Photo with pink background of women in winter hat, with red hair looking up and smiling

Fertility Benefits at Work — Are You Covered?

Author: Tavia McLachlan, Director of Special Projects for EVOLVE 

What is next for workplace coverage and why, suddenly, are we hearing about the benefit packages of big companies? I recently had the chance to speak to a few HR personnel and benefit advisors on the overall picture of the workplace today and why fertility treatment conversations are notably growing.

The workforce has changed dramatically over the past few years. According to a study done by the Pew Research centre, there are now five generations of workers in the workplace. Millennials and Gen Z now make up over 40% of the workforce. With this change, providers and employers need to be able to address a wider range of employee needs. In general, each generation is looking for something different when it comes to their benefits.

  • A one-size-fits-all benefits package is no longer effective. Paul Crossdale of Benefits Connect is a pioneer in bringing tailored benefit solutions to small to medium-sized companies. He understands the changes in the Canadian workplace. Added to the new demands of a multi-generational workforce,  the pandemic has led to high employee turnover and a new focus on diversity and inclusion. Companies must understand what motivates the type of worker they are looking to attract and retain. A survey done by LIMRA in 2020 found that 66% of employees are paying more attention to the benefits their company offers. For both carriers and employers, it is important to think about a benefits strategy and the best way to meet the needs of all members of the current and future workforce.
  • Infertility affects 1/6 couples. Most people know someone close to them who has struggled with infertility. It is much more talked about than ten years ago. Medical conditions, lifestyle choices, environmental toxins, age and more – all of these things can impact fertility. Fertility is no longer seen as a “woman’s issue”. This increase in education around infertility is showing up in the benefit space. The mental and financial load of going through infertility treatments is immense. According to Agnes McLachlan, Senior People and Culture Advisor, at Telus,  mental health is a big topic for companies right now; and infertility is one small branch of that. Infertility is linked to a 50% increase in depression and other psychological issues. By taking the financial stress of fertility treatments away, companies are trying to help some employees address the whole picture. As noted in a Benefits Canada article “people do their best work when they feel seen and supported”.
  • Individuals are proactively taking control over their future fertility. Millennial and Gen Z employees are not new to fertility. Some of their parents may have struggled to conceive; they are aware of their biological clock. However, they may not be where they want to be in their career, or still have more education left to complete. They may have not found the right partner or just simply may not be ready for a family. They may be in gender transition or in a same-sex relationship. Whatever the reason, many people know that freezing their eggs in their 20s-30s gives them the highest chance of having a family down the road, and they are asking for fertility treatment benefits, during interviews, to help support them.
  • There is an increased interest in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Companies are searching for ways to attract and keep top talent. Industries struggling with recruiting and retaining are increasingly adding coverage for fertility treatments, including egg freezing, to stand out. Younger employees are not as interested in prescription drugs and vision care in a benefit plan. So adding fertility coverage can offer employees something of value to them. The biggest concern companies have regarding adding coverage is cost. However, in a study done by Mercer on fertility benefits, 97% of companies said that there was no noticeable increase in their overall cost year-over-year. There are many ways to add fertility treatment benefits to a plan and specialized providers help companies meet these needs.
  • More large North American companies are adding fertility treatment coverage to their packages. When Facebook started offering coverage in 2014, Pinterest, Google and Apple were quick to hop on board. The same situation is happening now. Telus and TD just made big announcements to promote their mental health and fertility coverage. We saw their main competitors quickly follow suit and now ⅘ of the big Canadian banks are offering coverage of some amount. Big announcements are great recruiting tools.

A huge part of the struggle for most people dealing with infertility or egg freezing is cost. Adding fertility benefits to a company plan can be beneficial, not just to employees, but to employers as well. After all, a happy employee is a productive employee.