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18 Jul 2022
by Elizabeth Howlett

Make sure your benefits reflect your company DEI statement, says Aveva's Amanda Diston

"If your benefits don’t deliver on your big company statements on DEI there’s a breach of trust, because there’s a gap between what you say you are and what you really are," she says

When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), your benefits can support or break your company’s statement, according to Amanda Diston, SVP reward at software firm Aveva.

At REBA’s recent webinar Structuring employee benefits to support DEI, she told how Aveva took a hard look at the employee experience and culture it wanted to create and identified challenges within its current framework.

“Principally, we will ask whether the offering covers everything it should and if it is open to everyone,” said Diston, adding that language around family benefits, such as paternity and maternity for example, tends to focus on heterosexual couples.

“I think about how someone will need to access it, what is covered within the access and then also accessibility of our policies, practices and the experience they create. That’s a big company statement and your benefits can be an enabler of that. If your benefits don’t deliver on your big company statements on DEI there’s a breach of trust, because there’s a gap between what you say you are and what you really are.”

DEI issues can pop up anywhere

Diston said benefits need to reflect the statements a company makes, and while more overt in family benefits, DEI issues can pop up anywhere – even in pension plans.

“Pensions are traditionally tied to life assurance or payouts to partners,” she said. “If your plan doesn’t recognise same-sex partners then it’s inequitable. Families have different makeups so they must all be able to access your offering. Who can put a value on a hero marriage compared to a same sex marriage in terms of a benefits payout?”

She warned that while insurers are “more switched on”, traditional policies may not be inclusive unless organisations ask for particular considerations to be written in.

The arguments for and against non-inclusive benefits

Diston also posed two arguments on either side of the DEI issue for introducing benefits that don’t apply to the entire workforce. On one hand, tenured or seniority based benefits essentially say that senior employees are “more important” than more junior employees, but on the other hand they can help particular groups feel included and supported.

“For example, tenured/seniority based holiday leave can be problematic if you have a strategy that ties wellbeing and DEI together, because you’re saying you don’t value the wellbeing of less senior workers,” Diston said.

“You need to think about what you’ve designed and what that says to the rest of the employees. When you have tenure-based benefits they send a message that one group is more important than the other.”

The opposite argument, according to Diston, is that benefits that are meaningful and target a specific group can be beneficial. “Lots of companies have EAP services, but when you think about hiring from talent pools like veterans, EAP don’t always understand where they’ve come from or how to best support them. We have a benefit that’s blinkered by subsets of the organisations it covers.”

If you missed the Structuring employee benefits to support DEI webinar you can watch it here.

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