· 2 min read · Features

Back to basics... Transgender healthcare benefits


Our back to basics series brings you top tips from industry experts on the bread and butter areas of HR

Why does it matter?

As societal norms change employers need to change too. Companies that lag behind with diversity and inclusion are perceived as old-fashioned.

It is no longer acceptable to provide healthcare benefits that reflect the needs of some staff and neglect the needs of others. Traditional employee healthcare plans are based on a 40-year-old design, which means it’s time for a rethink.

One way of updating healthcare plans is to roll out transgender healthcare benefits as a way for employers to become more inclusive of the LGBT+ community.

Transgender healthcare benefits are the latest examples of how healthcare plans evolve. But they won’t be the last, and so organisations will also need to look for other ways to make their healthcare plans future ready.


Think about the end user and ask ‘What would be of value?’ Take the time to understand the issue that employees need addressing, get to know the way healthcare is provided via gender identity clinics, the legal framework, and options available.

Take control. Your default plan will not automatically make changes. This is a rapidly-evolving space and insurers are taking different approaches.

It’s really important to actively choose the healthcare option that reflects your organisation’s values, as it may not be the same stance that your existing insurer has taken.

Challenge the status quo. Ask yourself how you would feel as a transgender person working within the organisation. Try to spend a day in their shoes looking at the use of language within benefits and beyond, thinking through how gender terms are expressed.

Communicate what you are doing. Your employees and customers (whether directly affected by transgender healthcare issues or not) will connect with the organisational values and gain a better sense of who you are.


Assume transgender healthcare does not affect your employees. At least 1% to 2% of people are thought to identify as gender variant or transgender. So it doesn’t take too large an employee count before one of your employees or their family members will be directly affected.

Think that there is one linear treatment pathway. Each journey is unique. Transgender healthcare covers a number of treatment areas and is a blend of mental and physical care.

There is provision across specialisms, including assessment and monitoring, counselling, hormone advice, surgical readiness assessments, voice therapy, hair removal, and surgery. So ensure the provision covers those areas.

Think that the costs are prohibitive. There is great value in the support services and pre-surgical therapies that make a real difference to individuals and family members.

There is good data available showing the volumes of people expected to need the various treatment types, as well as modelling costs that give some certainty to the business.

Assume it’s too difficult to act. It doesn’t have to be a major project for an HR team – there are sources of help available from charities, advisors and providers. Being informed and making the right design choices for your organisation ensures you won’t be left behind.

Chris Bailey is a partner at Mercer Marsh Benefits

This piece appeared in the January 2020 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk