When global law firm Baker McKenzie’s private medical insurance (PMI) scheme, provided by healthcare insurer Cigna, renewed in April 2018, it introduced a new counselling benefit for employees over the age of 18 with gender identity disorder.
Included as part of the organisation’s standard single PMI coverage for its 900 UK employees, the new counselling service was designed to provide pre-operative psychotherapy support to employees looking to undergo gender affirmation surgery.
Laura Smith, senior reward officer at Baker McKenzie, says: “[The transitioning process is] a very personal and very complicated thing for people, and it felt a bit lacking that the PMI scheme didn’t [have] anything to help those individuals.”
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The counselling includes an initial mandatory consultation, conducted by two independent psychiatrists, to form a first assessment. The employee is then able to receive cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) over a two-year period, before having a final assessment, again conducted by two independent psychiatrists, prior to starting surgical treatment.
Baker McKenzie enables employees to access the treatments available through its PMI scheme by automatically enrolling staff into the benefit; employees have the choice to opt out if they prefer not to receive PMI. The law firm has been auto-enrolling employees to access PMI for the past two years; as of July 2018, approximately 90% of its workforce is covered.
Baker McKenzie funds single PMI cover for all UK employees. Staff members can also pay for enhanced cover to include dependants.
The PMI scheme is part of a wider health and wellbeing strategy, which includes an on-site GP and an employee assistance programme (EAP). Baker McKenzie promotes its PMI coverage through both email and word of mouth, which cascades from HR business partners or line managers where appropriate.
In September 2017, Baker McKenzie launched its Transition at Work guidelines, a document which signposts policies and information to support employees who may be transitioning, and offers guidance for managers and other employees. It also includes a workplace transition plan, which gives a framework for transitioning employees, line managers and members of the HR team to follow during the transition process.
“[We’re] really pleased that we could dovetail [the counselling benefit] into our Transition at Work guidelines here at the firm,” says Smith. “It really looks to support employees and their dependents, if they’re on [the] cover, with the psychotherapies they would need pre-op. It’s linking together all these little elements to create this supportive network for people who are thinking about transitioning.”