DEI with a wellbeing and mental health lens: Aon’s global DEI findings shed light on best practice

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DEI remains a key priority for businesses across the globe, with many employers recognising the need to align DEI with wider health and wellbeing strategies.

Against a backdrop of a global pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, trans rights and growing pressure on businesses to address gender and ethnicity pay gaps, the corporate DEI agenda has never been more important. Companies disregard DEI at their peril: a lack of investment in DEI could end up costing businesses millions in missed opportunities. Research has shown that companies with DEI initiatives enjoy a competitive advantage when it comes to recruitment, retention, engagement and brand reputation. McKinsey research has also demonstrated that diverse companies actually outperform and outcompete less diverse peers.[1]

More pertinently, a new global study by Aon revealed a correlation between companies with high engagement levels and ‘broader’, wide-ranging DEI initiatives.

‘Broadly defined programmes’ in this context refers to DEI policies which cover six or more categories such as age, gender, disability status, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, veteran status, parental status and mental health.

Unsurprisingly, companies with DEI strategies of narrower scopes – focusing on one or two areas – had lower engagement levels.

The Aon Diversity Equity and Inclusion survey which was conducted between June and October 2022 polled over 1,200 respondents across 55 countries, industries and sectors. It looks at DEI policy design and key trends through a health and wellbeing lens.

Here are some of the main findings.

Mental health is a low area of focus

Of nine potential key areas covered in DEI policies across businesses around the world, gender and ethnicity were most commonly covered in DEI strategies (80 and 86 per cent respectively), particularly in the EMEA region. Yet mental health was identified as a low area of focus globally (30 per cent). Given that mental health touches every aspect of working and professional life, this is a concern.

There’s a big gap in mental health cover across the globe

Although it’s important to remember the cultural context of healthcare services (much of Europe for example rely on state healthcare whereas North America and Asia Pacific (APAC) rely on private coverage) there are still significant discrepancies with mental health provision. Just 25 per cent of APAC companies surveyed offer access to psychiatric services in comparison to 87 per cent of North American companies. By the same vein, 16 per cent of APAC countries offer in-patient mental health services whereas this is offered by 78 per cent of North American companies. In contrast, 49 per cent of companies within the Europe, Middle East and Africa region (EMEA) provide psychiatrist cover and 30 per cent offer in-patient mental health care.

North American companies are leading the way in transgender care

There is growing awareness of the mental health needs of transgender and non-binary employees. And while transgender care is not widely available in certain global regions such as APAC, 47 per cent of companies surveyed in this region still offer mental health support for gender identity related healthcare including assessments, diagnosis, and transition assistance. North America meanwhile, appears to be leading the way when it comes to DEI coverage with 84 per cent of North American companies providing mental health support for this demographic group.

Coverage of this sort appears low in the EMEA and Latin American region (30 and 31 per cent respectively) because healthcare, including transgender-related is more frequently accessed through state healthcare. 

Coverage for fertility treatments remain an emerging global trend while eldercare take-up remains low

Respondents to the survey were asked about DEI healthcare provision for infertility treatments and/or parental or elderly care. While some leading technological and financial services companies are leading the way in providing infertility provision for employees, it is still relatively uncommon. In Europe, it is mainly covered within state-run health systems.

Five per cent of APAC companies offer infertility treatment provision, 11 per cent of EMEA companies and 53 per cent among North American companies, with a global average of 11 per cent.

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It’s a similar story across parental and/or elderly care, affecting the so-called sandwich generation (employees who are financially responsible for their children and their elderly parents). 24 per cent of EMEA employers provide support for parental care or eldercare, whereas just 10 per cent of North American companies surveyed offer this provision.

Employee leave varies globally, but sabbaticals are consistently low across all regions

Companies were asked about the different types of leave they provided to meet the needs of a diverse workforce including caregiver leave, family leave, miscarriage/still birth leave, parental leave for adoptive/surrogacy, reduced hours/flexible schedule after parental leave and sabbatical leave.

Unsurprisingly, employee leave on compassionate or personal grounds varies widely from country to country and needs to be understood in context of regional laws.

On a global scale, miscarriage/still birth leave and parental leave for adoptive/surrogacy parents are most common types of leave offered across all regions. Yet regional trends have also emerged, with APAC companies leading the way in offering miscarriage/still birth leave (66%) and 68 % of North American companies offering parental leave for adoptive parents/surrogacy.

Just 17 per cent of EMEA companies surveyed actively offer caregiver leave and 36 per cent offer reduced hours and/or flexible schedules for those returning from parental leave.

Sabbatical leave, however, is low across all areas – less than 8 per cent globally. Offering this type of leave could therefore be a key differentiator for potential employees.

Download the full Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion report on DE&I policies and trends and see how your DE&I strategy compares.



About the author:

Dr Avneet Kaur heads Aon’s Advisory and Specialty Practice across EMEA. She is responsible for further Aon’s consulting capabilities to bring strategic value to clients, with an expertise that includes inclusive and equitable benefits, healthcare financing and health policy and governance. Avneet and her team advise clients on Next Gen benefits, DE&I, people risk solutions, talent attraction and retention, ESG, wellbeing and digital health solutions.

On a global level, Avneet is the co-lead of Aon’s global wellbeing proposition, a global health expert for Aon’s digital health app and a key part of Aon’s global clinical group.

Avneet is a clinician, graduating in Medicine from Indraprastha University, Delhi, and has a wealth of international experience in the global healthcare landscape across the 3 P’s (Payer, Provider & Patient).



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