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Posted by Audrey Ng Kwai Hang, Group Insurance Plan Advisor, August 2 2023
Plan Implementation
The Advantages of an Inclusive Group Insurance Benefits Plan


How to Build a Plan that Reflects Your DEI Values?

More and more companies across Canada are making diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) a priority—and for good reason. An inclusive work culture benefits every aspect of business, from employee recruitment and retention to financial performance, productivity and innovation.

But it’s not enough to say you support DEI in the workplace. You need to put policies and practices in place that match your vision and values. An equitable group insurance plan is an essential part of the equation, and the foundation to ensuring all your employees and their diverse needs are covered.

Defining Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Before we can create a diverse, equitable and inclusive work culture, we need to understand what each term means. Understanding these terms becomes important in adapting to the evolving the Canadian workforce.

Diversity is all about representation and ensuring the presence of differences in the workplace. Diversity covers differences in race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, language, age, physical and mental ability, parental status and more.

Equity aims to ensure fair treatment, access, opportunities and advancement for all individuals, while at the same time striving to identify and break down barriers that prevent the full participation of certain groups.

Inclusion focuses on creating a work environment that makes people feel welcomed, respected, supported and valued, empowering them to be their most authentic selves.

5 Ways to Build a More Inclusive Group Insurance Benefits Plan

Group insurance plans were traditionally written as a one-size-fits-all solution. That means it’s up to each organisation to review their existing policies and find ways to make them more equitable and inclusive. Here are five DEI considerations that many plans overlook and potential ways to help close the gaps.

  1. Prioritize gender equity for everyone
    Gender equality used to mean between men and women. But the definition of gender today is much broader. According to the 2021 Stats Canada census, individuals under age 34 are three times more likely to identify as transgender or non-binary, than those aged 35 and over. In planning for the future workforce, employers will need to adapt to this reality. In terms of group insurance benefits, that means making sure all genders are represented and respected—from using the right pronouns to including coverage for people going through gender affirmation changes.

  2. Eliminate age bias   
    Historically, group insurance policies were written assuming the average Canadian will retire by age 65.  Today, many people are now working well beyond that age.   At the time of the writing of this article, it remains to be seen within our industry, whether insurance carriers are ready to prolong the termination age for benefits such as long-term disability, and whether plan sponsors are ready to absorb potential increases to do so. An inclusive work culture would remove age barriers to reflect today’s reality to cover and respect all age groups. The first step would be to remove age restrictions for benefits, when possible, to do so. 

  3. Promote ethnic diversity at every level
    Ethnic diversity goes beyond ensuring people from different backgrounds are represented in the workplace, although this is important. It is also about making sure your group plan takes different cultural practices and traditions into account. For example, based on cultural or personal preferences, one may prefer to have a midwife deliver their babies.  Another example would be to include other forms of therapy in addition to Western medicine, such as acupuncture, or traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. 

  4. Close health coverage gaps 
    We’re living in a time when physical and mental health challenges are more prevalent than ever. But many group insurance plans have not evolved with the changing times. For example, many plans don’t cover medications for obesity, and continue to deny coverage as these are considered “lifestyle” drugs, even though the Canadian Medical Association has declared it a chronic disease. Consequently, this situation may also take a toll on a person's mental wellbeing, generating additional health struggles.   As the list of health conditions grows, it can be hard to keep up.
  5. Empower expanding families   
    Families come in all different forms. Many Canadians are building their families through adoption or surrogacy. Others are going through fertility treatments. The latter is often excluded or limited in coverage under group insurance plans. It’s important to adapt the group insurance plan to reflect the realities of modern family life. 

Turning intentions into action for lasting change  

Creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment enables organisations to continue attracting the best talent and to boost financial performance, by fostering an environment favourable for productivity.   When you create a work culture that makes employees feel heard, respected and valued, everybody wins.

 If you’re committed to fostering a culture of DEI, start by taking a closer look at your group benefits plan and align it with your intentions.  Be sure to revisit your plan every year to keep up with your employees’ evolving needs and to create real, lasting change.  

An AGA advisor can assist in getting you started on your DEI strategy.  Do not hesitate to contact us today to discuss this further. 

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Audrey Ng Kwai Hang, Account Executive. With over 20 years of experience in Group insurance, prior to joining AGA, Audrey worked at several national insurance carriers and was responsible for business development and managing major corporate accounts. Over the course of the years, she is recognized as a trusted and approachable professional with the ability to inspire others as well as an agent of change. She is respected by colleagues and clients as an excellent communicator, with a keen ability to deliver presentations tailored to the needs of the audience. Audrey has a degree in Industrial Relations from McGill University.
Audrey Ng Kwai Hang, Group Insurance Plan Advisor