Having kids is a major life change – and it can also be very expensive. And over the past several years, more workers are seeking out company benefits that help cover some of the costs.
Some companies are offering coverage for things like egg freezing, in vitro fertilization and breast milk shipping for traveling employees. Not only are these benefits a good way for employers to attract talent in a tight labor market, but they help companies retain existing workers as well.
“They have a hard sell to make to employees that have so many alternatives today so they want to make an offer that’s more than just money. It creates a bond and loyalty and connection and culture,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter.
Searches on ZipRecruiter for family-building benefits have been steadily growing since 2015, said Pollak. “These are clearly benefits that some employees care about deeply.”
Here are some of the family friendly benefits companies are offering:
More comprehensive family-building support
In 2021, 66% of large employers covered some level of fertility treatment, up from 61% in 2020, according to Tracy Watts, senior partner, national leader for US health policy at Mercer.
Employers are also being more inclusive with their offerings to include LGBTQ and single workers, according to Watts. Currently, nearly one-third of large employers offer inclusive family-building support, Watts said.
Fertility benefits provider Carrot Fertility, has seen an increase in the number of companies that offer its services to their employees in the past two years, according to chief human resources officer Leslie Neitzel.
The total lifetime financial benefit employers offer workers varies, but typically ranges from around $10,000 to $30,000, according to Carrot, and coverage amounts tend to increase with employer size, with some larger companies offering upwards of $80,000.
General Motors rolled out a benefit that reimburses for fertility treatments, surrogacy, and adoption expenses, up to a lifetime maximum of $40,000. And Cisco offers full-time employees in the US and Canada up to a $50,000 lifetime maximum reimbursement for family planning expenses such as IVF and harvesting, freezing or storage for eggs, sperm and embryos. And $20,000 for surrogacy or adoption support.
“No longer are employees coming to a prospective employer and saying, ‘tell me about medical, dental and vision.’ They’re also wanting to understand things like ‘what support do you offer impending parents?’ Particularly the generations that are coming into the workforce,” said Neitzel.
Paid leave and schedule flexibility
Establishing a routine with a new family member can take time, and for many new parents it’s helpful to have the option to ease back into work.
The US does not have a paid leave mandate for new parents. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can provide unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks, but it doesn’t cover all workers. There are also some states, including New York, California and Washington, that offer paid family leave and many companies have their own policies.
A survey from Mercer shows 70% of large employers currently offer paid parental leave or plan to in 2023, and 53% are providing or planning to offer paid adoption leave.
New parents at Dropbox, for example, get 24 paid weeks of leave. When returning to work, they also get a “transition week” when they are only expected to work around 60% of their regular time, but still receive full pay.
“After taking the 24 weeks, there is something really important about easing back into the work week in a way that is not so shocking,” said Melanie Collins, chief people officer at Dropbox. “Coming back to work is a big transition.”
Offering work schedules outside the traditional 9 to 5 can also help parents with work-life balance.
In 2020, Dropbox announced it would be “virtual first,” which means the majority of workers would be permanently remote.
“We have non-linear workdays,” said Collins. While there are designated four-hour core collaboration hours based on time zones, employees have flexibility with their work time, which could mean picking up kids in the afternoon and finishing up work later.
“It allows for the harmony to exist between your work and life and gives employees more agency over how they spend their time,” said Collins.
Reliable childcare is an essential part of being a successful working parent. But for many families, it’s hard to come by and very expensive.
One way employers can help is to offer on-site childcare, or a subsidy to help cover costs. Mercer’s survey also found that around one in 10 large employers either currently offer or have plans to offer on-site childcare by 2023.
Software company SAS has been offering subsidized on-site childcare at its corporate headquarters for more than 30 years. For parents who use childcare elsewhere, the company also reimburses full-time employees up to $525 per month, per child, or 50% of the monthly tuition, whichever is less.
“It’s always been part of our culture to integrate families and work,” said Jenn Mann, chief human resources officer at SAS. “How in the world can employees focus on their work and be creative and innovative if they’ve got these real stressors of dealing with life?…if you can get rid of those stressors and distractions, not only does it help the employee do work, there’s an emotional connection.”
The path to parenthood doesn’t always go as planned, and some companies have enhanced their paid leave coverage to include miscarriages, and failed surrogacy, adoption or fertility treatments.
Boston-based law firm Mintz offers up to 15 days of paid leave for employees after a miscarriage. Workers can also get up to five days in a 12-month period after a failed surrogacy, adoption or fertility treatment.
“The path to partnership at a law firm overlaps pretty directly to the path to parenthood,” said Geri Haight, an attorney at Mintz and chair of the firm’s Women’s Initiative. “It is really an important recognition of the firm to offer a benefit that reflects some of the challenges and struggles that our employees go through walking both paths at once.”
Breast milk shipping
Traveling while breastfeeding or pumping can be a logistical nightmare. And as business travel continues to pick up, more companies are offering help to make the process easier.
“Companies are looking at what benefits they need to bring back into the office space as employees hit the road again,” said Kate Torgersen, founder and CEO of Milk Stork, a breast milk shipping company.
Torgersen said that demand for breast milk shipping among employers and parents dropped almost immediately at the start of the pandemic. She added that last year, the company has had numerous Fortune 500 companies reach out about breast milk shipping and other services.
“There are a lot of companies offering the benefit because they have people who have to be on the road… they recognize that providing family-forming benefits is the way to attract and retain top talent in a very competitive market,” said Torgersen.
Having supportive workplace policies, equipment and space for employees who need to pump at work can also help with the transition back to work.
“Having a hospital-grade breast pump available to you at work is amazing, it’s one less thing to lug,” said Torgersen.