In our March 2019 newsletter – celebrating International Women’s Day – we introduced a three-part series of articles dedicated to bridging the gender gaps in benefits coverage. Our first article examined how the cost-containment strategy of employee contribution raises an eyebrow when it comes to how much employers are asking their employees to dish out.

Continuing with our gender assessment of insurance, we’ve decided to take a closer look at the differences in coverage as we move up the corporate ladder.

For companies looking to enforce equal compensation for equal work, it’s important to get a comprehensive picture of not only what employees are spending on healthcare, but also, how benefits are distributed among the different levels of employment.

The chain of compensation

Industry trends tell us that plan sponsors tend to offer more robust employee health coverage to their c-level executives, thereby reducing levels of coverage the lower you go down the totem pole. Traditionally, this structure was designed to attract and retain top executive talent, which one could argue makes sense – higher pay, higher coverage, right?

The impact

What some employers fail to notice is that this practice leaves employees in the most vulnerable tiers of the company more financially exposed. Studies show that on a global scale, only a mere 21% of senior and management roles are held by women. What’s more concerning is that coverage benefiting top-tier executives disproportionally isolates women who tend to occupy the entry and intermediate levels of management.

Unfortunately, this number only slightly improves when we examine women who work directly in insurance. Unlike other industries, women represent approximately 50% of the insurance workforce, but only make up 35% of senior and executive roles. If insurance professionals are not leading by example, it becomes difficult to advocate for better coverage.

What can change?

Industry standards don’t put a limit on how many different employee classes employers can implement within their group. As long as these divisions are unambiguous and don’t appear to favour a certain portion of their workforce, employers are free to create them.

What does this mean?

It means that employers can offer single mothers higher coverage, or families with more children higher spending amounts. As the employer, you are in control of the plan design and what you want to offer to whom. The important thing to remember is to get advice on how you can define and keep these divisions impartial.

One last key point: get your employees’ feedback. Send out an anonymous survey and see what they wish they had coverage for. After all, if your bottom line doesn’t feel supported your top line will suffer. Engage a consultant or inquire if your broker provides such consultative services to help you take small but sure steps towards equality in the workplace.

 

 

1. Household spending by household type. Statistics Canada. Retrieved on June 14 from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1110022401

2. Number of women in senior management falls in Canada, rises in Europe. Newswire. Retrieved on June 14, 2019 from https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/number-of-women-in-senior-management-falls-in-canada-rises-in-europe-509817981.html