By Melissa J. Anderson

In 2009, the Human Rights Council announced it was revising the qualifications to receive a perfect score on its Corporate Equality Index – and last year, the new standards went into effect.

In order to receive a perfect score, companies would have to provide equal healthcare coverage for transgender individuals, including coverage for sexual reassignment surgery. The HRC believes that by pushing companies to do more to get on the list, it is encouraging companies to provide better care for its transgender employees.

According to the 2012 HRC report, 190 companies still received a perfect score – which is good news for the transgender individuals employed there. But that number is down from 2011 when 337 companies earned a 100%.

In order to boost those numbers, and encourage more companies to show leadership on LGBT issues, the HRC recently released a white paper on best practices and advice for business leaders to encourage their companies to add transgender coverage and be seen as an employer of choice for LGBT individuals and allies.

Employers of Choice

Recently, HRC President Joe Solmonese wrote in the Huffington Post, “As companies compete to recruit and retain the best employees and influence consumer choices, CEI ratings have redefined the norm for how all companies treat LGBT workers and their families.”

Now, with the new CEI ratings, employers must do more to be seen as truly cutting edge. HRC spokesman Paul Guequierre explained that the new white paper provides advice and best practices for truly progressive employers. He wrote:

“The concept is really quite simple: to attract and retain the best and brightest talent, employers must treat their LGBT employees equally, including in the administration of health care benefits.  However, even the most well-intentioned employer or HR department may not know how to best serve their LGBT employees in today’s ever changing and more tolerant workplace. HRC’s new white paper is the latest resource in our mission to give employers the tools they need to offer equal benefits and stay on pace with other fair-minded companies.”

By taking the lead on transgender healthcare coverage, companies can attract and retain the best diverse talent.

Best Practices

The white paper clears up misconceptions that employers may have about transgender people – for instance, it explains that gender identity disorder (GID) is classified as a medical condition. Because the goal of corporate health insurance is to promote “health and wellness across the spectrum of workforce diversity,” companies should cover treatment.

The report also points out that many insurance plans mistakenly list GID treatment as cosmetic or experimental, which it is not. It also explains that companies should explicitly affirm healthcare coverage for individuals with GID – rather than simply removing prohibitions for this kind of care. It explains:

“Clearly articulated written standards, affirming and spelling out provisions of effective treatment, are often necessary for rare conditions where medical expertise is correspondingly rare, where experts are geographically separated, and especially where the condition being treated is the subject of intense social stigma and misperception.

Making it clear that coverage for transgender individuals is covered will do more to ensure that employees receive the care they need.

Finally, the report offers a series of “elevator pitch” points for business leaders working to improve healthcare coverage for transgender employees in their companies.

For example, it suggests pointing out that transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage is consistent with the company’s non-discrimination policy, that the same services are usually covered for people with different medical diagnoses, and that costs are generally low, given that GID is rare.

By taking a stand on this issue, companies are able to present themselves as progressive employers that actively strive to achieve an inclusive workplace and provide care for employees who need it.