 60 years or over. With people living longer, there is increasing pressure on state, social care and health systems, so employers are all too aware of their part to play in responding to this issue. 66% of employers on a global level provide role flexibility in terms of design, location and hours for older workers, while 42% offer preventative care services.

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It seems organisations are moving far beyond paying lip service to DEI, itā€™s often more authentic and inclusive; this is shown to support employee engagement, something all organisations are working towards.

Dr Avneet Kaur is head of advisory and specialty practice, Health Solutions EMEA, Aon