Walmart Inc. is teaming up with a fertility startup to offer benefits under its insurance plan that will help its U.S. workers expand their families.

The retail giant is partnering with New York-based Kindbody to offer benefits such as in-vitro fertilization, as well as fertility testing regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. Walmart’s employees will receive access to more than 30 fertility clinics and IVF labs across the U.S.

Walmart workers, their spouse or partner and any adult dependant children who are enrolled in a Walmart-sponsored medical plan will each receive up to $20,000 towards fertility treatments in a lifetime. The company’s salaried and full-time hourly employees, as well as full-time managers in Walmart stores’ eyeglass departments, will also receive up to $20,000 lifetime reimbursement towards eligible surrogacy and adoption expenses.

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“Providing access to high-quality health care is very important to us and we’ve heard from our associates that improved access to fertility, surrogacy and adoption support is a priority for them and their families,” says Kim Lupo, senior vice-president of global total rewards at Walmart.

Walmart joins other major employers like Inc. in helping employees with adoptions or covering things like fertility treatments. More companies are adding these benefits in part to attract and retain workers in a tight labour market.

The announcement of expanded fertility offerings comes after Walmart announced in August it was expanding its abortion coverage following the Supreme Court ruling that scrapped a nationwide right to abortion.

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Competition has grown especially tough for hourly or lower-wage workers in the retail, hospitality and health-care sectors, according to Mercer. In those areas, a small increase in pay or benefits can prompt people to leave for another job. “These benefits are a way to add value without necessarily increasing pay by a significant amount,” says Julie Campbell, a principal consultant in Mercer’s health and benefits practice.

Adding benefits that help with family planning also can make a company more attractive to LGBTQ2S+ employees. “The path to parenthood can be complex and expensive and the journey is not the same for all families,” says Lisa Woods, Walmart’s vice-president of benefits.

Mercer’s annual employer survey has tracked a big jump in companies offering a core fertility benefit or help with IVF. The consultant found 36 per cent of companies with 500 or more employees covered IVF treatments in 2021, up from 27 per cent in 2020. For years before that, the percentage of companies offering that benefit usually hovered between 20 per cent and 22 per cent, says Beth Umland, director of health and benefits research at Mercer.

Relatively few employees may end up using a company’s help with adoption or coverage of fertility treatments, but those benefits mean a lot to the people who use them, she noted.

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