In the fiercely contested business world, the emphasis on employee welfare has become a crucial differentiator in recruiting and retaining top talent. However, the health of employees, particularly those from underrepresented groups such as the LGBTQAI+ community, people with disabilities, and women, can be adversely affected by inadequately planned workplaces.
A report by Plum, a health insurance platform, brings attention to the fact that acceptance for LGBTQAI+ communities within corporate settings is still in its early stages. Discrimination remains a pervasive issue, impinging upon facets of life ranging from job searches and housing rentals to insurance coverage and banking access.
Workplace Discrimination and Its Impact
According to a 2018 report from the Nation Human Rights Commission, a staggering 96% of transgender individuals faced job denial, while 92% were excluded from economic activities. It also highlighted that many workplace policies do not adequately cover critical areas such as HIV, mental health, maternity, and LGBTQAI+ coverage.
“Diversity and inclusion go beyond simply acknowledging different identities. They involve understanding who your workforce is, and recognizing who is overlooked, unheard, or unseen,” comments Madhumita Venkataraman.
Plum advocates for companies to devise health insurance policies that are inclusive, covering a broad spectrum of employees and their dependents. For the LGBTQAI+ community, this should encompass areas such as gender reassignment, mental health, provision for live-in partner coverage, and surrogacy.
In India, the price range for gender transition procedures varies, with costs for males estimated between ₹2 and ₹5 lakh, while females can expect to pay between ₹4 and ₹8 lakh. Despite this, the country’s insurance coverage is extremely low, accounting for only 4.2% of the population. Furthermore, individuals bear 47% of total healthcare costs personally. This underscores the lack of sufficient insurance support for elective medical procedures like gender reassignment surgeries.
The Struggle for Gender Equality in the Corporate World
The representation of women in the corporate sector also remains dismally low. As per Sebi’s regulation, all listed companies must have at least one woman board member. Yet, a survey conducted by Excellent Enabler of 100 listed Indian companies found that only 27% of firms have two or more independent women directors; 61% of companies have only one, while 12% have none at all.
Dr Saundarya Rajesh, Founder of Avtar Group, identifies the lack of diversity in leadership as a significant impediment. “When an organization’s leadership is predominantly male, the inclusion of women can often be neglected,” she observes.
Plum’s report recommends the inclusion of terms like egg freezing, IVF, complications related to maternity, and surrogacy for women staff in health insurance policies.
This need for a more inclusive approach to health insurance coverage underscores the persistent struggle for diversity and equality in the corporate world. Creating a more equitable and inclusive workspace is not just about ticking boxes; it is about actively creating policies that cater to the unique needs and circumstances of underrepresented groups.
The change has to be systemic, and inclusive insurance policies could be a step in the right direction. As we celebrate Pride Month, let’s remember that embracing diversity and inclusion should extend far beyond a single month and become a part of our everyday corporate culture.