What can HR teams learn from employee demand for fertility benefits?

According to Rob Whalen, at a time when greater flexibility is top of mind for employees, HR teams need to be more creative and holistic about the ways they support their workforce:

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Dec 5, 2023

As companies start gazing towards 2024, and start rethinking the benefits they should be offering, there’s a shifting of the sands that they cannot afford to ignore.

The demand (and expectation) that HR teams put greater focus on providing more robust and flexible support for their workforces is compelling. In our post Covid-19 world, there’s undoubtedly demand from staff that employers better survey their needs and explore non-traditional benefits. This includes understanding just how reliant many employees are on certain benefits.

For example, women are increasingly seeking employers that offer fertility benefits.

Why? Well, quite simply, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is an expensive procedure that isn’t covered by most health insurance plans. Such is the demand for it though, that some women are taking second jobs at companies that will help them pay for it.

It seems to me, that if an employee is willing to take another job for fertility benefits alone, she clearly considers those benefits to be a top personal priority.

The demand for fertility benefits

Not to put it too finely, HR teams are absolutely responsible for determining which benefits are essential for each employee, and figuring out how to allocate resources to meet the needs of a diverse workforce.

When companies give employees the support they need, the bottom-line benefits mostly speak for themselves: increases retention, improvements in productivity, and the creation of a healthier workplace culture.

So I would argue the growing popularity of fertility benefits illustrates how HR teams can support employees in a more holistic way. This support could become a key competitive differentiator in the battle for talent, and employees who feel supported help the company better serve its customers.

What the data says

There are few decisions in life more important than when and how to start a family, which is why it’s no surprise that fertility treatments are increasingly common.

According to Pew 42% of American adults say they or people they know have used fertility treatments. This is up from 33% five years ago.

Sixty-one percent of Americans (and 64% of women), believe these treatments should be covered by health insurance.

But for costly procedures like IVF, employees often have no coverage.

With a single round of IVF leaving workers between $15,000-$30,000 out-of-pocket, it explains why employees are willing to take drastic measures (like working a second job) to relieve this huge financial burden.

Among the employers that don’t offer fertility benefits or financial support for IVF, 55% cite “concerns about potential increased costs.”

However, 97% of the companies that ‘DO’ provide these benefits (including those that cover IVF), say they haven’t experienced a significant cost increase.

The second-most cited reason for not providing fertility benefits is the view that there’s “little demand” for these benefits from employees, but as the Pew survey indicates, this is not the case.

The only way for HR teams to find out if employees need fertility benefits – or any other benefit – is to ask them directly.

Expectations around employee benefits have shifted

Employees are increasingly frustrated with conventional benefits packages that don’t meet their unique needs.

The successful shift to remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic permanently changed the way employees think about how and where they work.

Beyond the fact that hybrid work is here to stay –86% of employees who are given the opportunity to work remotely take it – employees expect a greater level of autonomy and flexibility across the board.

Ninety-five percent of knowledge workers say they would like to set their own hours, while three-quarters would be more loyal to an employer that provides on-demand pay.The demand for fertility benefits is another clear sign that employees want HR teams to meet their individual needs. If an employee is willing to accept the responsibility of a second job for fertility benefits, it’s a safe bet that these benefits take precedence over just about anything else a company can offer.

For example, these employees clearly have limited use for PTO, as they’re spending potential vacation and personal time at another workplace. Many of the women who take jobs to pay for treatments like IVF quit once those treatments are completed – another sign that fertility benefits are an overriding priority.

So, it has never been more important for companies to build their benefits packages around the specific needs of increasingly diverse workforces.

The demand for fertility benefits is a clear example of employees’ emphasis on flexibility in the workplace, and the HR teams that make this a core focus will give their companies a major competitive advantage.

Providing flexible support

IVF coverage is a particularly expensive fertility benefit, and the proportion of companies that offer this coverage has risen from 20% in 2019 to 25% today.

Employers say their top five reasons for providing fertility benefits are: ensuring that employees have access to high-quality, cost-effective care; remaining competitive in talent attraction and retention; being recognized as a “family-friendly” company; supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion; and responding to employees’ requests.

These are all reminders that flexible benefits are becoming a competitive necessity, which is why HR teams need to determine how they can provide these benefits more effectively.

One way to do so is by repurposing existing benefits that employees aren’t fully leveraging, such as PTO.

Just over a quarter of American workers say they use all their PTO, and employees left an average of almost ten vacation days on the table in 2021.

Convertible PTO allows employees to take the value of their unused vacation time and put it toward other financial priorities, such as student loan payments,retirement contributions, and fertility benefits.

Given the widespread under-utilization of PTO – along with the demand for non-traditional forms of support like fertility benefits – it’s no wonder that 90% of employees say convertible benefits would make them more likely to stay with an employer.

At a time when greater flexibility is top of mind for employees, HR teams need to be more creative and holistic about the ways they support their workforce.

Flexible forms of support like fertility benefits are a critical part of this transition.