The Rise of Benefits for Working Parents

It’s no secret that our strengthened economy and increased demand for employees has resulted in a tightening of the U.S. labor market.  North Carolina remains at about 4% unemployment which many employers would suggest could be considered full employment.  Over the last 12-18 months I have heard one consistent message from essentially all my clients regardless of industry or size and that message is, there is a war being waged for talent and we need to win.

Conversations around benefits which once were primarily focused on controlling cost have now shifted to a focus on recruitment and retention.  Employers are searching less for the next big trend to impact cost and instead they’re asking “where are the gaps in my benefits package?” and “where do we need to improve our offering?”

This drive to create a total rewards package to better attract and retain talent has spurred some new and exciting benefit offerings.  Perhaps the most prevalent trend in these new benefit offerings is their focus on supporting working parents.

  • Parental Leave has been a huge topic of conversation in recent years. Many big name employers like Netflix and Facebook are offering prolonged or even unlimited paid parental leave.  An unlimited leave offering is out of reach for most organizations.  Instead, many employers are responding to this trend by providing some paid paternity leave and adding a few weeks of partial or full-paid maternity leave layered on top of their existing short term disability policy.
  • Adoption Assistance. Wendy’s has been a long standing supporter of adoption and employees who are seeking to adopt. Now many other employers are following suit.  This benefit is fairly easy to roll out, is used less frequently than standard maternity benefits included in traditional health plans, and it’s a meaningful offering for employees planning to add to their family via adoption.
  • Fertility Treatment. Many health plans cover some aspects of fertility but most stop short at the initial diagnosis of the underlying cause of infertility and provide very little toward the expense of ongoing treatment which can be quite expensive. Some larger employers like Starbucks, Viacom & Pinterest are recognizing the strain this can place on employees and they have implemented benefits to provide financial assistance and guidance for employees seeking fertility treatment, fertility preservation and surrogacy.
  • Expectant Mother’s Parking Passes is an inexpensive and highly appreciated perk for expectant mothers allowing them to enjoy access to closer parking spaces. It has become a low cost and simple way to support expectant mothers throughout the duration of their pregnancy.
  • Mother’s Room. Initially a result of PPACA, this requirement to a private non-bathroom for new mothers to express milk has provided an opportunity for employers to create a space for new mothers which can feel more like a true benefit rather than a PPACA regulation.
  • Childcare Tuition Assistance/Onsite Daycare. While some larger employers like Nike and SAS offer onsite daycare for their employees other organizations opt to provide a subsidy contributing toward the cost of childcare for employees with children in daycare or preschool.

For most employers high dollar offerings like onsite daycare and unlimited parental leave are not feasible.  However, many of these benefit concepts can be scaled down to fit the organization.  With the labor market as tight as it’s been in many years and working parents comprising more of the labor pool than ever before, it makes sense that these benefits are on the rise.