reproductive, benefits, workplace
(Viktoriia Hnatiuk/Shutterstock.com)

The Importance of Reproductive Benefits in the Workplace

With President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to take the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, the issue of reproductive rights has again become a hot button topic. While Ginsburg repeatedly voted against restrictions on birth control and abortion access, the historically conservative Barrett is expected to tip the balance of the Court to the right. Many fear the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade that grants people the right to seek abortions may be in jeopardy.

Cases since that 1973 ruling have been mixed. In Hobby Lobby v. Burwell (2014), Ginsburg dissented against the majority which ruled that private companies may deny workers birth control coverage if it is against the owners’ religious beliefs. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), Ginsburg joined the majority in ruling that medical restrictions to abortions in Texas placed a substantial burden on women’s rights. Although family planning and reproductive health are deeply personal issues, they have implications in the working world.

Mothers of all races make an average of 70 cents to the white man’s dollar, according to EqualPayToday.org. In addition to supporting pay equity, supporting reproductive rights for both those who choose to start families and those who do not is imperative to organizations advocating for increased diversity and inclusion.

The Business Case for Supporting Reproductive Health

Poor access to contraception and abortion has serious personal and financial impacts on people who can get pregnant, their partners and their families. About half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, and even planned pregnancies can have significant effects on an individual’s career path. 

A 2019 study by FSG and Rhia Ventures examined the value of supporting reproductive health for cisgender women in the professional world. Its findings showed how prominent the need for birth control and abortion access is throughout the U.S. According to the report, nearly all women surveyed said they have used contraception and 24% said they’d had an abortion by age 45.

Having a company that openly supports reproductive health can also help to attract and retain top tier female talent. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said controlling if and when they had children had been an essential part of their career planning. Fifty-six percent of college-educated women also said they would not apply for a job in a state that had recently banned abortions.

The study also revealed that supporting reproductive health through enhanced employee benefits helps to retain women and reduce turnover costs. It found that while covering contraception and abortion in medical plans costs companies relatively little, it helps employees to save a significant chunk of their hard-earned income.

Added Diversity Benefits 

In addition to benefiting cisgender women of all races, access to family planning is also a valued benefit to many in the LGBTQ+ community. Transgender men and gender non-conforming individuals with the ability to get pregnant can experience emotional and physical consequences due to unplanned pregnancies. A 2019 Rutgers University study found that transgender men were at risk for depression and lack of adequate care if they become pregnant. Combine this with the fact that transgender people already face an increased risk of suicide and incompetent health care and the situation becomes even more dire.

On Oct. 6, 2020, NBC News reported on Shaun Simmons, a pregnant trans man who filed a lawsuit against his employer Amazon, claiming he was harassed and denied a promotion after telling his boss he was pregnant. He was forced to perform manual labor and was denied an accommodation for his pregnancy, the suit claims.

Outside of pregnancy concerns, birth control has additional benefits for many. For example, it can help to stop or limit menstrual periods, which can cause distress in those who suffer from gender dysmorphia, or the distressing belief that one’s body does not match their identity. Hormonal birth control can also help people manage disabilities such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder or endometriosis that may affect their ability to work. 

Checklist: Supporting Choice for Those Who Choose to Have Families and Those Who Don’t

Based on the FSG/Rhia Ventures report’s findings on company policies that advocate for the choice to not have children or to postpone having them, consider: does your company…

  • Cover all FDA-approved birth control drugs, devices, products, services and procedures?
  • Ensure all contraceptives are covered without cost-sharing?
  • Cover a year’s supply of birth control options at a time, without cost-sharing?
  • Cover over-the-counter contraception without the need for prescriptions?
  • Cover unrestricted access to abortion (i.e., without the need for the procedure to be deemed “medically necessary”)?
  • Cover the cost of travel to receive a procedure if the costs are prohibitive?
  • Understand various state laws regarding abortion and make decisions about business footprint accordingly?

Based on the Bright Beginnings: Early Childhood Development Initiative’s recommendations for supporting professionals who choose to have children, does your company…

  • Allow for and encourage paid time off?
  • Allow for part-time and job share opportunities?
  • Allow for telecommuting and work flexibility?
  • Provide lactation rooms on premises?
  • Offer childcare benefits?
  • Ensure pay equity for parents?
  • Offer physical and mental wellness resources and benefits?
  • Offer maternity and paternity leave for both birth and adoption and for both opposite and same-gender couples?

The Bottom Line

Giving professionals access to care that allows them to determine how to manage their reproductive health and family planning creates a more empowered, more inclusive and healthier workforce. “The companies that support reproductive health will see strong and continuous dividends through improved participation, productivity and advancement for women and their partners in the workplace,” conclude the authors of the FSG and Rhea Ventures study. “Conversely, the consequences of inaction are far-reaching and hold significant risks, both for individual companies and for the American economy as a whole. Companies can no longer afford to remain on the sidelines of this important issue. It is time for companies to leverage their power to support reproductive health.”

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