Liberating the best in people
Supporting employees who drive our sustainability

Related material matters and sustainable development goals

Material matters:
3. Build the best human capital capabilities

Sustainable Development Goals:
4. Quality education
5. Gender equality
8. Decent work and economic growth
10. Reduced inequalities

Enhancing systems that support equity, diversity and inclusion

Core to our history, values and success to date has been pride in our country and a commitment to playing a nation-building role. Central to this optimism is embracing transformation at all levels, which is vital to the country’s progress, and to creating an economically inclusive future for all.

- Adrian Gore, Discovery Group CEO

Internally, we have set a bold ambition for 2023 – to be the best insurance organisation, leading a global transformation of financial services, impacting 100 million lives, and being a force for social good. The diversity of our people is critical to making this ambition a reality and is a fundamental requirement to solving complex problems. We see transformation as an ongoing journey – and it remains a critical and relentless focus for us.

Discovery Limited achieved Level 1 Contributor status in its annual Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment audit.

View our full B-BBEE Certificate.

Since inception, Discovery has been, and continues to be, committed to achieving equity in the workplace by promoting equal opportunity for, and fair treatment of, all employees and applicants for employment by applying the principles of Employment Equity.

For Discovery, equal opportunity means providing all individuals with an equal chance to:
Become aware of employment opportunities
Apply for employment opportunities
Compete fairly for employment opportunities
Function successfully in employment
Advance in employment.

Equal opportunity also implies that certain categories of people might be treated differently to ensure equality, particularly to redress inequity or disadvantage, so that all groups do indeed have an equal chance.

Our top leadership teams are responsible for the Employment Equity composition of their respective business units, which also directly impacts their short-term performance incentives. The shape of our workforce, therefore, continues to move towards being demographically representative of the countries we operate in. This past year, 69.7% of new hires were black people (African, Coloured and Indian), of which 55,6% were women.

The group also measures the perception of the workforce on inclusive environments through the annual employee engagement survey. The results from the latest survey show that:

91% of employees believe that Discovery provides a working environment that is accepting of racial differences

94% of employees believe that Discovery provides a working environment that is accepting of gender differences

95% of employees believe that Discovery provides a working environment that is accepting of people with disabilities.

The employee engagement survey’s response rate was 84% (2019: 78%).

Discovery has developed its new Employment Equity plan, approved by the Social and Ethics Committee in July 2019. This covers the period July 2019 to June 2023 and provides a comprehensive approach with defined targets and management and Board oversight to give effect to ongoing organisational transformation.

A critical component in developing the Employment Equity plan was undertaken by members of the Employment Equity Consultative Forums, who consulted broadly to identify barriers and affirmative action measures in the operational subsidiaries. Employment Equity Consultative Forums also supported divisions in consulting with their constituents, across recruitment and appointments (especially related to scarce skills areas and diversity in selection panels), retention of designated groups, work environment and facilities, reasonable accommodation of people with disabilities, and career development and mentorship.

Our focus on transformation has seen some notable success. Our representation of black people across our South African operations stands at 77.6%. While we have seen an increase in the representation of black people at senior management levels (increasing to 33.8% from 31% in 2019), we continue placing greater emphasis on recruiting black leaders at team leader level and above. We also have specific targets and initiatives in place to increase the representation of Employment Equity talent on promotion lists, while minimising regrettable losses in specific leadership bands.

A number of initiatives are underway to advance our transformation objectives, including:

Bringing new young African talent into the business through the Graduate, Intern and Learnership programmes

Developing and rolling out a Diversity and Inclusion programme to communicate Discovery’s transformation vision and mandate, as well as embed transformation into business processes

Establishing strategic relationships with organisations who focus on recruitment of scarce skills roles.

The graph below compares Discovery’s racial profile against the South African national economically active population levels, showing our current progress in being more demographically representative.

To ensure alignment across our South African operations as we actively work towards achieving diversity and transformation, 15% of the Management Incentive Score is attributed to attaining transformation targets in each business unit. Targets are set bi-annually and have been updated against the following methodology:

70% for attaining Employment Equity targets – Employment Equity score achieved against the milestone target

15% employee experience – a measure of the variance between perceived employee experience across race groups (as measured in the annual Employee Experience Survey)

15% diversity and inclusion – a measure of the variance between business unit diversity and inclusion scores versus the Global High Performing Norm (also measured in the annual Employee Experience Survey).

We continue to focus on providing meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities by vigorously promoting employment equity measures within our recruitment practices. This includes establishing strategic relationships with organisations who focus on the recruitment and retention of people with disabilities.

In 2020, the representation of people with disabilities decreased from 1.77% in 2019 to 1.59% across the organisation.

Detail on the targets and management approach for Employment Equity can be found in Supplementary environmental, social and governance information.

Discovery’s employment equity vision is based on who we are and is influenced by our belief in what we can become. We believe that our ability to grow and become globally significant will create many new and exciting roles for talented people from diverse backgrounds, while leveraging the strengths of being a founder-led, entrepreneurial organisation.

- Extract from Discovery’s employment equity vision and transformation principles

In the United Kingdom, Vitality has increased its focus on ethnic diversity this year, and established a Black, Asian and minority ethnic advisory forum. We plan to sign the Race at Work Charter in September 2020 and establish a network of diversity and inclusion champions.

Annual training on equality, diversity and inclusion is compulsory for all employees, and we have also rolled out training on unconscious bias to all managers.

Achieving gender balance in management level and pay

Discovery recognises the urgency in achieving more equitable gender balance in our workplace, particularly in senior leadership positions across all our businesses. At present, 40% of senior management (2019: 37%) are women. We continue to place emphasis on achieving greater female representation at senior levels in our succession planning process.

The graph below compares Discovery’s gender profile against the South African national economically active population levels, showing our current progress in being more demographically representative.

In the United Kingdom, Vitality is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion. Gender pay gap reporting has been mandatory for companies with more than 250 employees since 2017. Since then, a raft of initiatives in Vitality UK has resulted in our average gender pay gap reducing by almost 6%. Our median gender pay gap is low by financial services sector standards. We are also a signatory to the Women in Finance Charter, a Government Treasury-led initiative to achieve better gender representation and equity in the financial services sector.

Our challenge is to increase the number of women in senior management positions, and we have set a target of 60% female hires into £50k+ roles, women are currently at 47% of this cohort.

Skills development and a culture of learning

The world of work is going through a large-scale transition where critical skills and expertise will be an imperative for organisations to succeed in the new digital economy. To meet the bold targets set in the Group’s Ambition 2023, Learning and Leadership plays a key role in developing the skills for the demands of business and ensuring our people have the capabilities to keep us competitive and relevant in a global market. Our Learning and Leadership team shapes leadership and capability development across Discovery, which ultimately impacts performance and organisational culture over time.

We continue to adapt Discovery’s learning capability by revising our business skills curriculum in direct response to the challenges of the new world of work, including adapting learning interventions to an increasingly work-from-home environment, and an emphasis on aligning learning to our purpose and remaining agile in the face of changing skills needed for the fourth industrial revolution. We empower our employees to take charge of their own development and encourage them to take joint responsibility with their teams and managers. By taking active responsibility for their professional development, our employees can take up the opportunities offered by Discovery to adapt to a rapidly changing world and prepare themselves for the future.

We also focus on developing scarce and critical skills for black employees to build further capacity in our skills pipeline, supporting Discovery’s Transformation Plan.

Our leadership development and executive development programmes include specific themes on leading and managing in a fast-changing and complex world. Learning and Leadership is embedding social relevance into each of the programmes in our leadership curriculum. We believe that leaders naturally operate across all four levels in delivering against Discovery's purpose, supported by the impact of our Shared-value Insurance model and our focus on being a powerful force for social good.

Discovery extends skills programmes beyond employees to include their relatives and dependents in Grades 10 to 12 as well as students studying at South African tertiary education institutions. This is building a pipeline of talented individuals who can contribute to South Africa’s development. The Employee Relative Bursaries funding window was opened in November 2019 for the 2020 academic year, with 84 applications approved to the value of just over R920 000.00. The programme has been well received, with a major increase in the number of applications received since inception. The full R2.5 million budget has been allocated to employee relatives for the 2020 skills year.

Adapting ways of learning

We have 1 964 employees using the LinkedIn Learning platform and 1 337 employees on the Udemy service. Our learning engagement data on these platforms show an activation rate of around 84% on LinkedIn Learning and 100% on Udemy. Combined with an increasing amount of time spent per learner on our learning platforms, these measures are indicative of our success in building a culture of continuous learning.

An employer of choice for graduates in the insurance and healthcare sectors

In July 2020, Discovery was recognised as an employer of choice for graduates in two sectors – ranking first in insurance for the fifth year in a row and second in healthcare. This is according to the South African Graduate Employers Association 2020 Benchmarking Survey, which had over 2 700 candidates from 88 organisations participate in the survey. The South African Graduate Employers Association raises awareness and provides a standard for the graduate recruitment and development profession, enhancing the careers of those involved in it.

One of our core values is to liberate the best in our people; this value is a great motivation for our graduate programme which provides a positive, constructive yet challenging environment where engaged individuals can stretch themselves both personally and professionally.

- Tswelopele Kodisang, Discovery Chief People Officer

Embedding health and wellness into our place of work

The wellbeing of Discovery’s workforce is as vital to our success as it is to that of our clients. Beyond the link between wellbeing and productivity, wellbeing also contributes to healthier and happier families and communities beyond the workplace. We provide employees with the tools to take decisions that will improve their health and wellness, raising the health profile of our whole organisation.

Discovery provides holistic wellbeing support for our employees. In South Africa, all permanent employees (and certain contractors, interns and learners*) have access to Healthy Company benefits to support their physical, emotional and financial wellbeing, and to provide legal support through an app, website, chat function, or via telephone or face-to-face consultations. Healthy Company services are also available to employees’ immediate families and those who are financially dependent on them.

* This includes agents with benefits, fixed-term contractors, interns contracted by Discovery, learners contracted by Discovery or others, and medically boarded employees.

Engagement indicators for Discovery employees with Healthy Company can be found in Supplementary environmental, social and governance information.

In addition to the reactive employee assistance services, Healthy Company also offers useful tools and resources to maintain overall health and wellbeing.

To further encourage and incentivise healthy behaviours, Discovery has set a target for more than 80% of employees to have a Vitality activated membership, reaching 72.5% in 2020 (2019: 75%). We aim to increase this to between 75% and 85% during 2021. We engaged with employees through wellbeing-related initiatives, including the #DiscoverYourVoice campaign during the year.

For more detail, see our story on #DiscoverYourVoice.

Tracking and supporting employee wellbeing in 2020

2 681 employees completed a Vitality Health Check (2019: 5 422 employees)

In the United Kingdom, Vitality UK’s employee wellbeing strategy is driven by our ambition to be the model employer for employee wellness. The strategy comprises five pillars:
Physical wellbeing

Employees have access to onsite run clubs and Vitality sports teams, with free entry to sponsored events such as The Vitality Big Half and the London Marathon. During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, we launched Wellbeing at Home Live, a programme of virtual wellbeing events and employees also took advantage of Vitality at Home as a new set of benefits.

Mental wellbeing

We supplemented the mental health support provided by our 66 trained mental health champions with a mental wellbeing self-help tool featuring a dedicated pandemic module. Employees can also access support from Vitality’s Mental Health Panel. We also launched a new and improved employee assistance programme with Health Assured, an award-winning employee assistance programme provider.

Financial wellbeing

Initiatives included a Let’s Talk Money campaign with practical advice, guides, videos and webinars. The campaign resulted in a 19% increase in the number of employees accessing the online hub of our financial wellbeing partner, Salary Finance.


We empower our employees to make healthy choices through initiatives such as a dedicated nutrition campaign, a weight-loss management programme and a trial for a new digital stop smoking programme that combines cognitive behavioural therapy and hands-on support from a professional coach.

Social wellbeing

Our new intranet, VITL, is another platform for employees to connect and collaborate through community spaces and information hubs.

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