HR Inclusive Policy Toolkit
Inclusive Benefits: What does it mean?
- Group benefit programs were originally developed for a relatively homogenous segment of the population (males of dominant ethnicities within a certain age range) and underpinned by certain assumptions that are no longer true.
- Traditional benefit programs under-serve groups with different needs and circumstances.
Most group benefit plans are based on what other employers offer in a market, but this benchmarking approach could result in unseen areas and perpetuate disparities.
- Unconscious bias exacerbates many drivers of incomplete coverage, causing misinterpretation of regulations, incorrect assumptions that government programs cover certain services, reluctance to accept new societal trends, and lack of attention and investment (such as the ways in which workplaces are inaccessible to differently-abled people).
Why is it important?
- Employee benefit packages need to reflect the social realities that Canada currently faces. This involves recognizing the diversity of our Canadian workforce including people who experience a disability. By doing so, employers can strategically design benefit packages to better attract, motivate, and retain high performing employees.
- Canadian businesses are becoming increasingly innovative about the types of benefits they offer. There are several advantages to offering a well-rounded benefit package that meets the needs of a diverse group of employees. Packages of this nature often assist in attracting and retaining high-level talent, improving a business’s brand as an inclusive and great place to work, and positively impacting a company’s bottom line.
- Employers who maintain traditional, broadly defined benefit programs risk excluding minorities and vulnerable groups in the workforce for many reasons.
- Flexible benefits are an obvious fit in an organization looking to support a diverse workforce, since employees can choose benefits that suit their unique needs and life circumstances.
- Keep in mind that group benefit programs or policies that discontinue participation for employees based on age (e.g. at age 70) have been found to be discriminatory. It is recommended that you review your insurance coverage with your provider to determine what, if any, discriminatory age-related exclusions exist.
Sample Inclusive Workplace Policy
The following policy sample should be part of a larger group benefits and leaves policy. This larger policy should also address any legislatively mandated benefits requirements in your jurisdiction (particularly those relating to human rights and accommodation), the purpose of the policy, the scope of the policy’s application, who is responsible for administering which parts of the policy, and the procedures that must be followed under the policy.
Putting it into Practice
- Provide benefits choice. Choice is an inherent principle of flex benefit plans since they allow employees to customize their benefits into something that best suits their unique needs and life circumstances. Samples of inclusive benefit policies are:
- Floating holidays
- Paid time off and/or personal days
- Working remotely
- Flexible schedules
- Professional development
- View booklets, contracts, and forms through the lens of inclusion. Administrative forms and documents like enrolment forms, beneficiary forms, dependant elections, coordination of benefits information, and plan text should include language that supports the diversity of employees.
- Employee assistance programs (EAP) can provide support to a diverse workforce and should offer diversity in the counsellors available to plan members and their families, and a variety of methods for accessing counselling or self-serve support services. EAP providers can be a great source for diversity and inclusion training for leaders within an organization, or for the workplace as a whole through workshops or coaching.
- Employers could consider reframing their paid-time-off policy to provide personal days that are discretionary and can be used for medical appointments or personal emergencies.
- Employers could consider sending information home with employees for broader dissemination of messaging or translation support if needed.
(Provincial differences, unionized workplace considerations)
- Unionized employees must refer to their collective agreement for information concerning benefits.