A growing trend: Are fertility benefits the future?

Written by Robert Gould  •  Future of work  •  23 June 2022

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Family building has always been an important factor for many candidates when considering new job opportunities. It is also a factor that has unfortunately led to discrimination against working women, as well as mistrust and secrecy within the employer-employee relationship. Thankfully, this stigma is beginning to subside. 

Employers are waking up to the fact that investing in the lives and priorities of their employees is the strongest investment they can make to ensure the solidity and productivity of their workforce. Many are starting to recognise that family-friendly policies around flexible and remote work and childcare benefits can be highly attractive for employees. 

A growing trend

For employees, family-building benefits that cover the cost of egg-freezing, surrogacy, and IVF treatments aren’t just valuable – they can also be hugely reassuring. 

Pregnancy discrimination is regrettably an ongoing issue, in the workplace and beyond. According to a 2020 survey, 63% of women said they were so afraid of being perceived as incompetent, weak or less committed that they over-exerted themselves, engaged in risky behavior, or attempted to conceal their pregnancy. Publicly offering these benefits is an expression of the company’s supportive culture, enabling employees to feel at ease and focus on their growing family and their career. 

Attitudes towards pregnancy and family building are hugely dependent on company culture and can vary significantly between employers. Research from University of Massachusetts Amherst found that the rate of pregnancy discrimination appeared to be higher in male-dominated industries, while the presence of female managers appeared to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

For employers, the reward for providing these benefits – aside from the satisfaction of helping someone in such a profound way – is increased employee loyalty. According to the FertilityIQ’s 2019-2020 Family Building Workplace Index, 61% of U.S. employees who received the coverage said they felt more loyal and committed to their employer, while 73% were more grateful and 53% stayed longer.

Tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Snap, Hootsuite and Spotify all offer some form of funding as a means of attracting more women to their workforces. But it’s not just the tech industry that has learned of the importance of supporting workers with benefits that reflect their needs and desires. The retail, education, finance, entertainment, and law industries are also adding family-building benefits to their offerings.

Any company looking to support women in their workforce should be considering adding benefits that address family building to their employee benefits packages – but this isn’t just about women or fertility. It represents a fundamental shift towards making employees feel like a part of the company they work for by proving that the company itself supports their non-career goals.

Create a culture of choice

Establishing what new benefits might attract and support workers is an important first step in building a strong and stable workforce. Committing to diversity in your workplace, boosting employee engagement by championing the core beliefs of your workers, and building holistic support will all pay dividends. By removing some of the financial burden of starting a family, you can free your employees up to focus on their current tasks, while encouraging them to pursue the things that make them happy. But this isn’t the whole picture.

Even after implementing desirable benefit programs surrounding fertility and family building, you must work to reduce the stigma around using those benefits before the programs will pay off fully. Fertility perk uptake remains quite low, with employees worried that they will inadvertently be signalling a desire not to work by applying for these benefits. It’s this fear – the fear that they will be considered unmotivated workers for wanting to start a family – that has caused women to have to hide their family-building plans for generations. 

While progressive benefits may seem like enough to signal a change in thinking within your company, it’s still important that employees know their family-building goals won’t be held against them in the present or at a later date.

While on the subject of public perception, it’s worth noting that certain fertility benefits, like covering egg-freezing, if not properly explained, can actually be interpreted as anti-family. In the same way that on-site gyms can be seen as an attempt to stop employees from going home and enjoying their time off – removing the reasons why they might not work harder and longer – egg-freezing can be seen by some as encouragement to put off having a family. This is another reason why your company should be vocal about really supporting your employees goals, and deliver on this promise.

One size doesn’t fit all families

Another important consideration surrounding the implementation of fertility benefits is that not all employees have the same goals or face the same challenges. While supporting those who wish to start families who are struggling is a noble cause, many employees don’t struggle to start a family, or don’t have the desire for children of their own. Flexible benefits that can be used for fertility treatments but that aren’t earmarked solely for that purpose can be a way to include those who might instead need support with childcare, elder care, or another cost associated with their particular family – biological or chosen.

Male parental leave is a great example of a family-building benefit that doesn’t require fertility specific support, but drives decision-making for many male identifying employees. Just like the benefits above, employees who opt for male parental leave often still face stigma surrounding their dedication to work. These stigmas must be dispelled as a part of any successful benefit implementation.

A family business

Whether your employees have started to ask for family-building benefits or not, you can rest assured that they have them top of mind, and your competitors are considering them. Between 2019 and 2020, US-based fertility benefits platform WINFertility saw a 500% increase in employers adding family-building benefits to their reward packages

In a world where skill retention is both harder and more important than ever, meeting your employees where they are in their lives and supporting their goals is the surest way to earn their trust and loyalty, and empower them to deliver their best work.

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