HRD talks to Medibank’s D&I expert about the company’s strategies to make the workplace more inclusive for LGBTI employees
Gemma Saunders joined Medibank six-and-a-half years ago and for the past eighteen months has overseen organisational development, diversity, inclusion & employee experience.
Saunders was recently nominated for the Diversity Award at the LGBTI Awards, as she was instrumental in setting up the LGBTI employee network and helping to review Medibank policies, procedures and training.
“One of the reasons behind the implementation of the LGBTI employee network was that our employees were keen to establish an internal community around LGBTI,” Saunders told HRD.
“So rather than having a purely top-down approach, this is about our employees also leading the charge and allowing them the space to create a community and drive initiatives that support LGBTI inclusion in the workplace.”
Moreover, over the past few years Medibank has participated in the Australian Workplace Equality Index.
“We decided to benchmark ourselves against LGBTI inclusion best practice as a way of identifying areas where we could do better,” she added.
One area that Medibank identified as in need of improvement was policy.
“Our policies were not explicit in mentioning the inclusion of same sex couples in areas such as parental leave,” said Saunders.
“What we know through research is that we have to explicitly say that the policies are inclusive of same sex couples and individuals who are same sex attracted.
“Therefore, they can easily understand that they are included in that policy rather than make assumptions that they are not included.”
This year is also Medibank’s second year of their #BetterwithaKiss campaign which involves asking: Can a kiss make us a better society?
To celebrate and show how life can be #BetterwithaKiss, Medibank collected photos and video of the LGBTQI+ community kissing over the past 40+ years, whether it's with a lover, loved one or friend.
“The campaign uses the symbol of a kiss to express the importance of feeling connected, loved and cared for as part of our holistic health and wellbeing approach,” said Saunders.
“It focuses on the idea that a kiss is non-discriminatory and it can be shared by any two people.
“It’s about the fact that we believe that every kiss has a story to tell and we are really posing the idea to the Australian community that we can be better with a kiss.”
So why is diversity and inclusion so important to Medibank?
“A major reason is because of our purpose and values which is about better health for better lives,” said Saunders.
“It is important for employees to bring their whole selves to work and feel like they are working in a psychologically safe environment where they do not need to cover up elements of themselves to participate in the workplace.”
From a customer perspective, Saunders said the reason why it’s important for Medibank to focus on LGBTI inclusion and D&I more broadly is that they have got such a diverse customer base.
“The Australian community is really diverse and if we don’t reflect that diversity then our ability to innovate and offer products and services to our whole community is limited,” she added.
“This is about ensuring that our workforce represents the Australian community and our customer base.”
Moreover, this was Medibank’s third year participating in the Sydney Mardi Gras sponsorship arena and it was also one of the first private health insurers in Australia to actually participate in the Mardi Gras parade.
“At the recent Mardi Gras one of our employees actually said to me that ‘this is the best day of my life walking in the parade with Medibank’ and I think if a workplace can create that kind of experience for an employee then that’s quite exceptional.”
Medibank’s LGBTI initiatives include:
- In 2015, employees formed an LGBTI employee network (Passion + Pride) to determine gaps in workplace policies.
- In 2017, this included providing free on-site counsellors and phone based counselling for any employees experiencing difficulties during the marriage equality national vote.
- In 2018, the focus will be on our ‘Pride in Health & Wellbeing’ membership aimed at improving LGBTI inclusive services within the entire health and wellbeing sector
- A review of all policies and procedures to be LGBTI inclusive, including parental leave and dress code.
- People & Culture employees are now provide with training workshops for ‘Pride & Diversity’ accreditation.
- Medibank’s contact centre employees are now given diversity and inclusion sensitivity training, which includes a section on LGBTI awareness, aimed at improving the experiences of LGBTI customers and employees.