Cancer and Careers recently stumbled upon a study done by McKinsey in 2020 about ways to make the workplace more inclusive of LGBTQIA+ employees. We found that some of the recommendations dovetail with thinking about how to research prospective employers and figure out if their values align with your own and whether they will offer the support you might need to work during or after treatment. The McKinsey study ended with ways companies can strengthen their policies to be inclusive of the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community, and we wanted to share to offer more factors that might be relevant when you consider potential employers, many of which are helpful for cancer patients and survivors as well.
While domestic-partner benefits have become less of an issue since same-sex marriage became legal in the United States in 2015, it’s still an option for people of any orientation who may not want a traditional marriage. It’s still important to have access to the same spousal benefits as married employees (health insurance being a major example).
A nondiscrimination policy that prohibits
discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity
A few days before this study was published in 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to discriminate against an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity. For many in the queer community having an anti-discrimination clause explicitly written gives piece of mind and shows a sign of good will coming from the organization.
A family-leave policy that treats all parents
This most often refers to maternity and paternity leave, but could also cover time off to be a caretaker for a spouse or a child who is going through cancer, or another long-term medical treatment. The Family Medical Leave Act (or FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to some employees depending on a number of factors (more information on FMLA can be found here), but does not cover every employee at every company. Some companies will offer maternity leave for new mothers. Paternity leave for new fathers is not as common, and when offered, often much less time is offered. For new parents in a gay relationship, this means not getting an equal amount of time to bond with a new baby, or not having both parents have equal time off.
Health insurance that covers hormone therapy
and gender-confirmation surgery for employees seeking to transition
Most health insurance plans do not cover the necessary procedures a trans employee uses to transition. These often include hormone replacement therapy and gender-confirmation surgery. Without these medical treatments covered, a trans employee will have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to receive the care they need. If an employer wants to be inclusive with LGBTQIA+ employees, these procedures should be covered, just like any other medical procedure is for cisgender-heterosexual employees.
Medical leave for colleagues who are
Furthermore, gender-confirmation surgeries are invasive, and require time to recover. The financial burden, even if the procedure is covered by insurance, can be immense. Losing out on wages from missing work on top of everything adds more of a financial stress on the employee. But a policy can be broad. Short-term or long-term medical leave policies should be designed to cover any and all necessary medical procedures for an employee, or for a caretaker of someone going through an extended medical need (whether that be cancer, gender-confirmation surgery, or being there for a child getting their tonsils out).
HR systems and documents that are inclusive
of all genders and personal pronouns
This is such a small step for a company to take, but means the world to trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming employees. Learning someone’s pronouns, and respecting them by using those pronouns, will make these employees feel welcome and supported by the organization as a whole, and the coworkers they interact with every day.
All-gender or gender-neutral restrooms so
that employees can use the facilities where they feel most comfortable
This is another step that could help more employees than just those in the queer community. It can be traumatizing for a trans person to have to use a gendered space they don’t identify with (most often experienced in bathrooms). But with all-gender or gender-neutral restrooms often come more privacy. This can give a safer space to cancer patients and survivors who have experienced more frequent trips to the bathroom. It can give a place for nursing mothers the privacy to pump during the day. It can give a pregnant person with morning sickness more discretion when still trying to hide their pregnancy in the first trimester. Being inclusive of one group of people can often have positive side effects to other groups as well.
While this list is not exhaustive, it is a great place to start. Both for companies looking to be more supportive of their employees needs, and for a prospective employee who wants to know more about a company’s values before applying for a job, or accepting an offer. Besides Glassdoor and LinkedIn, another way to research what companies are leading the way with benefits like these is to check out Human Rights Campaign’s Best Places to Work List: https://www.hrc.org/resources/best-places-to-work-for-lgbtq-equality-2022
For more on the McKinsey study: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/lgbtq-plus-voices-learning-from-lived-experiences
For more on researching employers: https://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/looking-for-work/exploring-your-options/researching-employers
For other company benefits to be on the look out for: https://www.cancerandcareers.org/blog/companies-announce-new-employe