Many U.S. employers are adding travel coverage for employees travelling for an abortion, amid recent restrictions imposed by several states.
Among the employers offering this coverage are Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Citigroup Inc., Levi-Strauss & Co., Microsoft Inc. and Yelp Inc. Currently, 13 states have imposed restrictions to abortion access and, if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe vs Wade — the landmark ruling that guaranteed the right to abortions in the U.S. — at least another 26 states would follow.
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In the wake of the leak of a Supreme Court draft ruling that could potentially overturn Roe vs Wade, Amazon said it would cover up to US$4,000 in expenses annually for employees who need to travel out-of-state to access treatment for non-life-threatening conditions, including abortion and transgender care, as reported by Reuters.
Likewise, Yelp — which already covered abortion care under its benefits plan — also expanded its health insurance coverage to include this travel benefit, which is provided directly through the organization’s insurance provider and extends to covered employees and their dependants impacted by current or future action that restricts access to covered reproductive health care.
“We’ve long been a strong advocate for equality in the workplace, and believe that gender equality cannot be achieved if women’s health-care rights are restricted. As a remote-first company with a distributed workforce, this new benefit allows our U.S. employees and their dependants to have equitable access to reproductive care, regardless of where they live,” said Miriam Warren, Yelp’s chief diversity officer.
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In a commentary on Fast Company & Inc., Yelp’s co-founder and chief executive officer Jeremy Stoppelman explained why the company decided to offer the benefit, citing the economic impact of restricting abortions and the effect it could have on employee health and well-being.
Stoppelman’s politically charged statement is becoming more and more the norm. “The reality is CEOs and companies are expected to weigh in on a broader array of issues than they were historically,” says Jennifer Reynolds, CEO of Women Corporate Directors, noting many are stepping up and taking a stand on social and environmental issues.
Since many U.S. companies can offer this type of benefit to their workers, it’s just a question of whether they have the will to do it, she says, noting this isn’t just a women’s rights issue, but also a women’s health issue. “If you don’t have a healthy workforce, [it] will affect the economy and growth.”
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Due to a lack of or limited maternity leave benefits in the U.S., the country’s labour participation rates are already lower than many other First World nations, notes Reynolds. “If you take women out of the workforce, your economy grows much more slowly. And if you’re taking women who aren’t ready to have children — or who simply can’t afford to from a health perspective — out of the workforce, it has ramifications.”
When women are forced to take dangerous actions to have an abortion, it can have adverse effects on their health, she adds, noting these women won’t be healthy workers, which is directly tied to the productivity of half of companies’ workforces. And she notes abortion restrictions make it harder for women in business to plan according to the need of their own health and family and will be a further drag on the women in business pipeline, which has already been drastically affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Nonetheless, Reynolds is hopeful that recent restrictions to abortions imposed by some states and the Supreme Court leak will move more U.S. employers to add or expand family benefits, such as maternity leave. She says the case has been made for having better family benefits, noting countries with these policies have the highest labour participation rate.
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“The world is experiencing a tight labour market, so organizations have to do everything they can to keep the talent that they have. It’s far more expensive to replace employees and lose intellectual capital then to offer a benefit that, on a relative basis, is far less expensive for the company.”