The family planning landscape is evolving rapidly for working families. According to a 2018 report from the Pew Research Center, women are increasingly delaying having children, with many pushing motherhood back to their 30s and 40s in order to take advantage of educational and workforce opportunities.
Matching stride with this trend are innovations in fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and benefits packages that include family-centric offerings like fertility coverage, parental leave and child care programs.
Union boards have an opportunity to increase member engagement by addressing this cultural shift. Giving your female members more ways to choose how, when and whether to add to their families improves their ability to plan both their work and family lives.
Why You Should Consider Robust Maternity Benefits
Time and time again, union boards are reminded of the impact that strong benefits can have on member engagement and satisfaction. In 2017, workers with access to fertility benefits were 2.5 times more likely to believe that their leadership recognized their needs and 1.5 times more likely to believe their leadership cared about their well-being.
The Wall Street Journal reported in early 2018 that more than 66 percent of employers planned to offer fertility benefits by 2019, an 11 percent increase within just one year. The employers increasing their fertility coverage said they were doing so in order to diversify their ranks and recruit and retain better talent. Their efforts appear to be paying off, since over 60 percent of IVF patients whose health plans helped with the cost of the procedure said the benefit offering made them more likely to stay in their current position, and 53 percent were more likely to overlook shortcomings at their company as a result.
Workers also appreciate having the option to use parental leave while expanding their families. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 58 percent of all workers want paid family leave from their employers, including 64 percent of millennial workers. Additionally, workers ranked paid family leave as even more desirable than benefits such as flexible working schedules and student loan assistance.
How to Implement Family Planning Support
If you decide to offer family planning benefits to your members, take steps to ensure they don't go ignored. Union leaders should strive to educate all their members about what family planning benefits are available to them and how to take advantage of them.
According to a Vanderbilt University study reported in The Atlantic, a woman's decision about whether to use maternity benefits is based on four crucial factors. The availability of the benefits is the first, of course. From there, engagement will hinge on the following points:
- Awareness. Members need to know what options they have before they can decide to use them. Whenever you introduce a new benefit, strategically plan your associated communications so that members know that the benefit exists and who can use it. Along with physical mailings and web resources, work site events are a great way to accomplish this. Union leaders can also use these events as an opportunity to collect anonymous surveys and questionnaires indicating which benefits their members prefer. You may also want to consider establishing dedicated information centers in workplaces containing the latest family planning benefits information.
- Affordability. As you choose the family planning benefits you'd like to offer, try to determine a fair threshold for affordability so that members can confidently take advantage of their options. After rolling the benefits out, educate members about any possible savings on treatments or medical services. Also discuss health care budgeting resources — like flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts — that your benefits package gives members access to.
- Assurance. Members need to know that taking advantage of their maternity or fertility benefits won't put their jobs at risk. Beyond official communications and union meetings, leverage workplace union representatives to serve as educators and advocates for their fellow members. Make sure members know where to go with any questions or concerns about using their benefits.
The good news is that unions are well-positioned to put these important pieces in place. The Atlantic notes that women with union representation take maternity leave more often than women in nonunionized workplaces.
Unions are one of the driving forces behind women's access to robust family planning benefits and state-of-the-art reproductive health care. Introducing these benefits is an opportunity to reinforce the union's role as a champion for its members — not only by bringing in these benefits but by encouraging members to get the most out of them.