Benefits and Compensation

Advancing Well-Designed Benefits—Even in Times of Layoffs—Is the Right Choice

Jade and Cristina, like thousands of software engineers in their early 30s who dream of starting families, have worked long hours and built solid networks. Their careers are advancing nicely. Typical of tech employees in their generation, each chose to work for a company that supports work/life balance and offers attractive family-building benefits, and both used their benefits to hopefully achieve their family-building dreams. Jade and her wife are 4 months into the surrogacy process, and Cristina and her husband are a year into an in-vitro fertilization (IVF) journey.

Unfortunately, like many real-life intended parents, both Jade and Cristina have just been laid off, and the quality of the benefit they were provided made a big difference in what happened next.

When a Change Interrupts Treatment

When laid off and in other unplanned scenarios, intended parents can abruptly lose access to their benefits in the middle of complex and costly fertility treatments, surrogacies, and adoptions; maternity and paternity leaves; and other important moments in their family-building journey. The timing and impact are devastating, leaving many to wonder if their dream of family-building is forever out of reach.

For intended parents, the fertility and family-building journey is fraught with emotions and stress, including how to pay the high costs, which typically range from at least $30,000 per cycle for IVF; $90,000 to $130,000 for surrogacy; and $50,000 for adoption in the United States. However, under a well-designed, managed, company-sponsored benefit, employees gain financial relief and get support and advocacy from fertility-trained nurses, behavioral health professionals, specialized coaches, and others. When these are lost midstream due to a layoff, hopeful parents are forced to make critical decisions on whether to take on enormous out-of-pocket costs, go deeply into debt, or even put starting a family on hold while looking for a new job. Facing these pressures while in a state of shock is far from ideal, but the right benefit design can help.

Underscoring the Value of Family Benefits

Why do savvy employers seek to create family-friendly workplaces, and why do thousands in the tech industry, among others, choose to work for employers that do so? Because today, both employees and businesses see the value and importance of maternity, fertility, and family-building benefits. In a survey recently conducted at WIN, 81% of women feel it’s important that an employer provide fertility and family-building benefits and support, and many employees experiencing infertility reported being willing to change jobs solely for the benefits.

The dilemma of lost benefits exemplified by Jade and Christina drives home the necessity for more organizations to implement and expand these benefits and do it right. As these highly educated, diverse, and skilled professionals aggressively pursue their next opportunity, organizations that understand that family-building benefits directly drive job choice have an edge.

Doing Family-Building Benefits Right

Getting the fertility and family-building benefit right is key to maximizing program return on investment (ROI), as a well-designed program attracts and retains the best talent, supports employees, and reduces total cost to the company. It also demonstrates an organization’s commitment to its employees’ well-being in good times and challenging ones.

Two key characteristics that define a properly designed benefit in this context include:

Be a managed solution. Under her unmanaged benefit, Jade received a pool of money and was left to navigate her own path through a complicated environment. With no professional help, she spent more hours researching options and was more likely to choose treatments with lower success rates or higher chances of multiple gestations, which often leads to neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admissions and other long-term costs. Consider the average 20-day length of stay and cost between $40,000–$80,000 for NICU admissions. No parent wants to see their neonates in the NICU, and any employer would avoid these costs however possible.

By contrast, Cristina had a managed benefit, which offered expert care navigators, often clinicians such as WIN’s fertility-trained nurses, to impart information and guidance from planning to parenthood. This helped Cristina better understand options and make the best use of her available benefits. Even emphasizing the most modern treatments with the highest-quality providers, managed benefits are surprisingly more cost-effective than unmanaged; they lead to more informed decisions and clinically optimal treatments, reduce unwanted outcomes, support the intended parent throughout, and are a more rewarding and nurturing experience for the employee.

Include provisions for continuity of care for in-process cycles, and allow for continuation of support with a nurse care advocate for a period following termination. A layoff shouldn’t force an employee to choose between massive out-of-pocket costs and writing off many months of family-building investment and progress. This was the situation for Jade and her wife. When her employment ended, they were left completely on their own.

Cristina’s family fared better under her employer’s well-designed program, whereby options continued when covered employees exhausted their plan benefit limit or separated from the company. For example, WIN’s program continues one-on-one clinical support from a nurse care advocate to the end of the journey and offers discounted access to continued treatment, often with their current provider, and drugs through a self-pay, direct-to-consumer option. A program that helps employees move ahead after their family-building benefit ends is a smart business move for recruiting and retaining staff and one that typically comes at virtually no cost to the employer.

Well-Designed Benefits: A Clear Edge in Employee Support and Business Success

A well-managed, comprehensive, and thoughtful fertility and family-building benefit is in everyone’s best interest. It also can create the financial, cultural, and reputational edge that tips the scale from laying off staff like Jade and Christina to welcoming more skilled and hardworking young professionals like them into your workforce.

Roger S. Shedlin, MD, JD, is the Founder and CEO of WINFertility.

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