Majority of employers still don't offer fertility benefits but advocacy group says these plans pay for themselves
Offering inclusive family friendly benefits such as fertility benefits can help employers attract and retain top talent, improve employee engagement, and also positively impact all employees that want to grow their families. However, roughly half of Canadian employers do not offer fertility benefits and only two percent offer both drugs and treatment costs.
A new study of almost 1,000 Canadian employers finds most (53 percent) do not offer fertility benefits for employees. This number is too low according to Conceivable Dreams, a grassroots advocacy organization that focuses on building awareness about fertility and reproductive health issues, which says fertility benefits are essential because infertility affects approximately one in six Canadian couples and it comes with a heavy financial burden, leaving treatment out of reach for many.
Of the employers (47 percent) that do offer fertility benefits, less than two percent cover both drugs and treatment costs such as IVF procedures, sperm, eggs, and testing. Coverage for both is critical because many provinces do not offer any funding, leaving people to pay for their own health care. The study says the median lifetime coverage limit for fertility drugs is now $6,000. This amount is increasing but is still far below what is typically required to build a family.
Family-friendly benefits are a win-win
“Offering more inclusive family friendly benefits is a win-win for both employers and employees,” says Tara Wood, benefits advocate and president of Conceivable Dreams. “We’ve seen that where employers embrace more inclusive family friendly benefits, there's higher loyalty and longer retention, and building these benefits into their plans will pay for itself.”
Wood says many employers don’t offer these types of benefits because they don’t see employees asking for them. She says there are two things for them to keep in mind. “It is a lower use benefit because, luckily, not everyone is going to need to use fertility benefits. But for those who are facing fertility issues, there’s so much stigma and taboo around creating and building a family that it can be really hard to talk to your employer and ask for these benefits. One round of IVF can cost $20,000 and typically requires two to three rounds for a pregnancy and surrogacy adoption can cost $60,000+, so these benefits would take that burden off the employee right away.”
Over the past decades, the demographics of an employee base has evolved for most companies and, similarly, what a family looks like has evolved. As such, creating a family today comes in so many ways, shapes, and forms, says Wood. “Family benefits don’t just impact married females anymore. They impact the LGBTQ+ community, single women, single men, there are so many types of people taking so many different avenues.
Use an inclusive lens
“We’re asking employers that when they’re looking at their benefits, to not only look at covering the drugs associated with IVF or fertility treatment. You need to have a truly inclusive lens and look at more options such as surrogacy and adoption and other forms of treatment. Our research shows that more employers are offering coverage for fertility drugs – which is good – but not many are covering treatment which means everyone is left paying for the cost of IVF or surrogacy or to freeze or buy eggs and sperm. The costs of these factors mean building a family is out of reach for many.
“We want to get to where employers are not just looking at fertility for women but looking at it with that inclusive lens so they can help everybody build their family.”
"Two years after launching Fertility Benefits Matters, we are seeing steady progress towards more inclusive family-friendly benefits but there's still lots to do," says Wood. "Our team is working to educate insurance carriers, benefit advisors, and employers about the realities of family-building in Canada and the positive role each of them can play – a role that will ultimately help employers attract and retain more talent."
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