How to Advance Health Equity at Your Workplace 

While many employers offer traditional health benefits, some are now asking what they can do to ensure that all employees can use the benefits they pay for. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, health equity in the workplace means that all employees have a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. In short, it’s not enough to simply offer health care—an equitable workplace means that every employee is equipped to understand and use their benefits. 

"Health equity goes beyond addressing employees’ basic needs. It’s about providing comprehensive access to your health benefits,” says Jillian Williams, Associate Program Director of Diversity and Inclusion at VUMC. “Sometimes the problem is that people don’t know enough about their benefits to take advantage of them. It’s important to have transparent conversations during open enrollment where employees can ask questions and get connected to the benefits they are entitled to.” 

Williams recommends that open enrollment conversations happen in a variety of formats to meet everyone’s needs. For example, not everyone can leave their desk to attend a health fair. Websites, pamphlets and one-on-one sessions that meet varied language needs ensure that everyone has access to the information they need.  

Here are some other ways employers can advance health equity in the workplace:  

  • Know your workforce. Gathering data on your employees’ geographic location, socioeconomic status and social needs can make benefits more accessible. For example, some employers can expand a health plan or childcare benefit to include providers near employees’ homes.  

  • Increase benefits to help address socioeconomic barriers. The inability to meet basic needs negatively affects well-being. According to McKinsey’s Consumer Social Determinants of Health Survey, “individuals with a greater number of unmet basic needs often have decreased access to health care and lower satisfaction with the care they do receive.” Offering transportation support, social support and a fair wage will ensure your employees can improve their physical health. 

  • Provide adequate time off. A robust leave policy will ensure that everyone can access the paid time off needed to attend medical appointments, care for sick family members and prioritize better mental health. This can create a happier, healthier workforce while advancing health equity. That doesn’t necessarily mean providing more paid days off; Williams suggests offering half days or flexible time, so employees don’t have to take a full day off for a single appointment.  

Read this article to learn more about advancing health equity in your workplace. Vanderbilt Health Employer Solutions can help facilitate an equitable workplace by offering onsite screening and vaccination events, and convenient care options for your workforce.