This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, which brings much-needed attention to an extremely important, but still not-often-talked-about topic. While fertility and family building benefits have gained recognition as an essential part of a company’s benefits plans, there is much more employers can do to help their employees through each stage of their family building journey. Adoption and surrogacy assistance, mental health benefits, and pregnancy loss leave policies are just a few components that are not often considered, but can make a significant difference in the health and well-being of employees and their families.
Family building benefits are a good basis
By implementing a family building benefit, you are already sending a strong cultural message to your employees that the company is truly ready and willing to support them through a critical stage in their lives. As a result, these robust fertility and family-building benefits can attract and retain a diverse and talented pool of employees.
Related: 7 Best Life Transition Points for Introducing Family and Carer Benefits
Additionally, your chosen vendor of fertility and family-building benefits must provide an inclusive plan design that does not exclude LGBTQ+ individuals or single parents by choice. Specialized fertility benefit managers like Progyny ensure that everyone has access to the benefit and receives culturally competent care.
Employers should also ensure that their benefit includes options for fertility preservation, such as egg, sperm or embryo freezing. As more people choose to start their families later in life, these fertility preservation services are a fantastic way for employers to say, “we recognize what’s important to you, both personally and professionally, and we give you the tools to achieve that achieve goals.”
Make sure you also offer assistance for diverse family building options
Another important aspect of a robust fertility and family building benefits plan is support for diverse family building options such as adoption and surrogacy. The Adoption Network reports that one-third of Americans have considered adoption as a path to parenthood. However, the adoption process has many unique considerations that employers can address with adoption benefits.
Surrogacy is also a popular family-building option, especially for members of the LGBTQ+ community and single parents by choice. It can also be expensive and complicated. Surrogate assistance in the form of financial reimbursement can help parents address agency and medical fees and provide support through the matching and selection processes.
When asked why an adoption and surrogacy benefit in addition to fertility coverage is important, Carolyn O’Boyle, Chief People Officer at Progyny client Boston Beer Company said, “At Boston Beer, it was incredibly important to us to say that all of our colleagues support what a family wants, no matter what path to parenthood it is. For many, this includes adoption and surrogacy. While we still have opportunities to improve equity in coverage, it was important to us to have this additional path to provide for our colleagues.”
Mental health services are essential
Infertility is an extremely difficult diagnosis and for many it may be the first time they have ever had to deal with a medical diagnosis. The treatment process is also strenuous on the mind and body. It may be surprising to hear, but one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, an extremely difficult complication. To ensure you’re helping employees get back on their feet after the stress of fertility treatment or pregnancy loss, it’s essential that comprehensive family-building benefits packages include mental health services and support.
This support can be provided in the form of access to therapy and psychiatric help. Today, many companies are beginning to implement a compassionate leave policy for employees who have experienced miscarriages, stillbirths, or failed adoption/surrogacy attempts. At Progyny, we have a pregnancy loss leave policy that provides five days of paid time off. Other companies like Pinterest and The Mom Project have implemented similar policies, giving employees time away from work to grieve. Adding mental health benefits and pregnancy loss leave policies show employees that their employers truly care about their well-being.
Postnatal support is needed
Family building benefits should extend beyond when a baby is born, and some of this support may be through postpartum services.
When we think of postpartum support, our thoughts often go first to maternity and paternity leave. However, these terms are not inclusive of all paths to parenthood. As an employer, you must ensure that any communication or policy designed for postpartum support does not include gendered language so that those policies are accessible to all, regardless of gender identity or path to parenthood. Allowing non-sex parental leave to be at least partially paid is a step in the right direction.
Some companies, like Microsoft, go the extra mile for postpartum support. Microsoft employees are allowed 20 weeks of paid leave for birth parents and 12 weeks of paid leave for all other new parents, including adoptions and foster placements. Google also goes above and beyond, giving its employees who give birth 24 weeks of paid leave and all other parents 18 weeks. It is incredibly important to offer leave for the birth parent, but just as important that the non-birth parent is offered leave to spend time with their child.
Today, many organizations offer parental leave to birth mothers, but a smaller number of organizations offer parental leave to biological fathers. Fathers and non-birth parents are often expected to “bounce back” too quickly. While Mercer reports that 80% of large global employers offer paternity leave, nearly a quarter of men refuse to take it due to high expectations or a lack of flexibility. More robust postpartum support can prevent this.
Finally, it’s important to offer some sort of childcare option through services like UrbanSitter to help ease the stress and transition of new parents. The transition back to work after parental leave is often made worse by stressing over who will take care of the new baby. Employers can help alleviate this stress by offering childcare benefits.
Go above and beyond for employees
A strong family building benefits program includes much more than just fertility treatment. Alternative options, mental health services and postpartum support are just as important in the family building process and drive trust between employers and their employees.
On the subject of alternative family building options, Boston Beer Company’s O’Boyle also says, “This was the most benefit announcement we’ve received in the last few years. In that time, we’ve expanded our mental health offering, launched a co-worker relief fund and created a rewards and recognition platform, but this has generated the most positive feedback from colleagues. Going beyond what the coverage includes symbolizes our company’s desire to support our colleagues and their families.”
Piet Anevski is CEO of Progyny.