Alternative funding approaches to empower diversity in employees & organizations

The global workforce has changed significantly. We’re not only seeing a more diverse workplace in terms of who makes up a team but the types of employment available whether it’s contract, flex schedules or, dare we say it, a traditional 9-hour workday.

With these new ways of working, it’s time for benefits packages to catch up to your other initiatives to be an employer of choice.

Benefits can have a  large impact on your employees, but traditionally your workforce has had the least power when it comes to choosing coverage that's right for them. Benefits, due to limitations in the market coverage, are also contradicting internal diversity and inclusions policies. Alternative funding approaches can give the  power back while also upping employee engagement

What the heck are we talking about?

There are two primary forms of alternative funding: voluntary and self-funding.

Voluntary benefits allow employees to choose what’s important to them from a coverage-standpoint on top of the standard medical coverage offered by organizations at a preferential rate; the employee pays or they can utilize flexible benefit points if available.

Self-funding allows you to fund health benefits for employees versus traditional models where an insurance company is contracted.

For example, many health insurance providers include an ‘active at work for 6 months’ clause. When maternity leave extends beyond this point, it may result in the employee either losing coverage or returning to work with the same policies of a new employee (pre-existing condition coverage excluded, probationary periods, etc).

It’s difficult to know where to start when it comes to aligning company intention with practices, especially when keeping up with other current initiatives. But, a complete overhaul isn’t always necessary. One of the things we help companies with is to examine current benefit plans alongside people strategy and employee value proposition. This allows us to find out where HR policy doesn’t align with the employee benefits offering.

In many cases, it’s a matter of reviewing and realigning eligibility documentation for things like extended leave and asking the insurance provider to remove things like the actively at work clause from your policy. Small tweaks to your plan can go a long way. When more significant changes are needed, data and expertise are your best friends. You have far more bargaining power than you realise to change the status quo, regardless of your company size. Don’t be afraid to challenge providers to cover things or remove clauses that are important to your organization.

You’d be surprised by the kind of change collective questioning can bring. You owe it to your employees and your value proposition to have policies align with your diversity and inclusion aspirations.

Alice Harkness
by Alice Harkness

Principal, Employee Health & Benefits Asia, Mercer Marsh Benefits

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