Mercer rolls out healthcare benefits for trans people

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​Mercer has announced that it now offers benefits for the treatment of gender dysphoria as part of its UK employee private medical scheme

Gender dysphoria is where a person experiences discomfort or distress due to a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. Mercer’s benefit will include comprehensive cover for gender dysphoria including consultations, diagnosis, mental health support and surgical treatment.

Earlier this year Stonewall released figures showing that 41% of trans people felt healthcare staff lacked an understanding of their needs.

Discussing the move, executive director of HR for Mercer UK, Siobhan Martin described the difficulties trans individuals can face when accessing healthcare.

“We know that for trans individuals getting the right healthcare can be an incredibly expensive and often exhausting process. There can be very long waiting lists on the NHS, and there’s an incredible amount of pressure on public services at the moment that means it’s not always possible to provide the help needed. That’s why we’re incredibly proud that we’re able to offer assistance for our trans colleagues,” she told HR magazine.

Martin added that these pressures can exacerbate or lead to mental health problems among the trans community.

“Sometimes feeling accepted at work for non-binary people can feel like an emotionally-difficult, stress-inducing experience. The problems facing trans people can be complex and pervasive. We want to make sure that they feel workplaces can be as supportive as possible.”

While not all organisations will be able to afford private healthcare, Martin said that there are still changes firms can make to be more inclusive of trans individuals.

“Part of the way you can help is through looking at the language people use; from leaders, managers to junior members of the team," she said. "We need to start having open dialogue, where LGBT employees feel they can truly bring themselves to work.

"Organisations can also look into introducing unisex toilets for staff. These are all small changes that won’t mean much to most people in an organisation but mean a huge amount to people who are affected.”

The announcement from Mercer coincides with the end of the consultation on the controversial proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) today. The GRA sets out the process whereby a trans person can apply for a new birth certificate that recognises their gender. Campaigners have long argued that the GRA is a gruelling dehumanising process, and have called for it to be modernised.

This week Stonewall published an advert in the Metro newspaper with the backing of 100 companies – including Lloyds Bank, Tesco and ITV – championing trans rights.

Martin said that she was encouraged by businesses’ backing, and that society is at an important turning point for trans rights.

“I feel very hopeful that businesses are becoming more inclusive of LGBT people, and of the outcome for the consultation on the GRA. We’re at an exciting point in history, and the most important thing is that workplaces are vocal and active in their support of their trans colleagues. If you don’t market your support for specific groups explicitly they won’t always know.”

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