There is an exciting trend emerging in some companies to re-think family benefits that align with the needs of LGBTQ people. The implications will be profound.
July 18, 2019
Pride has wrapped up for many people in the US, and this year’s celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Stonewall were bigger than ever. I’m energized by what I and the Out & Equal team were able to be a part of this year: from the thought leadership we provided at dozens of fireside chats, roundtables, and conferences; to our float in the Pride Parade in Washington, DC (the city that will soon host Summit!); and to our role in bringing businesses together on a historic amicus brief to the Supreme Court. But at a personal level, as a mother and member of a non-traditional family configuration, one conversation I took part in over Pride stood out. It highlights an emerging trend in which companies are leading the way in seeing and supporting their employees in their diverse family journeys.
In a handful of US states, the growing visibility and acceptance of diverse families and family circumstances has begun to result in an examination of inherently inadequate policies which have historically aligned with the needs of married straight couples and ignored many of the needs of others. The legislatures in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Oregon, for example, have all passed laws this year that include a more expansive definition of families when it comes to employee rights to paid family leave.
Some companies are also revisiting these definitions of family and increasingly letting their employees determine who is entitled to family benefits, such as health insurance or time off to be a caretaker, irrespective of blood or legally-recognized affiliation. They are also taking steps to make it easier to grow a family, such as expanded benefits in surrogacy and adoption, and providing fertility benefits without requiring a medical diagnosis of infertility. Companies like JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Accenture, Ernst & Young, and Mass Mutual – to name just a few – have begun putting into place some visionary and impactful benefits packages that exemplify inclusion and ‘belonging’ for their employees.
These emerging practices clearly benefit LGBTQ employees, but they also benefit other employees too. This is important. After all, the families of straight people also come in lots of shapes and sizes. The limited, traditional make-up of family benefits can chafe against their realities. Someone might seek to use the fertility benefits to be able to afford to have a child without a partner, or to be able to get pregnant without first going through the sometimes long and invasive process of getting a formal diagnosis of infertility. Another employee might utilize the new benefits to take time off to care for a gravely ill neighbor or a distant relative. A move towards a more flexible set of family benefit programs is a recognition of intersectionality and a move towards more inclusivity for everyone.
Some of the leaders behind these changes at their companies will be at Summit, sharing their experiences, best practices, and ideas for how these policies can be implemented in other organizations.
Erin Uritus, CEO
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates