Why more law firms are investing in fertility benefits

Ever since COVID-19 upended how many people work, employees have been looking for more from their employers, and those in the legal industry are no exception. According to a national survey, recruitment/retention is the single greatest challenge for 60% of law firms. Factors like burnout, increasing competition, and a focus on work-life balance are leading to over 25% associate turnover at some firms. While firms traditionally could expect to lose half of their associates over five years, now, those firms risk losing 125% of their workforce over the same time period.

While compensation is one factor to consider, supportive programs like fertility benefits that demonstrate an interest in and commitment to employees’ lives outside of work can be even more impactful in improving both employee retention and recruitment. In fact, 60% of respondents said they would consider leaving their firm for a better work-life balance. Investing in fertility benefits can also help law firms meet diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals, a high priority for today’s job seekers.

Fertility benefits are becoming a must-have for retention and recruitment

Some fertility coverage is common in the legal sector, but many firms don’t offer inclusive support. According to Business Group on Health, 87% of employers cover some kind of infertility treatment through their health plans, though that number drops to 70% for IVF coverage and just 30% for fertility preservation coverage. That’s why an increasing number of firms are introducing fertility vendors to offer a complete and inclusive solution. Offering a comprehensive solution that supports all fertility health and family-forming journeys can help set your firm apart.

“The legal industry is starting to offer more sophisticated and customizable benefits,” said Hannah Lincecum, Senior HR Manager at Reed Smith. The company introduced fertility benefits in 2022. “Our employees had let us know what they wanted. If we didn't have that push from employees, and them saying this is important, we might not have begun this endeavor.”

Surveys also show that employees highly value fertility and family-forming support. In a survey of employees in the legal services industry, 83% said they would find fertility benefits at least somewhat valuable, with a majority of this group saying they would find fertility benefits very valuable. For those who already had at least some fertility support at work, when asked if having access to fertility benefits would make them more likely to stay at their current firm, 77% responded positively.

If you’re hesitant because you feel the industry hasn’t fully embraced fertility benefits, it’s important to understand that employees are paying attention and will begin to ask them soon enough, especially as they see peers at other firms receiving support. In addition to listening to employee requests, HR teams should also regularly check in with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for insights on what benefits are missing from their current offerings. Employees don’t always feel comfortable bringing up sensitive requests directly to HR but may feel more comfortable discussing what they need with peers in an ERG.

Fertility benefits support employees at all stages of their careers

Fertility benefits are valuable to more of your workforce than you might expect. Keep in mind that the average person finishes law school between their mid to late twenties, and many decide to go back to school later in life. For people with ovaries, fertility starts to decline in their 30s. Age also impacts sperm health. Fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF) are an option for those experiencing age-related infertility but are expensive, complicated, and emotionally overwhelming — and aren’t generally covered by many insurance plans. Providing both funding and care navigation makes these journeys more accessible and manageable.

For busy, early-career lawyers who aren’t ready to grow their families, fertility preservation may be an appealing option. Those who know they want to delay growing their family may choose to freeze their eggs, sperm, or embryos for later use. In fact, a third of survey respondents in the legal services industry said they were planning on freezing their eggs or sperm. And while most people find the process empowering, preservation can be a complex and emotional journey. Finding a fertility benefits platform that also offers care navigation is vital to help employees understand what to expect.

Fertility healthcare also doesn’t have to be limited to family-forming goals. Comprehensive benefits can include support for symptoms related to hormonal aging, specifically menopause and low testosterone (low T). Your senior leaders or most established attorneys may be experiencing menopause symptoms, which can seriously affect an employee’s well-being. Carrot’s Menopause in the Workplace survey found that 70% of respondents have considered at least one type of major employment-based change due to menopause symptoms. Almost half said they would look for hybrid or remote roles, and 22% of respondents would retire early due to menopause symptoms.

While there’s less awareness around low T, 30% of males will meet the definition and experience symptoms like low energy, insomnia, depressed mood, and irritability. These physical and emotional challenges can be disruptive and can make employees feel isolated, but supportive resources can help employees access the right care.

Comprehensive fertility benefits promote DEI

Along with recruitment and retention, fertility benefits can demonstrate your company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) — if your program supports all of the ways people form families.

“We pursued a fertility benefit that was open to everyone,” said Lincecum. “It was important to send a message that lets employees know what our culture is like before they even join. That makes for a great well-being experience at work.”

Traditional insurance, which defines infertility as the inability to get pregnant through intercourse after six to 12 months, has traditionally left out LGBTQ+ families and single parents by choice. An inclusive fertility benefits program supports all fertility healthcare and family-forming journeys. For example, some people may choose to adopt, either privately or through foster care. Employer adoption assistance is critical to ensure all parents feel included in your offering. Single-parent adoption comprises about 30% of all domestic adoptions in the U.S., and 21% of same-sex couples have adopted a child. Support for donor-assisted reproduction, such as egg and sperm donation and gestational surrogacy, is also a crucial option for same-sex couples.

At Reed Smith, inclusive fertility benefits have been very popular with employees across the company.

“Fertility benefits have been one of the most successful things we’ve rolled out in the last two years,” says Lincecum. “Fertility support had been in demand for so long, and in our current social climate, it was very well received.”

Comprehensive fertility benefits help your company get ahead of the curve while prioritizing retention and recruitment efforts across levels and reaching DEI goals. If you’re an HR leader in the legal industry and are seeking inclusive fertility benefits for your law firm, contact us today.

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