7 Ways to Improve the Experiences and Outcomes of Black/African American Employees Through Benefits

Three employees looking at a laptop. Three employees looking at a laptop. Three employees looking at a laptop. Three employees looking at a laptop.

Key takeaways

In honor of Black History Month, get seven ideas for improving the experiences and outcomes of Black/African American employees through benefits. 

Black History Month isn’t just for celebrating the achievements of Black/African Americans and recognizing their role in U.S. history. This annual February observance is also a time for reflecting on the barriers Black/African Americans face and how to dismantle those barriers.

As an employee benefits professional, Black History Month is an important time for you to consider the disparities and issues Black/African Americans face inside and outside of your organization—and commit to driving measurable changes through company benefits.

In honor of Black History Month, check out these seven ideas for improving the experiences and outcomes of Black/African American employees through benefits.

1. Health plans with provider diversity

There are many studies that show that if a Black/African American patient has a Black/African American doctor, the patient is going to have a better health outcome. In fact, one study found that the life expectancy of Black/African American residents increases in counties with greater percentages of Black/African American primary care physicians.

How can you assist your Black/African American employees in finding health care providers that will help them achieve the best outcomes? One way is to ensure that the health plan you select has provider directories that include demographics such as race and ethnicity of covered providers.

2. Telehealth services

Telehealth services gained popularity during the pandemic, and they’re here to stay. Research shows that Black/African American patients are 20% more likely to use telehealth services than white patients, and that Black/African American patients are more likely to use telehealth for urgent issues.

There are many advantages of providing your employees access to telehealth services. Virtual care gives your employees more flexibility and helps them get care quickly and with less stress. It also saves your employees money, helps them keep up with preventive care, and manage their chronic conditions.

3. Health plan equity

Health equity happens when all your employees have a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health. According to the CDC, health equity requires:

  • Addressing historical and current injustices.
  • Overcoming economic, social and other obstacles to health and health care.
  • Eliminating preventable health disparities.

Employee benefit professionals like you play an important role in facilitating health equity among your employees because you choose the health plans for your company. Ask health plans for transparent health equity reporting, including initiatives they’re taking to enhance care access, delivery and well-being in the Black/African American community.

4. Mental health support

Black/African Americans experience trauma and psychological distress on a daily basis, and they’re 1.16 times more likely to screen positive for depression than white people. However, only 25% of Black/African Americans seek mental health treatment when needed, compared to 40% of white people.

You can help ensure your Black/African American employees have the mental health support they need by:

  • Fostering a safe and supportive Black/African American employee resource group (ERG) that provides community and connection.
  •  Integrating mental health benefits into your benefits package.
  • Making sure your employee assistance program (EAP) has therapists available who are culturally competent and trained to work with Black/African American employees.

5. Flexible work options

You may not see overt racism at your workplace, but many Black/African American workers experience microaggressions on the job, such as name bias or hair bias. Work-from-home options give Black/African American employees the chance to work in an environment free from implicit biases and microaggressions. According to a survey, Black/African American workers have a 64% increase in better handling stress like microaggressions once they start remote work.

6. Childcare support

work/life balance study found that the cost of sending two children under age five to a childcare center is 56% of the median income for Black/African American families, and that Black/African American women are nearly two times as likely as white women to have to quit a job, refuse or job offer or greatly change their job because of childcare problems. A different study stated that Black/African American mothers are at the highest risk of experiencing burnout.

You can help support Black/African American parents at your organization with childcare support programs. There are varying levels of assistance you may provide, depending on your employees’ needs and your organization’s resources. Popular childcare support programs include:

  • Referral services: contact information for local childcare centers.
  • Childcare subsidies: employer-provided spending accounts or bonuses that help cover childcare costs with tax-free dollars.
  • Company childcare centers: affordable and high-quality onsite daycare.

7. Voluntary benefits

Voluntary benefits, such as critical illness insurance, hospital indemnity, disability income and accident insurance, allow Black/African American employees to choose benefits that align with the diversity of their needs. For example, although Black/African Americans tend to have lower rates of heart disease than white Americans, they tend to have worse outcomes for a myriad of reasons including being underinsured and the prohibitive cost of care. Voluntary benefits can help Black/African American employees get the care they need, when they need it.

Unlike major medical insurance, voluntary benefits are paid directly to employees, not doctors or hospitals. This means employees can use the benefits for ANY purpose, including out-of-pocket medical bills and living expenses.

Life insurance is another important voluntary benefit for Black/African American workers.  According to LIMRA, 55% of Black/African Americans report owning life insurance, which is higher than the national average of 50%. LIMRA also shows the intent to purchase life insurance is 60% for Black/African Americans but only 37% for the general population. LIMRA reports that Black/African Americans are more worried about day-to-day financial challenges, and they improve their sense of financial security by owning life insurance.

Want more? Read our blog, 5 employee benefits that help support diversity

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Optavise is a trusted partner, guiding employers and their employees through healthcare choices including voluntary benefits, benefits administration, and year-round advocacy services that reduce costs and increase benefits engagement.