Worth the Risk: What can be learned from LGBTIQA+ experiences with the insurance industry
14 June 2022 at 8:21 am
Nevena Spirovska shares some insights from a new report from the Victorian Pride Lobby detailing the LGBTIQA+ community’s experiences with Australian insurance providers.
Many members of the LGBTIQA+ community live with stories and experiences of discrimination. Discrimination appears to be all too common, whether at the hands of service providers or other industries, and the processes that allow it to continue have largely remained unchanged for decades. While change can be a slow process, it is not insurmountable. However, it does require a concerted community effort to achieve, particularly when it involves policy and process updates that have otherwise remained untouched.
Despite the catch cry, policy decisions are rarely made on the basis of “evidence.” Policy can be strongly evidence-informed if and when its supporters work hard to collect data and create a compelling narrative for change. Which is how the Victorian Pride Lobby, in collaboration with the InterInsurance Working Group, a network of representatives from various insurance firms collaborating to improve inclusion in the sector, produced the Worth the Risk report, which details the LGBTIQA+ community’s experiences with Australian insurance providers.
While the parallels between the social services and insurance industries aren’t exactly direct, the groundbreaking and first-of-its-kind report provides some noteworthy research from which important lessons can be drawn.
The survey, which was completed by nearly 500 LGBTIQA+ Australians, details their experiences with insurers and discovered that, while two-thirds said they received excellent service when dealing with insurance companies, nearly half (47 per cent) reported discrimination or exclusion when applying for insurance.
It is not surprising yet still disappointing that people who identified as trans and gender diverse, people living with HIV, people with a variety of sex characteristics, and sex workers were more likely to report exclusion and discrimination; everything from being misgendered to being denied insurance coverage. It was difficult for two-fifths of respondents to update information, and three-quarters of trans and gender-diverse respondents said it was difficult to self-declare their gender.
LGBTIQA+ customers are frequently framed as a risk in the context of insurance, whether due to our health, the industries in which we work, or other factors. But LGBTIQA+ people are “worth the risk”, not just in the insurance industry but in all sectors, and any assumed risk is frequently due to outdated assumptions that must be challenged.
While all customers are encouraged to notify insurers of their vulnerability so that insurers can work with them to arrange assistance, many LGBTIQA+ customers may be hesitant to disclose information about their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics to their insurer for fear of discrimination or exclusion.
A recurring theme in the research is the need for respect. The report’s 24 recommendations aim to guide the insurance industry in treating LGBTIQA+ people who seek insurance with dignity and respect. While many insurers celebrate diversity in their workforce and at pride events, it is equally important for them to address and respect the diversity of their customer base.
While the data was persuasive, it was the respondents’ stories that made the most compelling case for change. One respondent explained:
“Every time I call my insurance company regarding my contents insurance, which I share with my same-sex partner, they misgender her. The first insurance card they sent her had her salutation wrong (they printed it as Mr), despite me explaining it multiple times. They still get it wrong. I do disclose my sexuality by default, but it sucks having to have the same conversation over and over again. And the person on the end is clearly so uncomfortable getting it wrong – they’ve clearly had no training in how to cope in that situation. A simple apology and move on would be preferable, or just not assuming in the first place.”
There are several recommendations that could be implemented, regardless of industry:
- Providing LGBTIQA+ training to staff, particularly service or sales staff:
- to help them understand if customers may be LGBTIQA+;
- how best to support LGBTIQA+ customers;
- how to take account of the needs of LGBTIQA+ customers; and
- how to engage with LGBTIQA+ customers with sensitivity, dignity, respect and compassion, including identifying additional support for LGBTIQA+ customers.
- Reviewing communications and marketing material to ensure that it includes depictions of LGBTIQA+ people and inclusive language.
- Reviewing practices regarding names, gender and titles to ensure that:
- data on sex or gender is only collected where required;
- the reasons for collection of data on sex or gender and privacy protections in place are made clear at the point of collecting data;
- questions are asked in a gender-neutral manner as far as is practicable;
- titles are only used where required;
- non-binary options for gender and titles are included;
- staff do not default to certain genders or titles based on assumptions about a customer’s gender or that of their partner;
- processes for changing name, gender and titles are as simple and comprehensive as possible;
- dead names and former genders or titles are removed from all records, except where required under law; and
- all systems are updated.
Read the Worth the Risk report here.