Rising workplace benefit: Fertility services


Employers are beefing up benefits packages to lure workers in a tight labor market, and many are adding pricey fertility benefits — such as in-vitro fertilization and egg freezing — to their offerings.

Benefits around fertility and family-building have long been overlooked by employer health care plans, but that's rapidly changing.

  • "You see couples today that are living child-free, and a lot of times that's their decision, but a lot of times it's not," says Gina Bartasi, founder and CEO of the fertility clinic Kindbody.
  • Employers can play a vital role in helping people find alternative options to grow their families, she says.

"Earlier in my career, it was so rare for companies to offer this," says Alice Vichaita, head of global benefits at Pinterest, which covers fertility services for its global workforce. "More and more companies are becoming aware that this is really an inadequacy in our health care system."

  • In the past, many companies have avoided offering fertility benefits due to concerns about the cost, Erin Dowling of Mercer writes. But the rise in the number of fertility clinics — and growing demand for their services — is driving down the price, Bartasi says.
  • 97% of employers who provide this coverage say it has not resulted in a significant increase in medical plan costs, per a Mercer survey.

11% of U.S. employers with 500 employees or more covered egg freezing in 2020, compared with just 5% in 2015, according to the Mercer study. When looking just at firms with 20,000 employees or more, the 2020 share is 19%.

  • Also as of 2020, 58% of employers with 500 or more workers covered evaluations by reproductive doctors and 27% covered IVF.
  • Some companies, like Nike, Johnson & Johnson and IBM, even help with the costs of adoption, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Fertility services are also key from a diversity, equity and inclusion perspective, says Tanner Brunsdale, senior manager of benefits and mobility at Lyft, which offers these benefits.

  • Lyft's benefits have helped employees from all walks of life — including LGBTQ+ couples and single parents — become parents through IVF, sperm and egg donation and other services, he says.

 Look for fertility services to become a new standard benefit at work.

  • "Within the last five years, this has really taken off," says Brunsdale. "It's kind of table-stakes benefits at this point, especially at a tech company where you’re trying to attract strong talent."

Job growth numbers may be about to turn negative for the first time since President Biden took office, and the White House is seeking to get ahead of potential negative headlines.

 Vast numbers of Americans missed work this month due to the Omicron variant, and that is likely to drag down January jobs numbers. But the White House believes these effects will be temporary.

  • In a winter of economic discontent, the good news has been that the job market has been booming. The virus surge undermined that in January.

 Jobs numbers are based on how many people are working during a "survey reference week" that is generally the calendar week that includes the 12th of the month. This month, that was Jan. 9 to Jan. 15.

  • Covid cases peaked in precisely that span, with the highest seven-day average case count coming on January 15, according to the CDC.
  • Hourly workers who were not paid that week because they were out sick, caring for someone, quarantining, or because their employer temporarily shut down would subtract from payrolls.

 That explains why forecasters surveyed by FactSet were projecting only 162,500 jobs added in January, which would be the weakest since December 2020. There is some reason to think the number could turn out to be significantly worse than that.

  • In early January, 8.75 million people Americans said they were not working because they were sick with COVID or caring for someone who was sick with COVID, according to a Census survey, up from 2.96 million in early December.
  • Andrew Hunter with Capital Economics, for example, projects that the surge in COVID cases will reduce payroll growth enough to leave net job creation at negative 200,000.

The best hope for the job market—and the narrative Biden advisers aim to reinforce—is that any contraction in employment reported in the January is rapidly reversed as the Omicron case counts plunge.

  • "Forecasters see a large Omicron effect on employment in January, but expect that to reverse in future months as we see the wave beginning to come down," said David Kamin, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, tells Axios. "That is very different from overall trends in the economy looking ahead."
  • Officials emphasized that they have no early inside track on the data (senior officials see the report Thursday night before the release).

In a bleak month, those caveats might not do much to blunt the impact of some disappointing numbers in the area where the Biden economy has been strongest.

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