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Fertility, childcare, and family leave: Not just a female issue

Fertility, childcare, and family leave: Not just a female issue

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Many companies have long recognized that when it comes to attracting women to the workforce, they need to offer benefits that go beyond traditional packages. They are also realizing that “female-friendly” benefit programs have a broad appeal that is beneficial for all employees: men, transgender, non-binary, disabled, and others in the workforce.

In addition to helping with employee attraction and retention, a more inclusive and non-discriminatory workplace has a long-term positive impact on the health of all your people – and your organization. So here are three benefit areas to consider. 

Family planning

Statistically, working women in the United States are giving birth at older ages than in the past. As a result, they are also seeking easier access to fertility and family-planning services, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), egg freezing, adoption, and surrogacy.  

These once unheard-of benefits are now becoming standardized offerings. For example, even though the cost to employees (and their spouses) of fertility services such as IVF can exceed $10,000 per cycle, IVF is now covered by more than 40% of large employers in the U.S. These solutions offer family planning assistance, provide maternity telehealth, family support, and caregiver assistance. Recognizing the continuum of sexual health as we age, they may also offer menopause and low testosterone treatment and support. 


As recently as February 2023, it was reported by the Wall Street Journal that dual income households are being priced out of daycare – the median price is now nearly $17,500 a year in major metro areas.  

To make matters even worse, LinkedIn’s Theunis Bates reports “a Labor Department study found that counties with childcare prices 50% above the national median had a 2-percentage point reduction in maternal employment; those twice as expensive had a 4-percentage point drop.”

Despite this trend, the number of companies offering paid parental leave dropped significantly in 2021 and 2022, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. A bipartisan proposal to give federal employees 12 weeks of paid family leave was recently introduced, but currently, no federal paid leave program exists. (Federal employees can receive up to twelve weeks of unpaid job projection under FMLA.) At the state level, only 11 states plus the District of Columbia offer paid maternity leave for those who qualify. 

Many small and medium sized firms say they simply cannot afford to offer such a rich benefit. However, as more 25- to 54-year-old female candidates are weighing job offers, they will definitely be looking at the details of a company’s entire benefit package, especially the parental leave policy. A paid parental leave that applies to both men and women is even more attractive to talent – especially in today’s tight labor market.

“Home” work

According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), women report that they want to work fully or partially remotely 10% more than men. A flex-time schedule can support work-life balance, the ability to manage families’ activities, and save time and money by not commuting. 

Even though remote or hybrid work may seem appealing, HBR cautions women on the remote lifestyle for two reasons. First, it is more difficult to build strong colleague networks, develop advocates of their work, and find mentors who strongly support women over the course of their careers. Second, assumptions are always made about commitment to the work while working remotely.  

Today more employees – not just women – are finding working remotely to be a very attractive option, despite understanding the potential risks to their career goals and prospects. So, it’s important to implement policies and practices that can help level the playing field, such as annual-review criteria that eliminate potential bias and formal mentoring programs. 

Maintaining a balance for employees who work remotely versus those that are in the office can be offset by recognizing the inequalities created by their lack of visibility and making concerted efforts to counterbalance them.

Making a difference

As labor competition and shortages continue to plague employers, it is vital that organizations understand the impact of family-specific benefits initiatives, specifically family planning, parental leave, DE&I initiatives, and flexible work options. Otherwise, there may be missed opportunities for attracting and retaining all employees – not just those that identify as female!