Digital employee health benefits platform League Inc. is now offering its employees and their spouses or common-law partners $5,000 per lifetime toward in vitro fertilization or other similar fertility treatment.

According to Kim Tabac, League’s chief people officer, the startup began offering the IVF benefit in the last nine months, in response to interest from employees.

League’s employee base is about 90 per cent millennials, and “they’ve told us fertility and parental leaves are incredibly important for them at this point in their lives,” she says. “It’s very much aligned with our philosophy of personalizing the benefits experience.”

Read: How League is rethinking traditional workplace health benefits

Tabac says League removed barriers to fertility benefits by allowing its male and female employees and their partners to use them, and choosing not to limit the age or employment stage of people who want to access them.

“At the end of the day, we really don’t know when people are going through these types of challenges,” she says. “Just removing any barriers toward what your family status is, how old you are or what point you’re at in your employment [is important].”

The company also offers up to 20 weeks of parental leave top-up to 95 per cent for both mothers and fathers.

Fertility benefits are growing in popularity, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. A new survey found nearly a third of U.S. employers with 500 or more employees offered fertility benefits as of 2018, up from 24 per cent in 2016.

Read: Opportunities around drug coverage for traditional ‘lifestyle’ issues

Employers were most likely to cover IVF treatments and fertility medications, while 15 per cent of respondents said they cover genetic testing for determining if a couple has infertility issues, 13 per cent for non-IVF treatments, nine per cent said they offer coverage for counsellor visits and just seven per cent said they have a benefit for egg harvesting or freezing services.

Wendy Poirier, innovation leader for health and benefits in Canada at Willis Towers Watson, says the growing number of employers offering fertility benefits is part of a broader trend toward making benefits programs that appeal to a diverse group of employees.

“A lot of our clients are saying [they] want to understand what the best practices are going beyond the traditional approach and really looking at things through an inclusion and diversity lens. How do we support women, our LGBTQ community, our different ethnicities and races who might look at this differently? That broader lens, to me, is the new best practice.”

Poirier says employers looking to offer some form of fertility benefit should eliminate any barriers to access for their employees. “Who would be using fertility benefits? It’s not just your typical woman in a heterosexual relationship, for instance.” 

Read: How to use benefits to support diversity and inclusion

Referring to the broad range of employees who may require access to these benefits, Poirier cites examples of a lesbian couple and a woman undergoing cancer treatment who would want to cryogenically freeze her eggs.

“The new best practice is breaking down those traditional barriers and looking at how you can provide a benefit that suits different personas, that suits different employees at different stages,” she says, adding fertility benefits don’t begin and end at IVF and similar treatments, but can expand to include counselling, hormonal treatments for non-childbearing women who want to nurse, cryo-preservation of eggs and even preparing for the post-partum period and return to work.

While IVF treatments are expensive — in Canada, cycles can cost between $10,000 and $15,000 — Poirier says employers may be surprised how little the additional cost would be to offer some coverage. Because fertility benefits would only be accessed by a small percentage of the employee population, unlike a commonly used benefit such as massage therapy, “it would be a very minimal [monthly premium increase] when you spread it out across the whole group,” she says.

Employers can also allow employees to customize their benefits, adding dollars towards fertility treatment and taking away coverage from another benefit they don’t need, or use the funds in their health-care spending accounts or wellness accounts to cover fertility treatments and drugs.

Read: Back to basics on health-care spending accounts 

“What we might consider a nominal amount is still about meeting people where they are; $1,000 or $2,000 still allows employees to get those benefits,” says Poirier. “There’s a way to create a core benefit that maybe doesn’t go beyond what you’ve got now, or goes beyond in terms of opening it up to diverse groups, and providing a cash benefit they can use in some other way.”

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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