The latest employee benefit? Helping workers have babies.


More companies are offering to cover the costs of fertility treatments and other family-building services for workers, as they look for ways to recruit talent and stand out from their competitors in a tight labor market.

Old requirements — like a diagnosis of infertility in a heterosexual couple before covering in vitro fertilization — are becoming a relic of the past as employers expand and extend basic benefits to singles and same-sex couples who want to become parents.

With qualified employees in short supply and many dropping out of the workforce amid the "Great Resignation," a number of major companies are rolling out new family planning benefits. 

"We are definitely seeing the private sector lead the way in terms of adding fertility and family-building benefits," said Betsey Campbell, a spokesperson for Resolve, the National Infertility Association. "They are recognizing this is important to their employees, and it helps them with recruitment, retention, and diversity, equity and inclusion objectives. It is a way to be a family-friendly company. You cannot get more family-friendly than helping employees build families." 

Telecom giant AT&T, financial services firm Ally, computing and software company IBM, insurer Liberty Mutual, ride-share company Lyft, and TD Bank are also among the large employers that help ease the financial burden of building a family for workers of all stripes, while also engendering loyalty and earning HR points on the corporate inclusivity front. 

"The financial piece of it"

Indeed, employees are evaluating employers' fertility benefits and factoring these sorts of offerings, along with compensation, flexibility, and other key job attributes, into deciding where they want to work. 

"Employers realize workers are looking for employers to help them out. They are recognizing that dynamics are changing in families, and sometimes people who are looking to expand their families are not able to do it in the traditional ways," said Yvette Lee, an advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management. 

Take Jessica Swain, director of communications at AT&T, and a single woman with plans to someday have children. She took advantage of AT&T's egg-freezing benefit "to have an extra safety net without having to worry about a time clock."

Without insurance, the national average cost of one egg-freezing cycle is almost $16,000, including medication, treatment, and retrieval as well as egg-storage costs, according to FertilityIQ, a provider of fertility-related education and resources for individuals and companies. 

The out-of-pocket costs, without insurance, for one cycle of IVF are between $15,000 and $30,000, according to Resolve.

"Not having to worry about the financial piece of it" made it easy for Swain to take a step toward becoming a mother someday, thanks to her employer.

 It's also one reason why she's been with the company for seven years.

"Our benefits are inclusive when it comes to fertility by offering adoption assistance, egg freezing, and more. Whether you're single or LGBTQ, it's important to have equity in this area so you're not limiting people based on their life circumstances," Swain explained. "For a single person like me, this benefit is important because it is a huge cost. It would definitely weigh heavily on my decision whether or not to consider working for a company, and it's a big reason why I have stayed with AT&T." 

From banking to ride-sharing

Today, hundreds of large, global corporations across banking, health care, retail, technology and other industries, cover some type of fertility service. A decade ago, only the rare outlier of a company covered narrowly defined infertility treatments for workers, research shows. 

In 2021, nearly 800 large global firms identified by FertlityIQ offered some type of fertility benefit. That includes companies that added a fertility benefit for the first time or enhanced their existing coverage and reflects an 8% year-over-year increase in the share of employers covering fertility services. 

"The market has completely taken off in the last two years," said FertilityIQ cofounder Jason Anderson-Bialis. "Employers pay us for our educational offerings around fertility, and demand is nonstop right now. It's definitely a priority." 

A 2021 survey on fertility benefits from employee benefits consultancy Mercer, commissioned by Resolve, found that just over half of the 459 employers surveyed said they provided at least some type of reproductive benefit, while 205 respondents said they did not provide any coverage. 

Larger employers, with at least 500 employees, were more likely to cover fertility services — including egg freezing and in vitro fertilization — compared to smaller employers, the survey found. 

Lifting up workers who start families

Ride-share company Lyft is among the employers that recognize the importance of assisting workers in starting and building families, particularly when an individual's or couple's path to parenthood takes a nontraditional route. The fact that millennials — most of them in their prime child-bearing years — are now the largest demographic in the U.S. workforce also makes it hard to ignore these new realities, including the changing nature of how families are defined. 

The company's benefits now include coverage for IVF, egg freezing, surrogacy, and adoption. Lyft first added a fertility component to its benefits package in 2017, but at the time, an infertility diagnosis, only given after 12 unsuccessful months of attempting to conceive, was required to access coverage. 

"Now you don't need that underlying diagnosis of infertility. Our benefit is very inclusive and applies to LGBTQ+ couples and single parents who are growing their families in ways like surrogacy and adoption," Tanner Brunsdale, a benefits manager for Lyft said. 

Brunsdale said the comprehensive scope of its family-building benefit helps Lyft stand out from its peers. "In the tech world, [when] trying to attract and retain talent, we know we are in a competitive market and we know this benefit is at the top of the list when people are looking for employers," he said. "It's highly sought-after and it gives us a competitive advantage. Candidates ask about it all the time."

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