Fertility Benefits Can Provide a Competitive Advantage for Illinois Employers.
The U.S. is facing a labor shortage and so is Illinois. A July 2021 NFIB survey of small business owners reports 49% of business owners have unfilled job openings, far in excess of the 22% historical average for the last 48 years. Employers are struggling to fill a record 8.1 million job openings.
Consider Offering Fertility Benefits to Address Labor Shortages
Labor shortages are causing employers to close their doors, reduce hours, limit available services, and put extra pressure on their current employees. Employers are now getting creative to entice and retain new workers. One benefit that is affordable and in high demand is fertility benefits. This benefit may be particularly relevant because of the exodus of women from the labor force.
Because Women are Leaving the Workforce
According to the Pew Research Center, between February 2020 and February 2021, a net 2.4 million women left the labor force as opposed to 1.8 million men. By January 2021, U.S. female workforce participation dropped below 56% — the lowest it has been since 1987.
Some women choose not to work because they feel they will have to choose between employment and motherhood, others stay home because the annual cost of childcare outweighs their earning potential, and then there are those who worry that delaying parenthood could permanently cost them the opportunity to have children. Employers offering fertility benefits may be able to make the decision to return to the work force easier.
Illinois law already requires most employers with more than 25 employees to offer insurance coverage for infertility. To receive coverage, employees must have been unable to conceive and sustain a viable pregnancy after one year of attempting to do so. This coverage offers women access to artificial insemination services, in vitro fertilization, and several other procedures, tests, and medications.
Consider Fertility Benefits Beyond What Illinois Law Requires
However, state law does not require employers to cover the costs of preserving and storing sperm, eggs and embryos, the costs of egg or sperm donors which are not medically necessary, or costs incurred for reversing a tubal ligation or vasectomy. Nor are employers required to provide fertility options for single employees, transgender women, men, or surrogacy support or adoption allowances. Offering such services in addition to what is required by state law could be enough bring in new employees.
Fertility Benefits Are Not As Expensive As You Think
In a survey conducted by the National Infertility Association, 77% of employees would stay with their current employer longer if they were offered fertility benefits and 88% would even consider changing jobs for access to fertility benefits. Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees who are not otherwise required to offer fertility coverage should seriously consider offering employees such coverage to attract and retain employees. Even employers who cannot afford most costly incentives can afford to provide fertility coverage. Comprehensive state mandate research shows that the cost of infertility coverage is less than 1% of the total premium cost, and over 97% of employers who have begun offering fertility benefits reported they have not experienced a significant cost increase for employee medical costs.
Fertility Benefits May Pay for Themselves
In fact, the value of adding fertility coverage as part of a comprehensive healthcare plan can outweigh the upfront costs of providing the benefit itself. Employees seeking infertility medical care out of pocket are more likely to choose options with perceived higher pregnancy success rates, but which can also have a higher risk of multiple births which can lead to expensive medical complications for mothers and children. In a study of infertile women undergoing IVF embryo transfer cycles, patients with infertility benefits chose to transfer only 1 embryo per cycle significantly more often than patients with no coverage, thereby reducing costs associated with multiple births.
Offer Male Fertility Benefits Too
Offering employee fertility coverage may also be a draw for male employees. While employer fertility benefits tend to focus on female anatomy, about 33% of infertility cases are related to male infertility. Despite this, most insurance providers do not cover testing or treatment for male infertility.
Employers all over the country are running on skeleton crews and trying to lure in new hires. For small businesses that cannot afford to compete with the incentives offered by larger companies, offering fertility benefits is an affordable and attractive option to stay competitive. All employers should think about offering fertility benefits not only to save money in the long term, but also to increase job satisfaction and employee retention in the short term.