BP boosts benefits, includes transgender surgery

In the fight to land and keep top-notch employees, BP has a new weapon: A litany of specialized benefits.

The British oil giant has long had a spate of high-class benefits, including a health center, child care service and two fitness centers on its Energy Corridor campus.

But now it’s added some new — and very particular — perks for U.S. employees this year, including paternal leave after the adoption of a child, special therapy for autistic children and transgender reassignment surgery — the procedure required to change the anatomy of a man to that of a woman, or vice versa.

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“We have a very broad population with lots of needs,” said Karl Dalal, BP’s director of benefits.

The additions come organically, Dalal said. Employees were asking for them. BP executives looked around their hallways, and saw a changing workforce: one younger, more diverse and with different needs of times past.

So the company boosted maternal leave by four weeks to 10. Dads, who had zero before, now have two weeks. And either parent can get four weeks off after adoption or surrogacy.

BP also added coverage of a specialized autism therapy, called Applied Behavior Analysis, for employees’ children. It’s the leading therapy, Dalal said, but most companies consider it child care and don’t help pay for it.

And the company’s group for lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender employees suggested BP should expand medical coverage to gender reassignment surgery.

Yes, the additions are expensive, Dalal said. But the alternative is to lose talented employees. Too many are already leaving to the tech or financial sectors.

Chad Hesters, managing director of global executive search firm Korn Ferry’s Houston office, said benefits used to be more of a one-size-fits-all package. Now the industry’s largest companies are moving toward a more inclusive and comprehensive employee benefits package.

“It has everything to do with the global nature of their workforce,” Hesters said. “In Western Europe, a lot of these benefits already exist.”

But how long will it take, he asked, for similar benefits to reach the smaller, private oil and gas companies?

“What you’re seeing is the cultural revolution of the industry,” he said. “These things take geologic time.”

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