More US Employers Embrace Fertility Benefits as a Talent Attractor

More US Employers Embrace Fertility Benefits as a Talent Attractor

In today’s tight labor market, US employers are having to work harder to attract and retain talent, not just by offering more pay and benefits, but also by targeting their employee value proposition to fit the needs of their candidates and current employees. As millennials take on the burden of caring for their aging parents while starting families of their own, and as progressive organizations strive to make sure motherhood doesn’t derail the career of their women employees, many of the latest benefit trends are family-focused: paid parental leave, flexibility for working parents, returnship programs for parents returning from career breaks, and so forth.

Another increasingly popular family benefit is health insurance coverage for fertility treatments, to help employees who want to start families but struggle with infertility. In vitro fertilization, the most effective of these treatments, is increasingly common as women start families later, but is often prohibitively expensive, costing over $12,000 for just one round, whereas several rounds are sometimes required to result in a successful pregnancy.

Despite the cost, we’ve seen several large employers add fertility benefits to their rewards packages in the past year, including Cisco, Estée Lauder, and MassMutual. In a recent feature at the New York Times, Vanessa Grigoriadis takes a look at what’s driving this trend, pointing to a recent Mercer study that found the percentage of large employers (of 20,000 employees or more) had increased from 37 percent to 44 percent from 2017 to 2018:

These days, I.V.F. coverage is “escaping” the sectors that have traditionally offered it, meaning tech, banking and media, said Jake Anderson, a former partner at Sequoia Capital and a founder of Fertility IQ, a website that assesses doctors, procedures and clinics. General Mills, Chobani, the Cooper Companies and Designer Shoe Warehouse have either introduced coverage or greatly increased dollar amounts for 2019. Procter & Gamble Company offered only $5,000 in fertility benefits until this year, when it increased the benefit to $40,000.

Many organizations are falling short, however, when it comes to communicating this benefit to employees and job seekers, Grigoriadis points out:

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UK Employers Encouraged to Publish Parental Leave Policies Online

UK Employers Encouraged to Publish Parental Leave Policies Online

A member of Parliament in the UK is pushing for employers to be more proactive in clarifying their parental leave policies to their current and prospective employees, introducing a bill that would require many organizations to publish their policies online, the BBC reported on Wednesday:

Jo Swinson, a Lib Dem MP, said this was “a simple and practically effortless change” that would improve transparency and encourage more competition on pay. It would help firms “better attract and retain talent”, she added. Human resources trade body the CIPD said publication could help tackle discrimination.

Ms Swinson said more than 54,000 women a year lose their jobs because of pregnancy and maternity discrimination, while fathers were worried about taking shared parental leave because of the negative effect on their careers. … The MP has tabled a bill in the Commons that would require firms with more than 250 employees to publish those policies. Prospective employees would have a clearer idea of parental leave policies without having to ask at interview, she said.

In arguing for her bill, Swinson noted that “the very act of asking” about parental leave “suggests to the employer that the candidate may be considering having a child.” A recent survey of UK employers found that most expected women candidates to disclose if they were pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and many managers would decline to hire a woman of childbearing age on that basis. Publishing these policies would enable candidates and employees to find out about them without having to reveal their intent to have children to a manager who might penalize them for it.

There is really no good reason for employers not to advertise their parental leave policies, as these and other family benefits are highly attractive to many candidates—particularly, but by no means exclusively, women. Our research at CEB, now Gartner, has found that the availability of parental leave has a significant positive impact on employees’ perceptions of their overall benefits package. A lack of family-friendly policies is often a key factor in driving women out of the workforce. (CEB Total Rewards Leadership Council members can view our data on parental leave and rewards perceptions here.)

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US Senate Changes Rules to Allow Members’ Babies in Chamber

US Senate Changes Rules to Allow Members’ Babies in Chamber

In a historic change, the US Senate voted last week to allow members to bring their babies into the chamber. The new rule was prompted by the birth of Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth’s second daughter on April 9. Duckworth, the first sitting senator to give birth, said the vote would “bring the Senate into the 21st century,” making the historically male-dominated chamber a more welcoming workplace for women and new parents, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

No Senators objected to the rule change, but effecting it still took some convincing. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar told the AP that she had spent nearly two months “privately reassuring Republicans and Democrats that the new rule would not mean diaper-changing or nursing in the Senate chamber.” Quartz’s Heather Timmons followed up with Klobuchar about the questions she had fielded from her colleagues:

Will there be an infant dress code?

“No, we’re not going to have a dress code for the baby,” Klobuchar said. While that sounds off the wall, what women wear in the Senate in particular has been closely policed—it was not until the early 1990s that pant suits were allowed.

Can’t Duckworth just vote from the Senate cloak room, while holding her baby?

Both Republicans and Democrats have a room, originally quite literally a room for cloaks, that is outside the Senate chamber, where a small handful of aides sit to keep senators informed of voting. The chamber was built in 1859, and the cloakroom is difficult to access from the outside for Duckworth, who lost both her legs when she served in the Iraq war. “She can’t get from there to the floor without a wheelchair,” Klobuchar said, and she has to go across the floor to get into it anyway.

Duckworth and Klobuchar are both Democrats, but support for the rule change came from both male and female Senators across party lines. Although some of the men in the chamber expressed concerns about babies violating the Senate’s decorum, most were on board. “Why would I object to it? We have plenty of babies on the floor,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio joked.

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Most UK Employers Expect Women Candidates to Disclose Pregnancy

Most UK Employers Expect Women Candidates to Disclose Pregnancy

A recent survey by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission found that 59 percent of employers believe a woman should have to disclose whether she is pregnant to her prospective employer while being considered for a position, while 46 percent believe it is reasonable to ask if they have young children and 44 percent said women should work for an organization for at least a year before deciding to have children, Personnel Today’s Rob Moss reported last week:

The EHRC research, conducted in autumn 2017 by YouGov, also found that:

  • 44% of employers believe that women who have had more than one pregnancy while in the same job can be a “burden” to their team
  • 41% say that pregnancy in the workplace puts “an unnecessary cost burden” on the workplace
  • 40% of employers claim to have seen at least one pregnant woman in their workplace “take advantage” of their pregnancy
  • 32% believe women who become pregnant and new mothers in work are “generally less interested in career progression” than other employees.

Surprisingly, most HR decision makers share some of the sentiment of the wider survey sample.

These assumptions and sentiments are exactly the reason why women shouldn’t have to disclose if they are pregnant in an interview or at any point during recruitment. I understand the desire to control for all factors in recruiting, but if sentiments such as these lead to fewer women being hired, than this is perpetuating the problem of discrimination against pregnant women and mothers, based on the erroneous assumption that hiring mothers will have a negative impact on business.

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National Women’s Law Center Launches Network to Fight Sex Discrimination

National Women’s Law Center Launches Network to Fight Sex Discrimination

Reflecting concerns over the country’s progress toward gender equality, the National Women’s Law Center, a Washington-based advocacy group for women’s rights, has announced the formation of a new legal network dedicated to helping women and girls who are victims of sex discrimination. The NWLC has recruited more than 70 attorneys in 15 states so far, and aims to have attorneys affiliating with the network in every state, the Associated Press reports:

Fatima Goss Graves, president of the [NWLC] … said the initiative was prompted by growing concerns that protections against sex discrimination were being weakened under the Trump administration. “We’ve seen a surge of gender-based hostility and harassment across the nation,” said Goss Graves, who decried “escalating federal rollbacks to critical protections in education, the workplace, and health care.” …

Creation of the new legal network was welcomed by Lenora Lapidus, who heads the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project. “Bringing in more attorneys to really focus on these cases is a good idea,” she said. “We become like a tide that can push change more rapidly.”

The announcement comes in the wake of several high-profile sexual harassment scandals and gender discrimination lawsuits, which have called attention to how vulnerable women still are to mistreatment in the American workplace. Rewire’s Bryce Covert takes a closer look at what the network is already doing, and what it hopes to accomplish:

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Massachusetts Enacts New Protections for Pregnant Employees

Massachusetts Enacts New Protections for Pregnant Employees

Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill extending new legal protections to pregnant workers in the state. The bipartisan bill, which comes into effect on April 1, 2018, requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to expectant and new mothers in the workplace, including less strenuous workloads, flexible scheduling, paid or unpaid leave, and private space to nurse.

At SHRM, Christopher B. Kaczmarek and Shannon M. Berube, attorneys with Littler in Boston, provide a detailed overview of what the new law will require of employers:

First, the act requires employers to reasonably accommodate all pregnant employees, just as they are required to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities. … Second, the act requires employers to accommodate employees with a need to express breast milk. … The act goes beyond this limited obligation under federal law and requires an employer to engage in the interactive process to find a reasonable accommodation based on the individual needs of an employee.

The reasonable accommodation obligation could result in employers providing longer or more frequent break times or other accommodations not specifically required under federal law. …

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Women Ironworkers to Get Six Months of Paid Pre-Delivery Maternity Leave

Women Ironworkers to Get Six Months of Paid Pre-Delivery Maternity Leave

Although women make up a small fraction of its membership, the ironworkers union has secured for them one of the most generous leave policies for pregnant women in the US, BuzzFeed’s Cora Lewis reported on Monday. The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, which represents about 130,000 construction tradespeople in the US and Canada, announced that members of the union who become pregnant will be entitled to six months of paid maternity leave to be taken prior to delivery, on top of six to eight weeks of postpartum leave:

“The challenges of physical work associated with the ironworking trade create unique health challenges that can jeopardize a pregnancy,” the union said in a statement announcing the benefit, noting that paid maternity leave “is virtually unheard of in the building trades.” The numbers put maternity leave for iron working women on par with corporate employees at tech companies like Etsy, Adobe, Spotify and Cisco. Netflix and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are among the only companies that offer workers more paid parental leave, according to data gathered by Care@Work, which specializes in family benefits.

While women account for just 2,100 members of the union, changes in technology, workforce demographics, and attitudes toward gender roles mean that women’s share of the workforce in some traditionally-male fields is growing. As employers in other sectors have discovered, construction firms may find this new maternity benefit less costly than replacing female employees who drop out of the workforce to raise children; research has shown that women are significantly more likely to quit if their employer does not offer family-friendly policies like parental leave and flexibility. Bill Brown, CEO of Ben Hur Construction and co-chair of the Iron Workers labor-management working group, told BuzzFeed that he considered the benefit an investment in retaining women employees:

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