With the increase in employee churn and focus on employee well-being, we explore the rise of family-planning benefits in the modern workplace. The cost, the controversy, and the alternatives.
While many of the effects of COVID could be reasonably predicted, such as toilet paper shortages due to panic buying, “The Great Resignation” wasn’t necessarily on everyone’s radar. Many see the mass exodus of employees from their jobs as an indirect result of the COVID pandemic, when thousands of workers traded their current jobs for positions with better salary, flexibility and benefits. This prioritization of work-life balance has forced employers, large and small, to up their game by increasing wages and/or benefits to recruit and retain qualified employees.
“This prioritization of work-life balance has forced employers, large and small, to up their game.”
Millennials, incidentally, now make up the largest segment of the workforce, many of which are in their prime child-bearing years. One of the employee benefits increasingly being offered to employees is in-vitro fertility (IVF) treatments, a benefit that was once reserved only for elite Silicon Valley companies back in the 2010s. Recently, large private-sector companies such as IBM, JPMorgan, Microsoft and AT&T have joined the growing list of 800 companies estimated to provide the benefit. Some employers are additionally extending coverage to family-building services such as adoption and/or surrogacy, along with egg freezing and fertility treatments, to increase the diversity, equity and inclusion of their workforce and attract Millennials with benefits that reflect their values. Many are also waiving the requirement of an infertility diagnosis for IVF treatment to extend benefits to LGBTQ+ individuals.
“IBM, JPMorgan, Microsoft, and AT&T have joined the growing list of 800 companies estimated to provide [IVF treatments].”
How much does all this cost? For individuals without insurance, egg freezing services can average about $16,000 in the United States, and a single round of IVF ranges, on average, between $15,000 and $30,000. On average, the lifetime cost of fertility benefits totals about $36,000. The out-of-pocket costs and deductibles for employees can vary greatly depending on their specific coverage, as hormone medication ($5,000) and storage costs ($2,000) of egg freezing, for example, can add up quickly if not covered.
While this may be a hefty price tag for an individual paying out-of-pocket, the actual cost to employers offering the benefit is much lower. In fact, employers in some states are already legally required to cover fertility treatments depending on the size of the company and the type of health insurance the company provides.
“The increase in fertility and family-building benefits isn’t without controversy, however.”
The increase in fertility and family-building benefits isn’t without controversy, however. While these benefits can financially put parenthood within reach for many people that otherwise couldn’t afford the treatments to do so, there is some concern that egg freezing and other IVF treatment coverage promotes a culture that prioritizes work over family and blurs the boundaries between work and home life. Some employees may additionally feel indebted to their employer for the services they receive. Frozen egg storage and usage can also become complicated when employees change jobs.
Despite any potential controversies, an estimated one in eight American couples have difficulty conceiving a child, making fertility and family-building coverage a relevant workplace benefit for the foreseeable future. Alternatively, many employees may value other benefits that facilitate a better work-life balance, rather than delaying a family through IVF. Benefits such as gender-neutral paid parental leave and childcare services can help employees with children establish better boundaries between work and home life, improving their efficiency and decreasing burnout. While fertility and family-building coverage benefits may be a good fit for some companies, alternative benefits can also promote the healthy work-life balance employees are seeking today.
- “All of those quitters? They’re at work.” by Emma Goldberg (2022). The New York Times.
- Egg freezing, IVF, surrogacy: Fertility benefits have evolved to become the ultimate workplace perk” by Karen Gilchrist (2022). CNBC.
- “Fertility benefits have become a major weapon in the war for talent” by Megan Leonhardt (2022). Fortune.
- “Insurance benefits by state” by Resolve (2022). RESOLVE: The National Fertility Association.
- “The latest employee benefit? Helping workers have babies.” by Megan Cerullo (2022). CBS News.