Expanding horizons: The rise of reproductive health benefits in the US job market

Jun 19, 2023

5 mins

Expanding horizons: The rise of reproductive health benefits in the US job market
Kim Cunningham

Editor at Welcome to the Jungle

“Women tend to be the Chief Medical Officer in a family, meaning you make sure you take care of everybody’s health care before you take care of yours. We really need to support women so that for those who want to stay in the workforce, you can stay in the workforce.” Gloria Lau, CEO of telehealth company Alpha, is confident that taking care of women’s healthcare is crucial for a thriving labor market. Her company is at the forefront of a wave of support for female healthcare—including reproductive.

In a trend triggered by national politics and a global health crisis, the US labor market is seeing a quiet revolution unfold. Female reproductive care has been the topic of discussion across the States for a while now, and companies are finding new ways to support their employees through many stages of life. To understand what is being offered as benefits, as well as how you can ask for them from a potential employer, Lau shares her experience as a founder in the female healthcare industry.

The evolving landscape of employee benefits

Employee benefits in the US have traditionally been broad, including health insurance, paid time off, and even student loan debt repayment. This one-size-fits-all approach served the general needs of employees, without specific consideration for diverse demographics or life stages.

However, with an increasingly diverse workforce, companies are realizing that a more tailored approach to employee benefits is necessary. In particular, one significant shift is the inclusion of benefits that cater specifically to women’s reproductive health. Lau explains that there are two main trigger points impacting women’s healthcare: the pandemic, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

During the pandemic, Lau shares that a lot of women left the workforce. “A lot of kids were doing virtual school, and who drops out to take care of the child? It’s oftentimes the women,” she says. Throughout the first two years of the pandemic, employers started to realize they couldn’t afford to lose their female employees. Lau says the general question being asked was, “How can I provide more support, be more flexible and supportive?”

As for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Lau explains that this was a watershed moment. “That really scared a lot of women and men,” she says. “Companies and employers, in general, had to start thinking about, ‘How do I support my workforce?’” through such a turbulent moment in time.

The new wave of reproductive health benefits

These two trigger points, as Lau explains, really shed light on the need for more support in female healthcare—reproductive and beyond. Previously, reproductive health benefits were largely limited to maternity leave and some contraception coverage. Now, we’re seeing a trend where companies are offering more comprehensive reproductive health benefits. This includes menstrual leave, coverage for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), fertility and assisted reproductive technology coverage, and workplace accommodations for menopause.

These developments reflect a broader societal shift towards recognizing women’s health needs. As companies restructure their benefits packages, job hunters are encouraged to consider these new factors when evaluating potential employers.

Menstrual leave and PMDD coverage

Menstrual leave is a relatively new concept in the US It acknowledges that some women experience severe discomfort during their menstrual cycle, impacting their productivity at work. Similarly, coverage for PMDD, a severe form of premenstrual syndrome, represents a crucial step toward recognizing and supporting employees who struggle with this debilitating condition.

Fertility and assisted reproductive technology support

Fertility benefits, including coverage for treatments like IVF, are becoming more common. The high cost of these treatments has traditionally been a barrier for many women. By offering such benefits, companies are acknowledging the importance of supporting employees who choose to pursue these paths. Additionally, support for Assisted Reproductive Technology, such as egg freezing or surrogacy, is becoming more prevalent, providing women with more options for family planning.

Menopause accommodations

Workplace accommodations for menopause are also gaining traction. This could include flexible working hours, access to temperature control, and providing a supportive and understanding work environment. “You typically have symptoms like hot flushes and sweating, but you also have the emotional side of things—depression, anxiety—that goes hand-in-hand with the condition,” Lau explains. Such accommodations acknowledge both the physical and emotional challenges women may face during this phase and demonstrate a commitment to supporting employees at all stages of their lives.

A departure from traditional offerings

These benefits represent a significant departure from traditional offerings. They go beyond providing general health coverage to addressing specific needs that affect women at different stages of their reproductive lives. By doing so, companies are not only creating more inclusive workplaces but also setting new standards for what comprehensive employee benefits can look like. For job hunters, this represents a new landscape of potential support and understanding from future employers.

What this means for job hunters

For job hunters, the emergence of these comprehensive reproductive health benefits adds a new dimension to consider during their job search. While salary and traditional benefits like health insurance and retirement contributions continue to be important, the availability of reproductive health support can significantly influence a decision towards a potential employer. Job hunters are encouraged to consider these benefits as indicative of a company’s commitment to employee well-being and inclusivity.

Reflecting broader societal shifts

This trend towards more inclusive benefits is also indicative of broader societal shifts towards recognizing and accommodating women’s health needs. Companies that offer these benefits are not only keeping pace with these changes but are actively contributing to a more inclusive and supportive society. This could have far-reaching implications, contributing to greater gender equity in the workplace and beyond.

However, Lau notes that it’ll take time. “There’s definitely a tidal shift, but the benefit market is always lacking a little bit,” she shares. She goes back to the example of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “You start to see a lot of academics, a lot of research, a lot of data point about, ‘Oh, women are dropping out of the workforce left and right.’ And then another year later, the benefit buyers [employers] will start to react. I think that’s it’s definitely lagging the market, but it’s moving in the right direction,” she continues.

For job hunters, this means looking beyond the immediate impact of these benefits on their personal circumstances. It’s also about aligning themselves with employers that reflect their values and contribute positively to societal change. “You need to assess the entirety of the job package right through your job package,” Lau explains. “Oftentimes, it’s a little bit harder to figure out. But don’t be shy—go ask the recruiter, ‘What sort of benefits am I going to be getting?’”

The future of employee benefits

For job hunters, this evolution presents an opportunity to align their career choices with companies that value their health and well-being. It’s a call to action to consider these benefits as a critical part of the job search process.

Moreover, it’s a hopeful sign of progress. As companies continue to innovate in their benefits offerings, we move closer to a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment. The journey toward comprehensive reproductive health benefits is just beginning, and its potential impacts on the job market, and society as a whole, are profound.

The challenge for us all, from employers to job hunters, is to embrace this change and continue to push for progress. The future of employee benefits looks promising, and the strides made in this area are a testament to what we can achieve when we prioritize inclusivity and the diverse health needs of all employees.

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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