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Conception of a child at the expense of the employer: women in the USA are offered unusual labor benefits

How fertility became a privilege in the workplace, reports BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

More and more companies are offering benefits that cover IVF, egg freezing or surrogacy. Are these perks really the key to staff retention?

In 2019, Caitlin, a 35-year-old New Yorker, was looking for a new job. Her contract as a content specialist was drawing to a close, and Kaitlyn, who had been undergoing IVF treatments for several months, had a very specific idea of ​​what she was looking for in her next job.

“I searched Google for companies with the best fertility treatments and applied for positions with those companies,” she says. - I applied to companies with the best family benefits and fertility, and only to these companies. Any position offering less than what I considered the highest level of coverage fell out of my attention. "

Caitlin (name changed for professional reasons) ended up interviewing an accounting firm that would cover 100% of the cost of her treatment. This position was like a career change for her, but she had no doubt that she would agree to it.

“My mom thinks it was a miracle,” she says. "I started treatment shortly after starting my new job."

The company that Caitlin has joined is one of many now offering fertility-related benefits to attract new employees.

As companies struggle to find enough employees, a growing number of businesses are offering innovative perks to attract and retain employees, especially in the United States.

The need to stay competitive has become especially important at a time when, according to available data, 41% of employees worldwide are considering leaving or changing their profession.

“Between 2019 and 2020, we saw the number of employers adding family support benefits increased by 500%,” says Peter Nieves, commercial director of WINFertility, a US-based fertility benefits platform that partners with employers to provide planning benefits. families. "Some employers are offering up to $ 200 to cover the cost of starting a family."

From IVF to funded surrogacy, fertility-related benefits are increasingly becoming what workers expect from their employment packages.

But will the trend towards family planning aids survive the so-called Great Retirement? Experts seem to think so, and many believe that funding fertility treatments for their employees can foster diversity, increase employee engagement, and foster a supportive workplace culture.

More than just the impact of the coronavirus

Photo: Shutterstock

The increase in fertility-related benefits is not just a post-Covid-19 phenomenon. For several years, major technology companies in the United States have been pioneers in offering innovative family planning services.

In 2014, Apple and Facebook announced that they would fund up to $ 20 in egg freezing to attract more women to their companies.

Elsewhere, Snapchat, Salesforce and Spotify are offering to fund surrogacy for their employees, with some companies spending up to $ 80 to support staff in the process.

However, while fertility benefits were once considered a prerogative of the tech sector, they are beginning to be included in employment packages in other industries.

“There is a wide variety of industries represented today, including retail, education, finance, entertainment and law,” says Nieves. - The Fertility Benefit is being revised more and more frequently to accommodate the growing number of employees in need. Benefits such as advance planning and training, ovulation tracking, paternity leave and emotional support for parents are becoming more prevalent as employers strive to offer comprehensive family planning programs. ”

While universal health care in many European countries means that citizens are entitled to free fertility treatments, the lack of government support in the United States makes many people rely on employers for health care.

This, coupled with the fact that the United States has some of the worst parental leave laws in wealthy countries, means that creative and generous fertility programs can be an ideal way for companies to gain a competitive advantage in hiring.

Between 2015 and 2020, the number of major employers in the United States offering IVF coverage increased from about 24% to 27%, while the percentage of employers offering paid parental leave increased by 15% over the same period.

Fifty-one percent of fertility treatment employers cited staying competitive and hiring the best talent as a key driver of these benefits.

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However, even outside the US, recruitment problems following the pandemic have also pushed large firms to offer fertility treatment benefits.

In the UK, Natwest, Centrica, Clifford Chance and Cooley have launched fertility benefits coverage programs of up to $ 62 in 000. In Japan, the government announced that government employees would be given paid leave to treat infertility, and in Germany, Qunomedical recently began offering fertility benefits to its employees, claiming to be one of the first European startups to do so.

Do fertility benefits “open” or “close” employees?

One company that has introduced fertility aids is Hootsuite, a social media marketing company with offices around the world.

In late 2020, Tara Ataya, Director of Human Resources and Diversity at Hootsuite, conducted a Benefit Review that found fertility and family planning as top priorities for employees in North America.

“We have introduced fertility treatment coverage and family planning support as part of our benefit offerings, with a maximum lifetime of $ 12 for fertility treatment,” she says.

Feedback on the new fertility benefit program, which covers the average cost per IVF stage, has been overwhelmingly positive.

Hootsuite's employee engagement rate jumped from 66% to 81%, and in a re-survey of employees in 2021, Ataya saw a 12% increase in the number of people who agreed with the statement that the benefits were fair within the company.

“When people feel that the organization they work for not only wants to support them, but also invests in them, then, naturally, employee engagement increases,” explains Ataya.

The company is currently implementing a global parental leave replenishment policy and extending its extended benefits plan to its offices in Canada and Mexico.

However, Ataya adds that problems with fertility benefits remain.

She notes that historically, many employees have avoided disclosing that they are undergoing fertility treatment for fear that it could negatively impact their careers. Her concerns are shared by Caitlyn, who initially did not talk about her path to fertility, even when her employer's company paid for her treatment.

“I didn't want to reveal that I was being treated for infertility until I got used to and became confident in my new team,” she recalls. - I spent a fortune on Ubers to answer calls on my way to meetings. As soon as I was scheduled for the implantation procedure, I informed my boss about it. "

Luckily, Kaitlyn's manager was incredible support.

But Dr. Lauren Kuykendall, associate professor in the Department of Occupational Psychology at George Mason University, Virginia, USA, notes that although policies exist, employees may not always be able to use them.

“Employees who use policies that allow them to spend more time outside of work — such as parental leave and telecommuting — often worry about being perceived as less dedicated to their work,” she says. "By offering these programs, organizations also need to create an environment in which employees are not afraid of their use."

She adds some rules that at first glance seem to be family-friendly, but may actually have the opposite effect.

“Freezing eggs allows employees to delay childbirth and thus reduces competition between work and family,” she says. - Employees who are considering having children early in their careers may fear that this will signal a lack of dedication to work, and an offer to freeze eggs may exacerbate those concerns. The policy itself can be interpreted as a proposal to postpone the birth of children. "

Kuykendall argues that it is very important to separate so-called “incentive” benefits that allow employees to spend more time outside of work (such as parental leave and IVF treatment) from “fringe” benefits that encourage more hours of work.

Like overnight food deliveries and indoor gyms, egg freezing can be seen as a privilege that keeps employees attached to their jobs.

“In this sense, egg freezing benefits may act more like an unfriendly family benefit that prevents some employees from having children at the desired time, rather than a family benefit that helps employees effectively manage work and family roles,” she says. "This is not to say that the benefits of egg freezing are inherently problematic - it's just that organizations need to carefully consider the full range of possible consequences."

There is also the problem of how to make family planning benefits truly fair.

Amy Sperling, CEO of the American scholarship platform Compt, notes that there is usually very low activity in companies offering fertility perks. She says some businesses have faced "protest" from workers who believe that some employees are benefiting from the birth benefit programs.

“Most companies that offer certain benefits have less than 10% utilization, and usually much, much less,” she notes. -The HR departments were tasked with figuring out how to make family benefits more equitable for all employees, whether you have fertility issues or decide never to have children. Every employee has a family, but that can be very different from your employee base. ”

The future of fertility benefits

Photo: Shutterstock

As more employers consider introducing or expanding fertility benefits, HR managers like Ataya are facing challenges. They need to think about what perks will really boost their workforce without causing controversy.

Ataya says new hires are increasingly asked about the benefits of fertility during interviews, and she believes that perks like egg freezing and IVF will be a key aspect of diversity and inclusion initiatives in the future.

She notes that fertility benefits can be especially effective for BIPOC and LGBTQ + employees who may face medical discrimination and relatively poor health outcomes when navigating fertility and sexual health issues.

Looking ahead, Ataya also highlights the importance of using data to understand employee needs and build more flexible systems for equitable benefits.

“I believe employers are doubling down on benefit programs that support their employees as a whole - to foster a strong culture, increase productivity and reduce costs,” she says. "The benefits of fertility and family formation accomplish all of this and provide employees with benefits that they truly value and that will positively impact their lives for years to come."

Sperling says: “We are seeing a huge trend for companies to offer scholarships, giving their employees the opportunity to use them for fertility treatments, childcare or the elderly,” she says. "Our world has shifted towards personalization, and HR is quickly coming to the conclusion that the benefits of a company should be inclusive and inclusive, rather than excluding and meeting the needs of the few."

However, for Caitlyn, the fertility treatment she received at work ultimately completely changed her life.

Now, more than two years after she searched Google for companies offering fertility benefits, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and twins, whom she conceived just six months after starting her job.

Fertility insurance not only helped her become a mom, it also meant she was able to keep her savings to use as a down payment on the home her kids would grow up in.

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She believes that fertility benefits are not only about financial security. They also demonstrate that the company has a supportive culture that was important to her as a new parent.

“A career change is inherently risky, but also very responsible,” she says. - The money we saved is very important. But the fertility benefit company also demonstrates that it values ​​its people. ”

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