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These are the top benefits employers will offer in 2023 to address racial disparities

October 12, 2022, 12:03 PM UTC
Workplace equity illustration
About 30% of employers say they are considering adding targeted benefits for specific racial groups, according to Mercer's annual benefits survey.
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Good morning—Paolo Confino here, filling in for Amber today!

The inequities built into the health care system mean employers must make a concerted effort to address racial health disparities within their benefit plans. 

“It’s acknowledgement that not all members can access, utilize, pay for, and have positive outcomes from those benefits in an equal way,” explains Angela Berg, global diversity and inclusion leader at the consulting firm Mercer. “The benefit plans themselves may not be deficient per se, but some groups have barriers to getting the intended value, and often those same groups have enhanced needs due to underlying disparities.”

The most common benefits employers currently provide to address racial gaps aim to break barriers to access. A third of employers (33%) say they offer materials in languages other than English or include advanced search functions that allow employees to find health care providers of similar backgrounds, according to Mercer’s annual benefits survey

While an essential first step, these resources do not actively address racial health gaps on their own. 

In 2023, employers plan to offer targeted benefits to support the specific needs of underrepresented groups. Twenty percent of employers say they plan to add special maternal care services for Black women, who are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 30% say they are considering adding targeted benefits for specific racial groups in general, such as increasing coverage in ethnic communities or implementing bias training to educate providers on the stigmas certain groups face when getting care. 

With a tight labor market and against the backdrop of 2020 racial equity commitments, providing employees with the health care benefits most suited to their needs will be vital in attracting and retaining a diverse talent pool for the long haul, says Berg. “In today’s environment, there is every opportunity for employers to successfully close these gaps.”

Paolo Confino
paolo.confino@fortune.com
@paolo1000_

Reporter's Notebook

The most compelling data, quotes, and insights from the field.

Empathy is the new power play. Yesterday at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, author and psychotherapist Esther Perel spoke with Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, about why all leaders should work to create a more empathetic workplace. Once viewed as “soft” skills associated with women, Perel says relation skills are now imperative, especially as people depend more on work to fulfill relational needs. 

Promoting empathy is as simple as encouraging managers and employees to share more personal stories about their lives.

“[Those stories] give a whole different sense of who you are working with,” said Perel. “We make assumptions about people that we can spend years with, and we project onto them a whole bunch of things…Relational intelligence, at this point, is very much a part of the bottom line.”

Around the Table

- An Amazon warehouse near Albany, N.Y., is gearing up for a union vote this week, but the outcome is uncertain. New York Times 

- Meta rescinded internship offers for summer 2023 as the company continues its hiring freeze. Protocol

- Employers are expanding reproductive health benefits to compete in the tight labor market, offering everything from in vitro fertilization to surrogacy. Axios

Watercooler

Everything you need to know from Fortune

It’s a good gig. The Biden administration is considering a new rule that would make it harder to classify gig economy workers as independent contractors. Should it go into effect, companies like Uber and Lyft must pay their drivers minimum wage and offer health benefits or overtime pay. Will Daniel

New collar jobs. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty believes college degrees are no longer a must-have in corporate America. She coined the term “new collar jobs” for positions requiring specific skills rather than a degree. —Jane Thier

Embrace uncertainty. Women leaders are more likely to admit they are uncertain about a given decision. And research shows that vulnerability helps build trust in a team. —Julia Boorstin

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