Mandy Kwasnica and her husband so desperately wanted to adopt they were ready to sink all of their money (and then some) into making their dream a reality.
“Adoption is very, very expensive, but we knew in our hearts that this was the right move we were making,” recalls the manager of mortgage sales support at Manulife Bank of Canada, of the decision to adopt in the fall of 2019. “Couples will fundraise to earn money for an adoption, or [we said] we’ll take our retirement money out or we’ll remortgage the house — we’ll do whatever it takes to get this done.”
Ultimately, Kwasnica didn’t have to drain her savings or go into debt to fund the often-pricey adoption process, thanks to a benefit that Manulife Financial Corp. rolled out mere weeks after she and her husband decided to dive in headfirst.
In early 2020, Manulife officially introduced reimbursement of up to $20,000 per year for adoption and surrogacy support and fertility medication. It then announced further support for Canadian employees, providing 20 weeks of paid maternity leave and 12 weeks of paid parental and adoption leave, effective Jan. 1, 2021.
For Kwasnica and her husband, these benefits have been life changing. They’re in the process of adopting not one, but two, children from Ukraine and they expect to travel there later this year to finalize a long, emotional journey.
“[I’ve been married to my] husband since 2001 and we were high-school sweethearts. We never, ever thought this would be our situation, where we’d have a challenge having a family of our own. We did kind of put off the decision until later, we had certain dreams we wanted to accomplish ahead of [having children] and then you come across these challenges you really don’t expect to happen, so it’s been an extremely emotional time.”
Kwasnica is not alone. Approximately one in six couples in Canada experience infertility and that rate has more than doubled since the 1980s, according to the Government of Canada. Employers have taken note of the uptick and many, including Manulife and Telus Communications Inc., have stepped up to extend benefits to employees struggling with fertility.
For Manulife, supporting employees like Kwasnica means its benefits offerings are constantly evolving.
“We know what it means for so many of our colleagues to have a family and we’re proud to provide this valuable support to help them achieve this important dream,” said Pam Kimmet, chief human resources officer at Manulife, in a press release. “As the needs of our employees evolve, the benefits we offer have to as well. . . . Families take many forms, such as single parents, same-sex couples and transitioning transgender family members and we look to support these different journeys.”