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Companies across the country are expanding diversity and inclusion policies

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Posted at 11:28 AM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 14:28:20-05

When it comes to workplace diversity and inclusion policies, many tend not to think about things like miscarriages or domestic abuse. But some companies are putting a greater focus on those benefits as they evolve beyond the traditional focus of diversity and inclusion.

One of those policies includes better accommodations for people on the autism spectrum.

A new Baker McKenzie survey of HR leaders found that as of three years ago, only 14% of companies had a neuro-diversity policy to better interact with and manage workers on the autism spectrum. Today, 63% of companies have such a policy in place. That's one of the most dramatic increases of any policy measured by the survey.

"In the war to acquire qualified individuals, they have expanded their thought processes to what that means, and who qualifies," said Paul Evans, a partner at Baker McKenzie. "Individuals with autism or along the spectrum represent an untapped pool of talent that people can bring to the workforce, and that takes certain accommodations to maximize their performance."

Domestic violence is another area that has recently received more attention. Early in the pandemic, domestic violence incidents across the country grew by more than 8%.

Companies have taken notice. Eighty-two percent now say they have policies to address domestic abuse, compared to just 21% three years ago.

Evans says the new policies allow companies to provide employees dealing with domestic abuse information about how to seek help. Other companies will also help workers enforce restraining orders and provide time off to workers to deal with court proceedings or mental health issues.

There's also now more focus on family planning and women's health. Miscarriage, adoption and menopause are all policies that companies have expanded in the last year.

Employment experts say workers should talk with their HR departments about their specific needs if such policies aren't in place at their company. They add that companies are often open to making accommodations individually.

Experts also say employee demands have been driving the diversity and inclusion efforts at companies across the country.