SHRM recently shared an article, “Family-Building Benefits,” that sparked a million thoughts. What I really love about this article are the quotes from families. Things like, “They made it possible for us to have children,” and “It’s been family-altering,” and even, “It makes you realize the possibilities.” As a mom of two young children, there is nothing more rewarding than raising my sweet babes and seeing their smiles as often as I can. But I also want to feel like I have the support from my employer I need in order to maintain a productive career. I want my employer to understand (and agree!) my family comes first. When there are benefits in place that support the realities of a working parent, your employees will be free to actually focus on their job during work hours because distractions like child care, financial stress, unexpected sick days, etc., will be a thing of the past.
For me, a core motivator is how cared for a person, company, customer service rep, whomever, makes me feel. The companies listed in this article – AT&T, Ferring Pharmaceuticals USA, and Robins & Morton – are leaning into caring for their employees AND their families, and also recognizing how personal stress will affect their team members’ work life. These employers are at the forefront of providing options that assist in the emotional, time-consuming, and financial challenges of building a family. They’re doing so through benefits which address infertility, adoption, and other family-building events.
Many leaders may read this article and instantly think, “I can’t afford adding [insert whopping dollar amount] to our annual benefits budget.” While this may be a fact, a company’s ultimate goal can still be to one day provide infertility or adoption benefits. In the meantime, they can take baby steps toward making their employees feel highly valued.
Below is a list of less expensive options that can broaden a total rewards package and begin growing a company’s family-building-related offerings over time.
Ideas to start improving your family-building benefits program:
- Better employee education. As HR professionals, one of the biggest challenges we face is educating employees on the benefits offered to them. We will never know all of the challenges employees are facing, but based on their age, you can make assumptions about what benefits will be most beneficial. For example, 25-40-year-olds are likely approaching the time when they’ll be purchasing a house, planning a family, adding pets, buying cars, funding their 401(k)s, navigating life with small children, etc. Provide written scenarios of how to use insurance options to help assist financially during birth (i.e., short-term disability, FMLA, HSAs, FSAs, hospital indemnity, etc.). Provide one-on-one financial advisor meetings. Do your employees understand the benefits of saving pre-tax money? Also, what tax benefits might be available for birth, adoption, or foster care? Educating your team on what might be available and relevant for them can lead to more focused and informed decisions.
- A medical plan with an HSA or FSA. Your company may not have the funds to offer the platinum medical insurance option, but offering an FSA or HSA can be hugely helpful to employees. With an HSA and FSA, you can make employer contributions at whatever amount you feel comfortable, or you can offer these health savings accounts without an employer contribution. One upside of contributing some amount is to offer this benefit as a “company match,” meaning the employee only receives the funds from your company if they contribute at least the same amount you put in. This will encourage employees to put their own money in their accounts, allowing them to save pre-tax for qualifying expenses, including those associated with family planning.
- Short-Term Disability Insurance. Short-term disability premiums can be subsidized by the employer or fully paid for by the employee. Disability insurance can provide employees with a portion of their income while taking time off for the birth of a child, or due to a surgery.
- Hospital Indemnity Insurance. Paired with short-term disability and paid parental leave, this benefit will help cover the predictable cost of a hospital stay to continue to support the financial expenses associated with bringing a baby into the world.
- Benefit Eligibility Requirements. Identify the hurdles that are holding employees back from using their benefits. Is it time to update benefit requirements to be more inclusive of your team as a whole? Here are a few questions worth asking:
- Are eligibility requirements inclusive of single and LGBTQ+ team members?
- Does the eligibility waiting period hinder people from using the benefit? For example, a long wait period may lead the employee to not take part because they don’t want to wait an additional year to start their family.
- Does eligibility require a pre-diagnosis (i.e., confirmed infertility)?
- Do benefits only apply to people that have a conventional birth? Or are adoption, surrogacy, and foster care also included?
- PTO for all family obligations. Infertility treatments, adoption, and foster care require a lot of time: paperwork, meetings, phone calls, you name it… If an employee works 40+ hours a week, handling their other personal obligations, and one of these additional tasks, when will they get it all done? If your company is able to offer extra paid time off for employees beyond the normal weeks post-birth (or adoption, fostering, etc.), parents and hopeful parents can use these hours for required training, legal consults, extra and routine medical visits, illness or reactions to medications, travel if visiting or receiving a child further away, etc. This avoids burnout and fosters ongoing loyalty to a company.
- Make your Parental Leave gender-neutral. Language use is extremely important in making all your employees feel seen. Using the terms maternity and paternity leave excludes valuable employees. Traditionally, maternity leave benefits have been longer than paternity leave, but it’s time to consider that paternal parents may be primary caretakers. And what about same-sex couples? Providing one parental leave policy across the board which asks employees to designate if they are the primary or secondary caretakers to their new child will increase inclusivity and acknowledge the different family units at your company.
- Miscarriage Recovery. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, and while more and more women are sharing their stories, it’s still a difficult and highly personal subject. Miscarriage is physically, emotionally, and psychologically challenging. If a team member must return to work immediately after a miscarriage because they don’t have enough paid time off, this could be detrimental to their mental wellbeing. Not to mention, they may be physically and mentally unfit to bring their A-game to work during this trying time. Offering additional time off, reduced schedule options, and general work-hour flexibility are simple ways to support those who are grieving.
- Child Care Benefits. Child care is expensive. For many families, monthly child care expenses are even higher than their monthly mortgage payments. And when childcare isn’t readily available and affordable, you see parents (mainly mothers) being forced out of work – like the 3 million American women who’ve left jobs in the last year. Understandably, most employers can’t afford to offer an onsite service. But has your company considered other ways to support working parents with child care expenses? Here are some ideas:
- Dependent Care FSA’s. These accounts provide an opportunity for the employee to make pre-tax contributions for use toward qualified child (under 13) or adult care expenses. What’s more, companies can add an annual contribution to this account to further assist employees in affording the child care they need.
- Child Care Stipend. It would be impractical to think a company could cover the entire cost of child care for their employees. But when it comes to such an expense, every penny counts. Why not provide a small monthly or annual child care stipend?
- Flexible schedule options for child care. It’s inevitable: Children WILL get sick, or their child care facility will close due to illness or the always unpredictable “professional development” days for teachers. It’s smart to offer flexibility or additional PTO to take the stress and guilt off the shoulders of the people who show up for you every day.
There are so many important discussions to be had surrounding the creation of an inclusive, comprehensive benefit strategy. I’d love to explore how you can get creative with your benefits to truly fit your team. Reach out to me today.
Senior Consultant, Montani Consulting