When many companies first consider fertility benefits for employees, covering costly services like egg freezing and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are typically at the top of the list. But while those are important to include, fertility benefits that focus only on services aimed at people with ovaries aren’t inclusive of your entire employee population. With so many companies focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, it’s critical to consider how your fertility benefit can support employees of all gender identities, LGBTQ+ employees, and single intending parents. In fact, offering inclusive fertility benefits is a concrete way to show your commitment to DEI while making a real difference in employees’ lives.
When starting your search for inclusive fertility benefits, it helps to first understand why your benefits need to go beyond the traditional definition of infertility. Then, consider what services your program will need to include in order to provide for all of your employees — regardless of gender, sexual orientation, and family structure. Finally, for companies with offices around the world, think about how you can make access to your fertility and family-forming benefit as equal as possible, no matter where your employees are located. I’ll get more into how to tackle each step below.
Building an inclusive fertility benefit
The first step to creating an inclusive fertility benefit is to understand what has traditionally been included — and excluded — in health insurance coverage. Most traditional insurance companies will only cover people with a medical diagnosis of infertility, which someone receives if they have been unable to get pregnant after six to twelve months of trying. This definition leaves out LGBTQ+ couples, single intending parents, and anyone else pursuing parenthood outside of heterosexual, cisgender coupling. For example, a couple using donor sperm to get pregnant might need to try several rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) before receiving an infertility diagnosis — a process that can get costly fast. According to Family Equality, 63% of same-sex couples said they are interested in starting families but wouldn’t be covered by traditional insurance in most cases. Offering an inclusive fertility benefit that covers all types of family-forming extends options to your entire staff rather than just those experiencing medical infertility. An inclusive fertility and family-forming benefit should include:
- IVF without an infertility diagnosis: Access to IVF without requiring an infertility diagnosis is an important option to offer employees. At $21,600 per cycle on average, IVF is cost prohibitive to most without coverage. But while IVF can be a profound tool, it’s not the only option for infertility. Choosing a fertility benefit that also encourages taking non-invasive steps first, such as fertility tracking and nutritional interventions, can help prevent unnecessary procedures and reduce costs.
- Adoption: People pursue adoption for a range of reasons. Offering assistance for adoption is beneficial for same-sex couples in particular; nationally, 21% of same-sex couples have adopted a child, compared to 3% of opposite-sex couples. Providing financial support for adoption can make the goal much more possible for your employees. Domestic private adoptions typically cost from $30,000 to $50,000. Intercountry adoptions cost between $30,000 and $60,000 on average. Support for adoption can include helping pay agency costs, providing information on reputable agencies, and offering flexible time off for what can be a time-consuming process. Plus, offering adoption assistance can also help your company’s benefits offerings stand out. Only 1 in 5 companies that offer fertility coverage also provide coverage for adoption or foster care. Overall, 17% of companies with 500 or more employees offer some adoption assistance; 30% offer fertility assistance.
- Gestational carrier services (commonly referred to as surrogacy): A gestational carrier (GC) is a person carrying a pregnancy that they aren’t biologically related to. Reasons that someone could choose GC services are personal, but common ones include infertility or being unable to safely carry a pregnancy. Same-sex couples may also choose GC services. Costs around gestational carrying include everything from agency and legal fees to the IVF process and can total more than $100,000. GC journeys are complicated, so providing employees with logistical services is important, too.
- Fertility preservation: For those who aren’t ready to become parents yet, fertility preservation is a helpful resource. Employees may also require access to testing services to better understand their fertility. To be inclusive, fertility preservation and testing should cover sperm, eggs, and embryos.
- Mental health: Infertility ranks as one of the most stressful experiences someone can have. And research has shown that women and LGBTQ+ employees are disproportionately impacted by mental health issues. Including mental health services as either a separate benefit or, ideally, one that’s integrated in your fertility benefit can support employees if they hit bumps in the road on their way to parenthood.
Benefits parity wherever your employees are
For global companies, DEI initiatives should be available to employees around the world — not just those in the U.S. Of course, achieving global parity, particularly with a fertility benefit, is easier said than done. Rules and regulations around family forming vary from country to country. For example, in Canada, GCs can’t financially benefit from carrying — only what is called altruistic surrogacy is allowed. Other countries have specific laws and restrictions around embryo freezing and retrieval. In order to provide employees in all of your locations with benefits that are as equal as possible, it helps to work with a vendor that has robust experience around the world. For example, a fertility benefits provider experienced in global solutions can guide employees through the cross-border reproductive care process if the services they need are not available in their country. When assessing whether or not a solution is truly global, try asking about the company’s process for launching in a new country, or how they adhere to local rules and regulations. If they struggle to answer, the solution may not have the experience and flexibility you need to ensure employees in all of your locations have equal access.
It’s also worth noting that fertility benefits aren’t just for large, multinational companies. Smaller companies can also provide flexible benefits and potentially scale as the company grows. Regardless of your company size and resources, commitment to diversity and inclusion matters — even if you’re not able to fully fund employees’ fertility journeys today. Surveys show that 67% of workers seek diversity in new roles and 57% believe that employers should be doing more to increase workplace diversity. By offering a fertility benefit that supports all paths to parenthood, you’ll demonstrate to your employees that your company isn’t just going through the motions of DEI — you’re making concrete changes that impact employees.