Infertility is becoming a problem for more and more people.
About one in six heterosexual couples globally are affected by infertility within their lifetime, according to a recent report from the World Health Organization. And treatment is both difficult to access and afford. In the U.S. alone, nearly 40% of women of reproductive age have no access, or limited access to reproductive technology.
U.S. employers have begun to offer their employees more access to fertility treatments over the past few years. The share of companies with 500 or more workers that cover in vitro fertilization (IVF), for example, rose from 27% in 2020 to 36% in 2021, according to HR consulting firm Mercer.
Now Amazon, the second-largest employer in the U.S., is expanding its fertility benefits to more than 1 million employees across 50 countries. The benefits come through a partnership with Maven Clinic, a virtual provider for women’s and family planning health care. Through Maven, Amazon employees and their partners will get free access to different types of fertility health care providers including reproductive endocrinologists, ob/gyns, and mental health professionals. The online retailer already covers IVF in the U.S., and now says it will cover virtual care around IVF as well as “support other paths” for family planning, including intrauterine insemination, adoption, and surrogacy.
Lian Neeman, Amazon’s global director of benefits, spoke to Fortune about the e-commerce giant’s newest benefits offering and why it’s important for more employers to embrace the rising need for fertility care.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Fortune: What prompted Amazon to offer these benefits?
Lian Neeman: We are always listening to our employees. And we heard positive feedback from our U.S. and Canada-based employees about our family-building benefits, and saw an opportunity to bring that to our larger workforce.
Why invest in fertility benefits? What's the business impact you’re expecting?
For all of our benefits, it's about supporting employees. When we say supporting employees, that also means supporting employees and their families. Our focus at Amazon is helping employees come to work and do what they do best, which is inventing and delivering on behalf of customers. Family building is a complex landscape to navigate, it can be a very difficult process. Even understanding where to start: “Do I go to my primary care doctor? Do I go to my ob/gyn? Do I need to see a specialist?” Our ability to partner with Maven and take that fact-finding, stress, navigation out of the equation, is…being true to our commitment to strive to be earth's best employer.
Why offer these benefits now?
[We are] recognizing a changing environment in which employees are seeking more support from their employer, relative to 15 or 20 years ago when you didn't talk about your personal situation at work at all. And then over time with the pandemic, with Gen Z, people are now more open to blurring that line, and are comfortable even talking about their own fertility journey with coworkers or in staff meetings. This was the right time for us to lean in and continue to be a leader on what it means to be supportive of families in all their forms.
Which employees have access to these benefits? Do warehouse workers have access to these benefits, in addition to desk or corporate workers?
Yeah. We take an egalitarian approach to benefits, and look to roll out benefits to all of our employees. So what we've launched with Maven is for full-time, part-time, hourly employees—for anyone looking through that journey. It's not just a director or senior leader who we’ve helped, but a local operations employee who is going through the same process and facing the same challenges.
What challenges are posed by trying to offer fertility benefits globally? How do you navigate these complexities from country to country?
This is not a one-size-fits-all offering. And that's where we're really excited about Maven’s global capabilities and ability to connect employees and understand what's relevant in each of the countries that we've launched. You have countries where they have strong social health networks that are provided by the government, and those where it may be trickier or more expensive to find the right option. But what's consistent across all of these is that this is difficult to navigate. Having a resource that can help you know where to turn to, that’s where I'm excited about what we've done with Maven.
Is there any advice or insight you want to share with other HR executives who are considering offering fertility benefits for their own employee base?
This is actually a growing area of need. Don't fall into the trap of thinking this is a narrow benefit for a passionate, new employee. Family building has been a topic that's not been talked about. And what has amazed me and continues to amaze me is the number of employees who are engaging in these programs, and challenging some status quo thinking around the degree to which this is an active issue in our workforce and society.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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