How inclusive employee benefits can better support equality and diversity

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A key challenge of becoming a diverse employer is catering for the varied wants and needs of your workforce. Something that can be truly difficult when you implement or review your employee benefits programme.

Not every employee requires the same support or prioritises the same type of perk, whether it be health, financial or family orientated. Therefore many companies fall into the trap of providing benefits that serve the majority and don’t address the specific issues of minority groups such as women or LGBTQ and underprivileged employees.

This may seem like a more financially safer approach – no business wants to provide benefits that will be underused or therefore a waste of investment – however doing so is actually detrimental to your talent acquisition, retention and overarching diversity & inclusion strategy. Even if you have a smaller percentage of minority employees, their needs must still be met.

One way to tackle this challenge is by creating a benefits programme that considers your entire workforce in terms of gender, sexual orientation, race, generation and culture. In doing so you will reap the benefits of a diverse workforce and be more likely to outperform those that are not.

Tackle gender inequality

Gender equality in the workplace has come a long way, however there is still room to better support female employees in and outside the office.

When it comes to childcare, women are still the primary carer in most households – even in families where both parents work full time. However on top of raising a family, women are also more likely to care for elderly parents or sick loved ones. This unpaid care work impacts 1 in 4 women aged 50-64 and results in twice as many between 45-54 having to reduce their working hours, or give up work compared to men.

This strikingly gendered issue has a clear detrimental impact on women’s employment at any age, affecting promotional opportunities, participation, income levels and their mental health.

Most employee benefits cater for both genders, however by providing a package that meets the evolving needs of professional women, you can take a leap towards better supporting opportunities for female employees to progress in your workplace. These may include flexible working hours, mental health support and assistive benefits that provide vetted caring and childcare support.

Attract more diverse talent

There’s no doubt about it, most industries and companies are tackling an ongoing global talent crisis. And with the increased cost of living to contend with, candidates are considering every aspect of a company’s offering more than before – including employee benefits.

With such high levels of competition, benefit packages are a surefire way to stand out and attract better talent. Particularly when they demonstrate that your workforce is inclusive, relevant and supportive.

76% of job seekers consider diversity to be an important factor when evaluating their next role – a percentage that increases to 79-80% for Black, Hispanic or LGBTQ employees. Whilst 60% state that a company’s benefits and perks are a strong consideration when accepting a job offer.

Employee benefits are just one area of creating an equal, inclusive company culture – however they are clearly an important one. Ensuring they embrace and support a diverse group of people will in turn make your company a more diverse, successful workforce.

Examples include floating holidays that allow employees to celebrate days that are of importance to them and their religion or culture, rather than traditional Christmas and Easter days off. Health benefits are another key area that should be visibly inclusive to attract and retain diverse talent. Ensure your programme is transgender-inclusive and consider providing benefits for women’s health issues including menstrual and menopause leave.

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Family benefits should also be assessed. Many organisations provide adequate maternity leave but what about new dads or adoptive parents? Consider how you can support all employees on their path to parenthood in an equal manner, no matter their sexual orientation, relationship status or financial circumstances, including those going through IVF, surrogacy and egg/sperm freezing.

Provide fairer opportunities

Many employee benefits programmes support those on a conventional timeline inclusive of marriage, starting a family and retirement. However not all employees take this path or do so in a traditional sense.

A one-size-fits-all approach to benefits therefore doesn’t work and should instead account for those with varying financial statuses, working patterns, family setups and responsibilities outside of work.

For example, 8.4 million informal carers in the UK currently juggle work with 12 hours of care every week. A further 600 people give up work every day to look after a relative. A benefits programme that helps to elevate this strain through on-demand assistance, such as companiions, can have a dramatically positive impact on retention, productivity and the mental health of these employees. page2image21615104

One way to provide fairer opportunities to employees is with financial wellness and educational programmes that can aid personal development. Some organisations such as Google and LinkedIn have begun to help workers through tuition assistance and student loan repayments. This particularly helps women and communities of colour who are disproportionately impacted by heavy student loans. Other options include financial advice services that educate workers on investments, budget management and mortgages – allowing them to confidently prepare for their future – or professional development programmes that allow you to hire high-potential candidates with varied economic or educational backgrounds.

Benefits should be intrinsically accessible to all employees – so don’t forget to consider those who work remotely or in different locations to a company’s headquarters. Many employees miss out on social perks and localised benefits such as gym memberships and in-office events, whilst not all appeal to a multigenerational workforce who have different health and wellbeing needs. Break down the barriers of accessibility by personalising offerings to meet employees wherever they are or providing online programmes such as virtual appointments with medical advisors.

No matter the type or amount of employee benefits you’re able to offer, ensuring that they are inclusive of all your employees is the first step to becoming a more diverse workforce.

About the author

Eppie Shepherd is a freelance writer who creates engaging content for startups, small businesses and household names including companiions, the mobile app that connects employees to a trusted network of caring, compassionate local people, providing personalised on-demand support across the UK. During her career, Eppie has helped dozens of brands to spread their message, grow their organic traffic and convert their audiences, strengthened by her experience as an SEO Consultant.

If you are an employer and you would like to find out more about companiions, sign up for the MAD World Summit and join their breakfast briefing session: The Great Balancing Act – how to support the wellbeing of employees balancing work with caregiving responsibilities

The Summit is taking place in Central London on 11th October. MAD stands for Make A Difference. Now in its 5th year, the Summit is the go-to solutions-focused conference and exhibition for  employers who want to embed mental health and wellbeing as a strategic priority. Find out more about the different ways to register and sign up here.

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