Many companies are providing beneficial health insurance to their LGBTQAI+ staff and their partners as well, extending their policies to unmarried and live-in couples too. Here’s a look at some of the top organisations leading the way.
IBM is one of the first companies to include sexual orientation as part of its policy. It joined American Express, Google, and other global companies in September 2015 to launch the first business-led coalition that supports LGBT inclusion around the world.
In 2016, IBM took its first step in favour of the LGBT community by declaring benefits like health insurance for sex reassignment surgery and medical and leave-benefits for same-sex partners. They’ve also launched ‘Out Role Models’, a global policy that features LGBT employees as role models in growth countries, including Brazil, Greece, Israel, the Czech Republic, China, Japan, Mexico, and India.
Adding to the diversity and inclusivity section, IBM also launched #EqualityAct in 2018 to ensure transgender employees receive fair and equal treatment, globally. Over the years, it has also introduced many LGBTQ-friendly policies to reform their workplace, for good. This includes sensitising all managers with cautious training about transgender team members who may wish to underdo sex-reassignment surgery; allowing staff members to choose their prefixes and pronouns; supporting LGBT employees to put video vlogs about their experiences.
Godrej is another company in India to extend a helping hand at making Indian workspaces more inclusive. The company has actually been rather vocal about making their offices LGBTQ-friendly as it also introduced Godrej India Culture Lab in 2011, “a fluid experimental space that cross-pollinates ideas and people to explore what it means to be modern and Indian.”
Soon the policies were tweaked to create an atmosphere of acceptance. These included allowing employees to select gender so they can use gender-appropriate washrooms at work; changing ‘spouse’ to ‘partner’ in policies extending benefits to next of kin; giving LGBTQ individuals a three-month paid break for primary caregiving if they choose to adopt; allowing same-sex partners in committed relationships benefits like treatment at the group’s hospital and even reimbursing health insurance bought for a same-sex partner.
Accenture too joined the bandwagon soon after the Supreme Court of India ruled Section 377 as unconstitutional on September 6, 2018. The company launched ‘Pride at Accenture’ in 2019, an initiative to talk about how equality is beneficial for corporate workplace and the importance of acknowledging LGBTQ employees. Accenture in India introduced LGBTQ-friendly benefits including coverage for hormone therapy, mental health counselling and transgender-specific surgeries, healthcare facilities for LGBTQ staff members and their partners.
LGBT employees at Accenture can share their journeys on a virtual platform, and even answer questions from non-LGBT people via a global Ally program, which has 118,000 members.
Star India is another big name to bookmark in the list of companies offering insurance benefits to LGBT partners. Effective July 1, 2019 (as it says on their website), Star India extended health insurance coverage to the partners of LGBT+ employees. This includes benefits around maternity and paternity, IVF, surrogacy, and adoption. Furthermore, they erased the word ‘spouse’ from insurance product and replaced it with ‘partner’. It is a step taken to ensure a broader perspective of including live-ins, unmarried LGBTQ couples.
Star was also one of the first organisations to offer ‘6+6 months’ maternity leave program, four weeks of paternity leave, and flexible leave policy, allowing its employees to take as many days of paid leave as they need.
In a press release in December 2019, Tata Group boosted their focused attempts enabling equal rights to their LGBTQ+ employees.
According to an email received by the employees then, the new health policy redefines ‘spouse’ as a partner. The new insurance policy covers up to 50 per cent cost of sex or gender reassignment surgery. Tata Steel employees and their partners can now avail a host of benefits including health check-up, medical benefits, joint house points, adoption leave, new-born parent leave, child care leave, and inclusion in employee assistance programme (EAP). They also get financial assistance for gender reassignment surgery and 30 days of special leave for the same.
They are also eligible for Tata Executive Holiday Plan (TEHP) honeymoon package, domestic travel coverage for new employees, temporary transfer policy, transfer and relocation, which that allows the partner to travel and familiarise themselves to a new place.
The Lalit Hotels
The Lalit is India’s first hotel chain to include LGBTQ healthcare benefits for employees and offer insurance benefits to LGBT partners. The Lalit, which has 12 hotels in India and one in London, United Kingdom, and over 3,000 employees, announced the extension of mediclaim coverage to its LGBTQ employees, their partners, families, and children (both adoptive and those born through surrogacy).
Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, a company that operates the Lalit chain of hotels, offers a Rs 3.5-lakh coverage for gender-reassignment surgery for transgender employees. It has joined hands with ICICI Lombard, India’s leading medical insurance provider to cover the LGBTQ employees.
In 2019, Tech Mahindra introduced new additions to their Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) policy. The updated policy includes the LGBTQ+ community, new parents, cancer patients and survivors. Under this policy, the included employees are allowed the following: flexibility in its ‘Work from home’ policy in the first year of parenthood, 12 weeks paid adoption leave for same-sex couples and bereavement leave of three days for same-sex partners.
After the 377 section verdict in 2018, the New Jersey-based tech mammoth mainlined its LGBTQ-friendly policies to India. Taking cues from their Philippines office, which holds 10-15 per cent of its employee strength, the same insurance policies were brought to India.
The Cognizant India Medical Insurance coverage for LGBTQ workforce comes with a vision to support inclusion, transition and assimilation of associates with different orientation needs and provide quality healthcare to those who need them. Associates can cover same-sex partners (domestic partners) for health insurance as long as they have acceptable proof of living in the same residence. The policy also covers surgeries that cover Mastectomy and Hysterectomy. They also focus on sensitising team members about sex change.
All illustrations: Courtesy Getty