Roe v. Wade – Where To Expand Your Support For Impacted Employees (A guide to corporate actions for supporting employees with unwanted pregnancies)

58% of workers are women, so disruptions in their lives will hurt productivity, hiring, and retention. And given the publicity that a woman’s right to choose is now receiving. You must assume that your female and male employees and your customers will be watching closely to see if their company is adequately meeting employee needs.

Or if it is going the extra step in showing compassion by offering a startling array of exceptional support options that everyone will talk about. In my view, it’s prudent to act long before Roe v. Wade is finally decided. Begin by charging your HR leaders to immediately create a comprehensive program that provides your firm with a competitive advantage. Offer support in each of the areas that have the most positive impact on employees facing unwanted pregnancies. 

I suggest you provide help and information in each of these four action categories (starting up actions, educating everyone, any possible support expansion areas, and benchmark companies to learn from. Each of the possible action steps under those four categories is provided below. The most impactful actions in each category are listed first.

Part A – Foundation Actions To Take During Your Program Development Phase

  1. Reveal the dollar costs of not getting it right – you must show managers how anything other than a positive experience will negatively impact team productivity, retention, recruiting, and customer sales. And if you want your managers to support you fully, help this special area. Start your education by making them fully aware of how employees, applicants, and customers will react to what you’ve done or not done in supporting women. Make the business case to executives to fully understand the dollar costs of not supporting a wide array of offerings, negatively impacting team productivity, retention, recruiting (especially employee referrals), and perhaps even customer sales. Also, be aware that the global publicity around this issue will likely cause your international employees to rethink their willingness to transfer to a job in the US. 
  2. Remember to allow for global variations for your employees who work in countries that don’t allow any pregnancy-ending procedures – if you’re a global company with employees in multiple countries. You need to be aware that entire countries (especially highly religious ones) severely restrict this procedure. Therefore, if you decide to expand your benefits globally, you may need to customize your offerings in each country where you have employees.
  3. Realize that not every employee will be equally affected – your female and highly educated employees will most likely be paying close attention to your support. However, you should also realize that your lower-paid workers, younger workers, and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds may require the most help.

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Part B – Fully Educate Your Employees And Managers In These Primary Areas

Provide an array of easy to search, scan, and understand information that covers your company’s support for its employees with unwanted pregnancies.

  1. Provide them with a summary of the support areas that you provide – start by outlining the benefits you offer in this area during new-hire onboarding. Next, survey your current employees to identify their needs and expectations. Then begin their education in this area by providing them with an internal web page, which should include a brief summary of each employee support areas where your company provides help. Those areas should include health coverage, mental health, and depression, leave options, and privacy protections. Also, provide a list of frequently asked questions and answers. Lastly, let them know specifically what you won’t cover. 
  2. Fully explain their leave options – educate your employees to fully understand the available sick leave and major medical and family leave (FMLA) options available to them. Where appropriate, expand those options before and after the procedure. Assure the employee that their job (or equivalent) will be waiting for them at the end of their leave.
  3. Fully explain their health plan coverage – without using jargon, explain to your employees what expenses related to the procedure will be covered (or not covered). Also, work with your medical insurance provider to adjust your health plan’s coverages to better fit your current needs. Explain when your coverage will also cover regular births and miscarriages.
  4. Provide a list of the local external support agencies and what services they offer – in cases where your company support may be less than what the employee requires. Also, provide information on external organizations that provide help in this area. Do that by gathering data on the external government and not-for-profit agencies that can supplement your company’s help. 

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Part C – Consider Expanding The Help Options That You Provide In Each Of These High Impact Areas 

Finally, consider adding or expanding your corporate offerings in these 17 possible high-impact support areas.

  1. Tighten your employee privacy protections – it’s always important to protect the privacy of your employees. But it’s especially critical for issues surrounding pregnancy if you want to reduce the woman’s anxiety. Subsequently, survey women to identify their privacy concerns. And then develop a privacy protection plan to meet those needs. Next, conduct an audit of communications, HR, and benefits to ensure that your updated privacy protections actually work. Next, proactively educate your employees about the types of privacy issues that others have experienced (for example, most don’t realize that outsiders can use mobile phone location tracking software to know when and where you visited a woman’s clinic). Finally, encourage each team manager to daily and quickly quash any gossip or even a mention of a teammate’s private matters at any time during work.
  2. Help them find the best facility for their procedure – the closest facility is not always the best one for the employee. And because the fog of the situation may cloud an employee’s decision-making. Make it easy for the employee to find the best clinic by providing them with a list of the US clinics that offer these procedures and the advantages and restrictions of each one. 
  3. Fully explain what procedures the company will pay for – because the cost of the procedure is a major employee concern. Work with your healthcare provider to give your employees a list of healthcare items that will be fully paid for, which ones have deductions and which ones are not normally covered. Also, make them aware of payments for related issues, including miscarriages and adoptions.
  4. Pay for and facilitate the woman’s transportation to the best facility – make it as easy as possible for the woman to travel to her procedure. In most cases, that travel coverage should match what the company provides for business travel. 
  5. Offer remote work options for employees to speed the recovery – some women may not want to be seen in the office after the procedure because of signs of stress. Others will want to work at home because of the isolation, security, privacy or to speed their recovery. So let the woman choose from a variety of remote work options. 
  6. Offer them intercompany transfers (permanent or temporary) – for employees that want it, provide them with the option to temporarily or permanently transfer their work to another state. For example, Salesforce says it will pay to relocate workers from Texas due to the state’s new restrictions on the procedure (CNBC reports).
  7. Provide a range of counseling assistance – consider modifying your Employee Assistance Pogrom to offer more targeted help for counseling or mental health assistance in this specific area. Let your employees know your range of options and if there are any costs. Also, let them know if existing company-sponsored advocacy groups or on-site medical personnel can offer help.
  8. Consider expanding coverage to an employee’s pregnant spouse – the employee’s spouse with a pregnant partner (who is not an employee) may also be going through a great deal of stress. So, when you’re highly concerned about employee productivity. You should seriously consider providing the same or a lower level of help to an employee’s partner who needs this procedure done out of state. I do not recommend extending this spousal support to the children of the employee.
  9. Provide additional support for the employee’s family – both the employee and their family will need lots of family support during this difficult time. Start by making them aware of what family support you will pay for, including counseling. Will the company pay for the travel expenses of a family member that accompanies the employee to the procedure?
  10. Consider expanding coverage to your temp employees – you will need to determine if your part-time, seasonal workers, or contractors will be covered under your support plan. This may be especially important if you have a significant percentage of part-time female workers that have worked without full employee status for many years.
  11. Provide a single point of contact – make it as easy as possible for the employee to ask for and sign up for the support program. Where possible, design the administrative procedure so that other employees can’t witness or track scheduled meetings between the benefits facilitator and the employee. Also, consider offering a pregnancy hotline where employees can get 24/7 anonymous answers to their questions and problems.
  12. Take actions to improve the employee’s feeling of safety and security – because physical violence can be a factor associated with an unwanted pregnancy. Consult with the employee and security to determine what safety and security assistance they may need while in the office.
  13. Consider at-home support – understand that women and their families will be under great stress immediately before and after the procedure. So, realize that they may also need additional help at home for a short duration. This help might include short-term childcare or delivering pre-prepared meals for the family (Google has paid for takeout meals).
  14. Consider offering employees legal assistance – some state laws (e.g., Texas) restricting this procedure include provisions that increase the chances of citizen lawsuits against anyone involved in this procedure. Therefore, make your employees aware of the extent of the civil or criminal legal help that your company will provide. For example, Uber recently announced that they would cover the legal fees of their drivers that give rides to clinics that offer this procedure.
  15. Provide employees with family planning assistance – it makes sense after this procedure to minimize the chances of needing this procedure again. So, make all employees fully aware of your family planning assistance. Including contraception and paying for the freezing of a mother’s eggs prior to the procedure in case something goes wrong (Facebook does this).
  16. Make it easy for your employees to get access to the morning-after pill – the easy availability of Plan B pill (Levonorgestrel) will also reduce the future need for this medical procedure. Unfortunately, some states restrict a woman’s access to this day after treatment. Therefore, if your company is bold, identify those local restrictions and find a way to make this at-home treatment easily available to your employees that want it in those localities.
  17. Consider limiting hateful content on your internal discussion forums – because this is a highly charged topic, and not every employee supports this procedure. When required, you should proactively shield the employee from having to read damaging or hateful coworker comments on this procedure in your company-owned forums. Help to make that happen by restricting the allowed discussion on unwanted pregnancy-related topics. 

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Part D – Learn From These Benchmark Corporations 

The following corporations have publicly committed to significantly expanding their support options for employees with unwanted pregnancies. I recommend that you work closely with at least one of them to speed up your learning around the most effective support options.

AmazonSalesforceLevi StraussYelp
CitigroupTeslaUberLyft
AppleHPEAsanaZendesk

Final Thoughts

Remember to make data-based decisions. So, start your efforts by surveying your employees on what they think they might need if they become involved in an unwanted pregnancy. Use that information to design or update your program. And after you have implemented your program. Periodically assess its usage, performance, and employee satisfaction with it by conducting a follow-up user sample survey. If you’re really bold, go to the next step. Revisit your organization’s political donations and public support for those officeholders in your state supporting the active restriction of a woman’s freedom to choose.

Author’s Note 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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