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Employee benefits can make an impact on inclusivity

The importance of DEI in dynamic times

By Rachael McCann Jones | June 12, 2023

By offering employee benefits that support the diverse needs of employees, you can create a more inclusive workplace.
Employee Engagement |Health and Benefits|Inclusion-and-Diversity|Benessere integrato|Retirement|Employee Experience

An action-oriented commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a competitive differentiator and business imperative. One way to demonstrate a commitment to DEI is through employee benefits programs.

Even more than three years after the beginning of the pandemic, employers are still grappling with the realization that it impacted employees differently. Employers’ initial response to the pandemic focused on flexible work.

But as the disparity among different groups of employees – especially under-represented ones – continues, employers are beginning to consider changes to employee benefits and wellbeing programs. According to our 2022 U.S. Best Practices in Healthcare Survey, nearly 70% of employers have or are planning to assess employee benefit offerings for inclusivity and DEI alignment.

Executing on a DEI strategy helps organizations achieve:

  • Sustainable workforce
  • Greater employee wellbeing
  • Environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments
  • Better business outcomes

Moreover, efforts in these areas continue to grow in importance for employees, customers, investors, communities, and other stakeholders.

2023 Dynamics of Work Survey

Employee benefits are an important tool for attracting and retaining top talent. Likewise, they are also critical components of an employer’s DEI commitments. By offering benefits that support the diverse needs of employees, you can create a more inclusive workplace and improve overall employee experience, wellbeing, and productivity. Collectively, employers also can improve health and financial equity.

Which employee benefits can make an impact on inclusivity?

Some of the key areas of opportunity found through inclusive benefits assessments and employee listening are:

  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Comprehensive health and wellbeing programs
  • Voluntary benefits
  • Financial security
  • Caregiver support

Flexible work arrangements can make a significant impact on the lives of employees. According to our 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey (GBAS), 58% of employees said they prefer to work remotely occasionally or frequently. Arrangements such as telecommuting, four-day work weeks, flexible schedules, and job sharing provide employees with the flexibility they need to manage their personal responsibilities and support a healthy work-life balance. A critical component of such arrangements is that they operate in an inclusive way without bias.

Flexible work arrangements also help support equity and inclusion by supporting employees with chronic health conditions, disabilities, or mobility issues. More than one in four adults in the U.S. have some type of disability, according to the CDC. And an estimated 30% of veterans have a disability, according to a Prudential study. Besides enabling these employees to work from home or have adjusted work hours that accommodate their needs, flexible work arrangements can make it easier for employees from these underrepresented groups to participate in the workforce, and in career development activities such as training programs, networking opportunities and mentorship programs.

Make your health plans accessible and affordable

Ensuring your health and wellbeing programs are comprehensive is another important aspect to supporting DEI through benefits. As healthcare costs continue to rise, it is more important than ever for companies to offer comprehensive healthcare benefits to support employees that are both affordable and accessible.

Only around half of employees (54%) report that employer resources and initiatives support their need for a healthy lifestyle. The percentage drops to 40% for low-wage employees earning less than $50,000 per year (2022 GBAS). Moreover, younger and low-wage employees are more likely to have poor physical and mental health.

By providing comprehensive coverage, employers can support the diverse needs of their employees and dependents, including preventive care and screenings, chronic-condition management, mental healthcare, gender affirming care and reproductive health.

The role of financial wellbeing in DEI

Beyond healthcare costs, affordability of basic needs is a significant challenge. One in five employees finds it very difficult to pay for basic needs, according to GBAS. Inflation and economic disruption continue to impact employee financial and emotional wellbeing. Our research found that 41% of employees say they are living paycheck to paycheck, and this percentage increases when segmenting the workforce into key populations, including:

  • Women (43%)
  • Millennials (47%)
  • Black or African American employees (46%)
  • Single parents (53%)
  • Neurodivergent individuals (65%)

Offering financial wellbeing benefits that help support employees’ financial resiliency can alleviate some of the stress caused by economic uncertainty. Such benefits include:

  • Enhanced features in retirement and savings plans that focus on addressing financial insecurity and flexibility to access savings plans to provide short term funds and liquidity in an emergency
  • Educational support and student loan repayment programs
  • Financial planning resources

Financial wellbeing benefits support DEI efforts by helping to address financial disparities among employees from different socioeconomic backgrounds. For example, offering student loan repayment programs can help alleviate the burden of student debt, which disproportionately affects employees from underrepresented groups.

In addition to these financial wellbeing benefits, companies can offer other types of benefits that promote equity and inclusion:

  • Paid caregiving leave can support employees who are caring for a child or elder loved one, or a family member who is sick or injured
  • Caregiving financial assistance can support employees who are struggling to afford childcare costs or other financial responsibilities of caregiving
  • Voluntary benefits can provide employees access to benefits and choice that align with the diversity of their need

How do you know if your employee benefits are meeting employees’ needs and expectations?

It is important to get employee feedback and understand employee experience to gain insights into the needs, challenges, and perceptions of employees.

  • Employee listening to actively seek feedback from employees about their experiences can be done through surveys, focus groups or interviews
  • Employee Resource Groups that represent specific communities of employees within the organization can provide valuable feedback on benefits most important to their needs and help you identify gaps in the current offering, prioritize future considerations and help with messaging to employee communities

Including employee insights in employee benefits and DEI strategy will help measure effectiveness of your benefits over time.

How do you promote benefits so that employees are aware of resources that can support them?

Navigation and promotional channels that connect employees with resources when needed are an excellent opportunity to ensure employees understand the full package of employee benefits available to them. Another important approach is reviewing benefit communications to ensure that they are written in an accessible way, are easy to understand regardless of language, education level, or health and financial literacy, and that messaging and imagery reflect a diverse and inclusive experience.

Supporting DEI requires a clear strategy and deliberate planning through all stages of benefits design and delivery. It is a continuous improvement effort, requiring measurement and rebalancing, which is foundational and integrated into all aspects of the benefit cycle. By doing so, you can foster a more equitable and inclusive workplace and ensure a sustainable workforce.


Senior Director, Integrated & Global Solutions,
Global DEI Solutions Leader
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