The most-asked question of the last seventeen months: When will we go back to normal?

But as we continue to reckon with the social issues highlighted by the pandemic — systemic racial injustices, gender disparities, and a national mental health crisis, to name a few — many Americans — and their employers — are asking a different question: Where do we go from here?

The time for increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is now — and in the workplace, employee benefits are an essential first step of creating a DEI-driven culture. As an HR leader, these are the questions you need to consider when designing your roadmap to meaningful DEI initiatives:

1. Are your healthcare benefits inclusive?

As studies have revealed that Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Pacific Islander Covid-19 patients are at significantly greater risk of hospitalization and death and that the highest rates of anxiety and depression are reported in women and people of color, ensuring equitable and comprehensive coverage for mental and physical healthcare needs to be at the center of every employer’s DEI conversation.

But health and wellness inclusivity doesn’t stop there. Do leave policies accommodate employees with chronic illness? Are employees forced to choose between using paid time off for doctors appointments or to observe religious holidays? Do insurance plans cover gender affirmations and same-sex partners? Are fitness perks accessible for differently-abled workers?

2. How do you support working parents?

Since the pandemic began, working parents are now spending an average of 27 more hours on household chores and childcare, with working mothers contributing an additional 15 hours of domestic labor versus working fathers. The need for flexible schedules during the pandemic is clear, but in order to truly support working parents — and especially working mothers, who often carry an unbalanced load — employers need to make a permanent commitment to flextime, leave, childcare, and PTO policies that address families’ needs.

When considering how your benefits support parents, it’s important to make sure all families are represented in programs and policies: is parental leave equitable for mothers and fathers? What about same-sex couples? What assistance is available for fertility treatment, adoption, or surrogacy?

3. How do you support employees from different cultural backgrounds and life experiences?

How do your benefits complement government-sponsored resources for veterans? Is Christianity the only religion represented in paid holidays? Do company-sponsored social events alienate employees who don’t drink alcohol for health or religious reasons? Are policies for professional development programs transparently and proactively communicated?

Your workforce isn’t one-size-fits-all — so why are your benefits?

4. What can you do to improve employees’ financial wellness?

With 9 in 10 Americans reporting that the pandemic has caused financial stress, employees’ attention to their personal financial wellbeing is on the rise — and employers have an opportunity to make a meaningful difference through benefits programs. But how can your organization make the biggest impact?

With 43.2 million borrowers owing a combined $1.71 trillion, it’s safe to say that student loan debt is at the top of many employees’ list of financial woes. And because women, people of color, and LGBTQ borrowers carry a disproportionate burden, introducing student loan debt support programs not only promotes financial wellness — it boosts diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Student debt and DEI by the numbers:

  • Two-thirds of all student debt is owed by women
  • Black grads owe an average of $25,000 more than white grads
  • Native American borrowers owe the highest monthly payments
  • Latinx borrowers are most likely to delay getting married and starting families due to the impact of student loan debt
  • Borrowers who identify as LGBTQ owe an average $16,000 more than those who do not

With tools for making tax-advantaged monthly contributions to employees’ student loan payments, using spare change and cash back to chip away at debt, finding personalized loan refinancing plans and more, makes it easy for employers to help crush employees’ student debt. Want to learn more about how you can make a meaningful impact on your diverse workforce’s financial wellbeing? Schedule a demo today.