The definition of “family” worldwide is evolving. No longer just a married heterosexual couple with their children, families now encompass those with a single-parent, same-sex parents or heterosexual parents, married or unmarried parents, blended families, grandfamilies, adoptive families, multigenerational families, cohabiting families, chosen families and more. New family structures mean that benefits must be more inclusive, and employers are leading the way in accomplishing this goal.
According to our 2022 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy & Plan Design Survey, 34% of large employers expanded fertility benefits to cover all types of families in 2021, another 15% plan to in 2022, and 22% are considering doing so for 2023/2024. Moreover, a majority (85%) of large employers offer some form of adoption and/or foster care benefit. While only 2% of American adults adopt or foster children, there’s a ripple effect for many other employees who do not use these benefits but see them as a sign of a caring company culture.1
The caring approach to benefits extends to supporting healthy pregnancies and deliveries. Ovia Health’s recent The Future of Family-Friendly Benefits survey found that employees valued digital prenatal and parenting classes (64%), high-risk pregnancy care management (60%) and pregnancy loss leave (48%).2 Importantly, these benefits serve another important goal: to eliminate disparities in maternal health. While these disparities always existed, they were exacerbated by the pandemic. In particular, BIPOC mothers had a 10% increase in severe symptoms of depression and a 26% increase in reports of suicidal ideation during the pandemic, compared to only a 10% increase in moderate symptoms of depression and no change in suicidal ideation for White women.3 It is clear that providing rich maternal benefits not only have a positive impact on employee well-being but also support health equity.
The need for support, however, does not end when the baby arrives. Employees have made this point consistently, most recently in a survey where they said that they had access to less paid parental leave than they needed. As a result, 59% took 2 months or more of unpaid parental leave.2
In this area, the United States lags behind most other countries in the world. Estonia and Hungary are the top providers in offering paid maternal leave, with South Korea, Sweden and France also offering a substantial paternal leave benefit.4 These findings have prodded large employers with a strong global presence to take action. According to the Business Group 2020 Leave Strategy and Transformation Survey, 19% of large employers with a global presence indicated that they have a global leave policy and another 19% were working on a policy or considering implementing one.
Paid parental leave has a direct effect on whether employees want to come back to work and is other cited as the reason that they choose to leave their job. Forty-four percent of parents who left said their employer could have done things differently to keep them, including paid parental leave (71%), flexible scheduling after returning to work (59%), childcare support (53%), remote or hybrid work (53%), pre-birth leave planning (41%), return-to-work planning (41%) and parental mental health support (30%).2
Even if employers cannot implement comprehensive parental leave and return-to-work policies right away, they can take small steps toward addressing employee concerns. For example, if not already in place, employers can consider part-time return-to-work schedules, telework and flexible hours, as well as time off for appointments. Going the extra mile for employees during this major life transition can go a long way toward building a close-knit, productive workplace.
For more information about family benefits, see The Family Benefits Bundle and the following blog post: Family Benefits Key to Avoiding Burnout and Keeping Talent.
Read and share our additional “Family Bundle” related blog posts on Family Benefits and Caregiver Support:
- Family Benefits: What Employees Want and Need
- Caregiving Supports Are Essential for Workers of All Ages
- 1 | Adoption Network. US adoption statistics. October 13, 2020. https://adoptionnetwork.com/adoption-myths-facts/domestic-us-statistics/. Accessed July 28, 2021.
- 2 | Ovia Health. The future of family friendly benefits. 2021.
- 3 | Bradley D. What digital depression screener data are telling us about the impact of COVID-19 on parents’ mental health. Ovia Health. April 22, 2021. https://www.oviahealth.com/blog/digital-depression-screener-data/. Accessed August 6, 2021
- 4 | OECD Family Database. Table PF2.1A, 2018; Leave for Parents, 2021. https://www.oecd.org/els/family/database.htm.