The majority of Capital One Canada’s workforce are second-generation Canadians and/or immigrants, so many employees didn’t see their families during the pandemic. While they wanted to take extended leaves from work, the financial company found few were actually taking advantage of its existing leave program.

“It’s because it was unprotected,” said Rita Mizzi-Gago (right), the company’s interim head of human resources, during a panel at Benefits Canada‘s 2022 Healthy Outcomes Conference. Capital One rolled out a six-month protected job leave program this year. While it doesn’t have usage statistics yet, she said she’s received positive feedback.

Established in 2018, the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategy has three pillars: closing representation gaps and eliminating bias in its processes and systems; inclusive leadership and a culture of belonging; and transparent communication with employees.

Read: Yelp bringing employees together to highlight link between DEI and employee well-being

The strategy has continued to evolve. At the beginning, Capital One was focused on gaining buy-in across the organization and setting targets, but it’s now focused on integrating DEI into management practices, recruitment strategies and in the workplace day to day. “It’s become the underlying foundation of our work,” said Mizzi-Gago.

Labatt Breweries of Canada recently formalized its DEI strategy, setting goals for four pillars: consumers, suppliers, community and colleagues. The company’s sponsorship of Pride parades, its involvement in the debate around equality for women’s hockey in Canada and a campaign taking a stand against racism, among other external initiatives, has demonstrated its “authenticity” to employees, said Robin Doobay (centre), senior manager of total rewards.

Internally, Labatt is focused on hosting webinars and training sessions, updating its language and partnering with the Black Talent Initiative to ensure equity in its recruiting process. It’s also looking to introduce financial support for surrogacy to complement its existing support for adoption, in-vitro fertilization and parental leaves.

“I think, within our personal lives or friend circle, we know it’s not always that easy to form a family,” said Doobay. “So from an inclusion perspective, providing a family-forming benefit that can help people navigate through with personalized case care was going to be useful for people.”

Read: Labatt wins award for embedding DEI strategy into business imperatives

Since inclusive care is a key factor in health outcomes, integrating DEI into benefits is crucial, said Nermin Ibrahim (left), nurse practitioner of endocrinology for the Halton Diabetes Program. While working with patients with chronic conditions, it’s important to understand their backgrounds, including their culture, gender, religious beliefs and socioeconomic status, she said, and to give them a chance to voice their opinion.

“If I have a patient who comes in and tells me, ‘I fast for religious reasons for X amount of hours per day,’ if I exclude DEI from the equation I’ll be very fixated on the treatment regimen I’m going to provide. I’d say, ‘You’re not allowed to fast; here’s what you need to do in order to get your blood sugars in control,’” she said, noting taking that approach would likely result in the patient choosing not to engage with treatment.

“The way that I look at it will tailor treatment regimens based on the patient’s opinion, beliefs and what they’re willing to do. Then they’ll adhere to the treatment regimen . . . because you’re actually listening to them.”

Read more coverage of the 2022 Healthy Outcomes Conference.