SAP Announces New Benefits for Transgender Employees

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A very small percentage of SAP employees are about to get some big, new perks. Starting in 2017, the enterprise software giant will offer its North America-based workers extended “transgender benefits.”


What exactly does that mean? Well, SAP already offered several basic medical benefits to transgender employees, including mental health counseling for those in transition and coverage for sex reassignment surgery.

Now, the company is adding more benefits, extending its medical coverage plan to include facial reconstructive surgery and something called “puberty suppression”—medication that staves off the effects of puberty, sometimes given to minors who can’t yet undergo sex reassignment. To that end, all extended benefits will now cover not just employees but also their dependents.

 “It is a very small subset of our workforce,” admits Jewell Parkinson, SAP North America’s head of human resources. “But it is aligned with our commitment to try to offer benefits that are inclusive for those who need it.”
That subset is small indeed. According to Parkinson, statistics on gender dysphoria suggest that if you factored in SAP’s entire global workforce of more than 82,000, less than 10 people would have a reason to be eligible for these new benefits. But there is a growing movement towards more support for LGBTQ employees in many companies—in particular in the tech industry—and SAP is just one example.


Others tech biggies—like Netflix NFLX -0.42% , Facebook FB -0.20% , and Tesla TSLA 0.49% —also offer coverage for transgender employees, though it is not always as wide-ranging as SAP’s SAP 0.20% new plan. The software company, headquartered in Germany, had some help in devising its new benefits: A health management consultant from global consultancy Mercer.

“What we’ve typically found is that these companies focused on mental health and upper and bottom surgery and hormone therapy,” says Diego Ramirez, the Mercer consultant retained by SAP. “But they weren’t really providing the comprehensive support.”

The cynical view is that SAP’s attempt to be more inclusive is a cheap way for the company to get some good public relations buzz. But for those few employees who are in need of such benefits, the new plan is probably a welcome addition.