Dr. Brown was published by the Florida Times-Union providing his perspective on the importance of fertility benefits offered in workplace benefits packages, recent legislation in the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the growing interest in alternative reproductive treatments.

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Local fertility doc: As family building evolves, so should workplace fertility benefits
Dr. Samuel E. Brown | Guest columnist
Published Sept. 10, 2023

Almost 90% of American employees experiencing infertility are willing to change jobs for access to fertility benefits, according to a recent study by Carrot Fertility and RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association.

The same report shares that 77% of respondents would stay at their current company longer if they offered fertility benefits, and 59% state that “fertility and family building” have impacted their work performance.

These numbers become even more impactful when compared to how common infertility is in the U.S. One of every eight American couples have trouble getting pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Further, the CDC reports one in five married women ages 15 to 49 with no prior births are unable to get pregnant after trying for one year.

On top of this, family building has become more accessible to people in recent years, from the rise of fertility preservation through egg freezing, to scientific advancements that have made parenthood even more possible for the LGBTQ+ community.

With the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act now in effect, which also supports people undergoing fertility treatment, now is the time for Jacksonville employers to begin discussing how they can make workplace fertility benefits a standard offering in their health plans.

Ultimately, this shift will make their businesses even stronger and help to strengthen Northeast Florida’s ability to attract and retain talent and compete with other Florida markets.

The good news is we are not starting from scratch. According to the Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, 42% of large employers (20,000-plus employees) and 27% of smaller employers (500-plus employees) provided in vitro fertilization as a benefit in 2020. Other treatments or services ranged from as high as 73% to as low as 5%.

While this is considerable progress, the same study shared that 39% and 23% of larger and smaller employers, respectively, provided no workplace fertility benefits. Put simply, it’s time to do more. And, as a region known for its world-class healthcare systems, Jacksonville has the geographical resources to be a national leader in fertility care access.

For local employers, one of the greatest advantages to offering fertility benefits is a boost in worker retention, which is critical in today’s tight labor market and with the competition across Florida’s economy. For example, a FertilityIQ study in 2020 found that 88% of women who had their IVF treatments paid for by their employers chose to return to work after maternity leave, compared to about 50% of women without fertility benefits.

The same goes for talent attraction, especially for younger generations. For early-to-mid-career professionals, covering all or part of fertility treatments or preservation could be one of the key differences in accepting an offer.

As assisted reproductive technology continues to advance and more treatment paths are available for the LGBTQ+ community, an ancillary benefit to providing fertility benefits supports a company’s efforts to improve gender diversity. Ultimately, it helps reinforce that a business is committed to equity and inclusion.

Finally, considering the challenges of fertility affecting work performance, providing these opportunities can make for a more productive and passionate workforce. A Maven Clinic study shared that 61% of employees who received fertility coverage felt more loyal and committed to their employer for the long term.

With all the above in mind, I understand fertility treatments aren’t the most inexpensive health care service available. However, it is becoming increasingly accessible and not every treatment path has a high cost. For example, it’s not necessary for every person struggling with infertility to use IVF to get pregnant. That is a common myth I debunk in my office daily.

Employers should consider a managed fertility benefit. As with any strong benefit package, candidates are more likely to join a company — and stay — when those benefits provide meaningful assistance or relieve a significant burden. Those needs change over time — and fertility has become a big part of that equation for the workforce.

With a higher retention rate and a more productive (and profitable) workforce, the added benefits in your health plans could pay for themselves sooner than later.

It’s time for even more First Coast employers to recognize this and provide support to employees as they consider family building. It’s an investment, but in the long term, it pays dividends across the board: for local employers, residents and the economic development of our region.

Samuel E. Brown, MD, is the medical director of Brown Fertility, a Jacksonville-based fertility clinic with 16 locations across Florida and Georgia.
This guest column is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Times-Union.