Studies show that investments into early childhood health and wellness have huge benefits for children, parents, and society as a whole. In the workplace, these investments can improve employee loyalty and retention, attract new talent, and reduce healthcare and operating costs related to maternity. But when we think of maternity, we most often associate it with leave. What do modern maternity benefits look like?
What are maternity benefits?
Maternity benefits are the suite of advantages employers can offer pregnant people and new parents in their organizations. These benefits include (but are not limited to) paid family leave, reimbursements, supplemental childcare, maternity-specific health benefits, and telehealth coverage.
Maternity benefits at a glance
Maternity benefits typically include a combination of paid and unpaid leave, employer-sponsored health plans, and ancillary benefits. The makeup of these plans vary between company to company, but studies show that the best workplaces for parents include a wide range of parenting-specific benefits like fertility reimbursement and support, telehealth platforms, and access to specialty care.
Comprehensive, inclusive, and continuous
What makes maternity benefits modern? They must be comprehensive, inclusive, and continuous. Comprehensive benefits cover the whole person through their pregnancy journey, including their physical, mental, and emotional health. Inclusivity covers all paths to parenthood and all types of families, not just traditional ones. And continuous benefits offer support throughout the journey, providing additional resources between appointments and beyond.
Paid family leave helps everyone
When employers think about maternity, they often first think about leave. FMLA provides employees with unpaid family leave for up to 12 weeks—however, the U.S. is one of the only developed countries that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave.
Paid parental leave gives new parents the time they need to bond with their children, recover from the physical and emotional cost of pregnancy, and adjust to a new lifestyle without the stress of finances interfering. Paid leave has several benefits for parents and their children. For new parents, paid parental leave can mean:
- Improved breastfeeding rates
- Reduced symptoms of postpartum anxiety and depression
- Reduced intimate partner violence
- Improved retention of women in the workplace
For children, more time with their parents early on has ample benefits as well:
Paid family leave can also greatly reduce the financial burdens of early childhood, especially among vulnerable populations that are disproportionately impacted by unpaid leave. Despite the outsized impact leave can have on parents and children, most mothers opt to take nine weeks or less of unpaid leave, while the majority of dads take only 10 days or less of leave. Leave, when unpaid, is simply too much of a hindrance to careers and financial stability for the majority of new parents.
How long should paid maternity leave be?
For companies looking to create equitable maternity leave policies, it’s crucial to offer enough paid leave to new parents to be effective, without losing productivity for so long as to offset the benefits. The International Labor Organization guidelines call for a minimum of 12 weeks of paid leave, but recommend at least 14. 119 countries offer at least 12, 62 of which offer over 14. Thus, your program should include at least 12 weeks of paid family leave for new parents.
Family-friendly benefits to supplement care
In addition to leave, companies are adding family-friendly benefits to their benefits ecosystem that help parents get additional care, support, and assistance throughout their family-building journeys. These benefits include access to telehealth, reimbursements for fertility treatments and childcare, breast milk shipping, and more.
Telehealth and specialty providers
Since the pandemic began, parents and parents-to-be have faced massive disruptions to their routines and support systems. Telehealth promptly exploded in usage, popularity, and investment, offering parents (among others) access to care that was otherwise restricted or unavailable. HR teams are realizing the clinical impact telehealth can have during maternity, not only by making routine appointments more accessible, but also by improving access to and cutting down wait times for crucial specialty providers like doulas and lactation consultants.
Pregnancy and postpartum can be a stressful, confusing, and sometimes overwhelming experience. Benefits that provide access to care navigation, whether through a telehealth platform or through consultations, can help expecting and aspiring parents access the right care at the right time. Maven’s Care Advocates, for example, are assigned to a member at the beginning of their journey, who can walk them through their individual care plan and provide recommendations for providers both in-person and on the platform, in addition to helping them navigate their benefits plans.
For new parents, feeding schedules pose a huge obstacle for building routines and returning to work. Breastmilk storage and shipping help them plan ahead for work trips, travel, and even every day commuting, so parents can ensure they have safely stored food for their children. Additionally, breastmilk shipping can help improve breastfeeding rates and duration, which leads to better health outcomes for both parents and their children, potentially reducing early childhood healthcare costs.
Incorporating these aspects into your benefits plans can help ensure you’re covering all parents on all paths to parenthood, improving loyalty and retention while reducing healthcare costs.
Creating a modern maternity benefits policy
To create a maternity benefits policy that’s modern, inclusive, and equitable, it’s vital you consider all types of families and all paths to parenthood. You should strive to meet employees in your organization where they are, and provide benefits that correspond to their needs and lived experiences.
Survey your workforce
A good way to get started is to survey your employees for what benefits they want and need most. You can send out a company-wide survey, or ask your ERGs to distribute them to get more relevant answers.
Identify challenges and gaps
Using the information you have at your disposal, identify the gaps in needs and care that pregnant people or aspiring family builders face in your organization. Are healthcare costs related to pregnancy or postpartum complications rising? Are employees with children struggling to return to work and resume their duties? Do employees feel supported during leave and after they return to work?
Another angle to consider is how your maternity benefits program accounts for alternative paths to parenthood. Are employees building families through assisted reproductive technology, adoption, or surrogacy adequately supported? Are fertility benefits and treatments accounted for and subsidized?
Consider the whole-person approach
Maternity, and by extension parenting, are not one-and-done experiences. Building a family is a lifelong commitment and journey, affecting your employees’ mental and physical health. A modern maternity benefits plan accounts for the whole person, including their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Does your benefits package account for continuous, holistic care? Is mental health for parents adequately supported? Do you have plans for challenging fertility or pregnancy journeys? Does your health plan account for various forms of specialty care that parents or their children may need?
Create a return-to-work plan
The postpartum period, for birthing parents and their partners, is a pivotal time for your employees. Often referred to as the fourth trimester, it can be a difficult time for parents as they adjust to a new family member, new routines, and new responsibilities. Modern maternity benefits include support for postpartum needs, recognizing the impact maternal mental health can have on workplace productivity and long-term health outcomes. Does your benefits plan include resources for mental health, parent coaching, career coaching, and other postpartum needs? Is your leave period adequate enough to allow parents time to bond, adjust, and reset after pregnancy?
Consider creating a flexible return-to-work plan with employees who are expecting: you can align on timelines, expectations, resources, and needs, so they can find support and understand what is expected of them upon return.
Implementing Maven in your modern maternity benefits plan
Maven is the world’s largest virtual clinic for women’s and family health. Members have access to 24/7 care navigation and support and can book appointments with a worldwide network of providers spanning over 30 different family health specialties. With a turnaround time of an hour, and an average appointment rating of 4.95/5, Maven helps parents, whether expecting, aspiring, or raising their families, get the care they need, when they need it.
To find out how Maven can help modernize your company’s maternity benefits package, request a demo today.
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