Prawal Kalita, Practice Leader - Employee Health & Benefits, Marsh India

According to Pride Research survey conducted by ACKO and YouGov in June 2021, only 2 out of every 5 Indian parents said that they would be supportive if their child was part of the LGBTQ+ community. Also, a study done by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) found that 46% of LGBTQ workers say they are closeted at work. Many corporates are, increasingly, taking efforts to create a workplace that reflects its core values of embracing and supporting true diversity. Prawal Kalita, Practice Leader – Employee Health & Benefits, Marsh India, on Challenges that LGBT employees are facing at workplace, trends observed in India on adoption of cover for LGBTQ employees and much more.

 

What are the significant challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community at the workplace or while working from home?

The challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community at the workplace may potentially include discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, discomfort and hostility with having to tolerate inappropriate questions and exclusion. A non-inclusive workplace may force individuals to conceal their orientation and identity, leading to lower self-esteem, stress and lower productivity, impacting their career progression eventually. Overall under-representation of LGBTQ+ community in the workforce further adds to the anxiety and isolation.

What measures should be taken to support the LGBTQ+ community and enhance their experience at workplaces? What major changes will be seen at workplaces post-pandemic?

The foundation of any corporate initiative to support the LGBTQ+ community depends on how much the organisation understands the challenges faced by the community at the workplace. Organisational policies around Diversity and Inclusions (D&I) should focus on promoting an inclusive culture and providing a safe work environment. Educating and training employees and managers on inclusion is the key to creating an inclusive environment and ensuring the policies come alive at our workplace.

Next, companies should look at how to embed inclusion in true spirit through talent acquisition, retention and career progression decisions.  Lastly, visible support by the organisation and encouraging employees to demonstrate such support in the workplace forums and meetings through campaigns. This will foster solidarity and go a long way to build a truly diverse and inclusive workplace.

Companies are increasingly hiring more diverse talent pools, making changes in the benefit policies to make them more inclusive and we expect this to continue even post the pandemic as there is a realisation that millennials would prefer an organization that is inclusive in all aspects.

What is the scenario of Employee health insurance for the LGBTQ+ community in India? Are there any policies or covers, which specifically includes or excludes the community?

Insurance companies extend the coverage to employees irrespective of their orientation. While Employee health insurance policies do not discriminate between LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ employees for general illnesses, there is an emerging trend of companies going back to drawing boards to have special provisions to cater to the unique needs of LGBTQ+ employees.

  • Coverage of same-gender partners is now prevalent in many corporates.
  • Support for gender reassignment surgeries and ancillary procedures such as voice modulation, hormone replacement therapy and outpatient consultations for medical and psychological support are some examples of how health insurance programs can be curated to make them progressive and responsive to such needs.
  • Addressing reproductive needs is another area we find gaining attention and this can include artificial modes of reproduction such as IVF, surrogacy, egg/ sperm donation, embryo freezing etc. to support family planning.

How is the perspective of Indian corporates different from Global corporates towards the LGBTQ Community?

With the scrapping of Section 377 of the IPC, which decriminalized same-gender sexual relationships, a rising number of Indian companies have started looking at gender and sexual orientation best practices, and this has led to a heightened awareness about special requirements.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 that talks about the creation of third gender in all legal provisions including the private employment sector have also pushed organisations to take cognisance of the same.

Aside from the legal framework that supports the community, there is also a lot of focus on an inclusive workplace due to the rewards & recognition attached to it by various workplace evaluations thus bringing forth visibility, and resulting in talent attraction and retention.

While progress in India has been slow, we do consider an acknowledgement of the need to respond to this as a good beginning. With more public advocacy and corporates coming together through various support networks, we do believe that the pace of change will gain more momentum in time to come.

What is the trend observed in India on the adoption of cover for LGBTQ employees?

Some organizations have set positive examples by publishing gender-neutral job profiles, providing gender-neutral washrooms, paid leave, medical benefits, and health insurance. Other workplaces also offer regular counselling sessions, support groups and have adopted different diversity strategies.

Tell us about sectors that have seen an uptick in terms of opting for insurance that covers the LGBTQ Community.

While we do see an increasing trend across most sectors in recognising the need to have a more LGBTQ+ friendly policy, we do see more discussions and adoption in IT-ITeS, High Tech, E-Commerce and Global Captives and BFSI companies. Workplace equality is emerging to be a strategically important workforce topic in India and we do believe that the D&I landscape will change over time across all sectors of the economy. The pace of change may vary, depending on socio-demographic profiles of the organisation and how much organisation realise the strategic importance of such initiatives.

About Prawal Kalita

Prawal is the Practice Leader, Employee Health & Benefits at Marsh India, and leads Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) in India. His experience in co-founding and managing successful business enterprise with focus on innovation led best practices and extensive experience has enabled him to lead large specialist teams in employee benefits.

With a consultative client centric approach, Prawal partners the large strategic client relationship of MMB in India and supports the client engagement team with thought leadership and insights to ensure a superior client experience. A management graduate with over 20 years of experience in Insurance Broking, Prawal has emerged as a specialist in Health & Benefits, Consulting, Communication, Benefit Technology, Global Expat- International Benefits and Pensions.

Related Articles