The Great Resignation is here: How to cultivate loyalty with family-focused benefits

Simply “turning on” fertility coverage with the employer’s primary medical insurance provider is not always the best way to go about implementing family-building benefits.( Photo: Shutterstock)

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, millions of Americans are quitting their jobs as a result of burnout and dissatisfaction with their current companies, and employers are struggling to attract and retain top talent amidst “The Great Resignation.” People are seeking out new positions that allow for more flexibility, more perks, and even better benefits.

During the pandemic, people have been reminded of the importance of family. For the millions of Americans who struggle to build the family of their dreams, the pandemic has been especially difficult. With family building top of mind and the job market thriving, they’re leaving their current positions in search of companies that offer inclusive and robust family building programs.

Family building benefits are now a business necessity

When an employer creates a comprehensive, family-friendly benefits package—spanning from family planning to post-pregnancy support and more—it positively impacts employees’ ability to succeed long-term. Many employees assume access to fertility treatments and family building care is included within their health insurance and are disappointed when they figure out that many plans don’t cover it. When there isn’t a benefit in place specifically for fertility, bills add up quickly. So, when employees see that their company offers robust benefits specifically to help offset some of those costs, they are much more likely to stick with them for the long term.

Employees who work for companies that offer family building benefits are even more dedicated to their employer. Recent research from the FertilityIQ 2019-2020 Family-Building Workplace Index found that 61% of employees who received fertility coverage from an employer reported feeling more loyal and committed to an employer as a result. Also, the same report found that 88% of women who had their IVF fully paid for by their employer decided to return to that employer after maternity leave, as compared to about 50% of the regular population without fertility benefits, according to a LinkedIn and Censuswide study.

Attracting and retaining top talent with inclusive benefits

As the “Great Resignation” is in full swing, one of the top five reasons people leave their jobs is for better benefits. That is according to a Willis Towers Watson report, which also found that 72% of employers cite “competitive pressure to attract and retain talent” as their reason for focusing on fertility and family planning benefits.

Family-friendly benefits are increasingly becoming a key strategy to support, build, and retain diverse workforces. That same Willis Towers Watson report confirms, “While nearly six in 10 employers (59%) say that family-friendly benefits have been important to their talent strategy over the past three years, […] this number is expected to grow to 77% in the next three years.”

The importance of finding the right partner

Simply “turning on” fertility coverage with the employer’s primary medical insurance provider is not always the best way to go about implementing family-building benefits. Most conventional benefit plans that include fertility treatments work on a lifetime maximum model where a patient is allotted a set amount of dollars to spend on fertility treatments (typically around $10,000 to $25,000). Right off the bat, lifetime maximum plans are inherently inequitable, as the cost for treatment might differ significantly from state to state.

Additionally, many traditional insurance plans force people to use step therapy. Step therapy programs in fertility (meaning the patient must try several rounds of IUI before moving to IVF) are often ineffective because there is a much lower chance of success with IUI than with IVF. Also, by forcing patients to go through step therapy, most will exhaust their benefit before they get to IVF or will exhaust it halfway through one round of IVF.

Take it from Dr. Temeka Zore, a reproductive endocrinologist with Spring Fertility and a member of Progyny’s Medical Advisory Board, who says, “Traditional insurance, which rarely covers fertility treatment to begin with, but when it does, usually involves prerequisites including having to try on your own for at least 12 months and may have requirements to do intrauterine insemination or less effective treatment options first. These requirements can be discriminating for some communities, like the LGBTQ+ population, which may not have the ability to try to conceive on their own for 12 months if they are in a same-sex relationship.”

She adds, “Having comprehensive coverage for fertility treatment allows better access to care and optimization of time and treatment options.” For background, time is a key factor here for a few reasons—most importantly being that medications need to be administered on a tight schedule to line up with windows of ovulation and fertility, as do IUI and IVF procedures. “Requirements for doing IUI or less effective treatment have the burden of potentially losing more time, which can add to the stress of dealing with infertility. Smart Cycles, which cover the cost of an entire IVF cycle and is part of Progyny’s plan design, ensure coverage will not run out mid-treatment or force the person or couple to choose between finances and the best treatment options.”

All this is to say that if you want to give employees the best possible coverage for family building, employers should take the time to research specialized fertility solutions that offer comprehensive and inclusive programs. Not only will your employees be grateful for the benefit in the moment, but they are also more likely to stay employed with that company for a longer tenure.

The ROI of robust health and wellness benefits for employers

It is also worth noting the benefits of implementing fertility and family building programs go well beyond satisfied employees. Aside from increasing retention rates, employers also benefit from soft cost savings (employee’s mental health and resulting productivity) and hard cost savings (actual dollars spent on medical costs).

First, let’s start with the soft costs. With an unmanaged fertility benefit, there is often a much higher rate of multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.) because those doctors often transfer more than one embryo during IVF, which is not the preferred course of action in 2021. Part of why people choose to transfer multiple embryos is to increase the chance of a live birth, and patients often can’t afford another round of IVF, which can cost around $15,000 or more for just one cycle.

With multiples, there’s a significant hit to absenteeism—which may result in a 4.4x greater risk for time away from work (according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Health and Human Services) given the extended hospital stays for the mother and her babies, plus additional medical appointments. Additionally, a report from the Twins & Multiple Births Association found that 55.8% of all mothers of twins took nine to 13 months of maternity leave—much longer than the average 10 weeks in the U.S.—with 14.6% extending leave to even beyond 12 months.

To this point, Dr. Zore adds, “When individuals and couples elect to do IVF with genetic testing of their embryos, we can preferentially transfer one normal embryo at a time resulting in higher live birth rates per embryo transfer and significantly reducing the multiples rate that is more common with less expensive treatment such as injectables with inseminations. We know twins and higher-order multiples result in more pregnancy complications, higher rates of preterm labor and delivery, and higher rates of NICU admissions all adding a higher burden to the patient and the healthcare system.”

Additionally, implementing such benefits is a boon to good mental health for staff. The stress and anxiety caused by complex family-building journeys will often make for less productive employees. With comprehensive benefits that include emotional and financial support during the family building process, companies end up with more engaged, productive employees because they are not left alone to navigate the economic and mental health burdens that typically accompany fertility treatments.

As for the hard costs, for self-insured employers, there’s a need to keep medical costs down as much as possible, seeing as the company will be the one paying for it. When implementing a comprehensive family building benefit that puts outcomes first and aims to have the healthiest pregnancies, there is a greater chance to avoid all of those high NICU costs, longer hospital stays, and more. It truly becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved.

In the face of the Great Resignation, if you want to attract and retain the highest quality employees, you must start offering robust, inclusive, and cost-effective family building benefits. With the Reproductive Medicine Associates of NJ finding that 68% of employees (and 90% of those facing fertility issues) saying that they are willing to switch companies for fertility benefits, it is now or never to keep your employees on board with the right benefit programs! It is also worth considering adding other popular benefits that emerged during COVID, such as student loan and tuition assistance, financial wellness courses, mental health resources, paid pregnancy loss leave and more.

Pete Anevski is president and COO of Progyny.