Have you heard that Starbucks is now offering IVF as an employee perk? A few other companies have started offering an IVF benefit, but Starbucks is going further.
As the article, “How Starbucks covers pricey in vitro fertilization for even its part-time employees” states, “Starbucks covers $20,000 for IVF and related medication for all eligible employees. That includes part-time baristas who make, on average, about $10,000 per year.” From how I read that Starbucks’ IVF perk gave barista Shannon Iagullis “not one baby, but two,” it seems the company offers this perk for each try at a child.
This employee perk got me thinking.
Should an Employee Perk be So Personal?
Companies have policies that give employees time off to handle personal matters, such as parental and other family type leave benefits. In the most equitable case scenario, companies offer personal time off (PTO) policies that can encompass a variety of things, not just family related matters.
The IVF perk goes beyond giving time; it is stepping into employees’ personal lives. It is providing a way to assist employees in creating a child, and manifesting how many children they want to have. Is this going too far?
Starbucks has likely run analyses regarding the offering of this benefit. The article indicates that the IVF perk makes for happier employees. And happy employees are more likely to stay in the job. Its analyses may very well project that it will foster employee retention, which could have a positive effect on employee turnover (particularly for baristas, which I bet is a segment of the employee population that has higher turnover than other positions). Starbucks may very well project the retention benefits will outweigh the costs for IVF and related medication.
So, if the answer to whether company benefits should get this personal is yes, it leads to another question:
Why Shouldn’t Another Reproductive Employee Perk be Offered?
If a company offers a benefit to help an employee get pregnant, why shouldn’t it also offer a perk for another reproductive choice, like procedures that will permanently prevent pregnancy?
I bet if a barista or any other employee wanted a tubal ligation, Essure, or a vasectomy, and his/her employer offered that reproductive perk, it would also make for happy employees who are more likely to stay.
How likely is this perk to be offered? Unlikely.
Why? Our pronatalist society continues to revere the creation and raising of children over the choice to pass on parenthood. And it remains commonly difficult for women to find a doctor willing to perform a sterilization procedure if she has not had any children. Society exalts having a child, and scorns the opposite reproductive choice.
Even if it would cost less than IVF (especially if paid for more than once), it’s also unlikely that employers would offer the sterilization perk to parents who don’t want more children. Like our pronatalist society as a whole, companies would not see these two reproductive choices as equally acceptable.
The IVF employee perk is yet another example of pronatalist policy, and a window into how pronatalism rewards reproduction, favors those who want and do have children, and does not extend the same reverence to those who do not.
Actually, most health insurance plans at large employers cover vasectomies, along with most forms of birth control, including 5-year implants. And most small-to-medium size employers offer none of any of this. Tubal ligation is another thing because of sexism, not pronatalism. Also, vasectomies cost about $2300 on average in the US, while IVF can run anywhere from $10-20K.
Please know that infertility is a classified as a disease of the reproductive system by the World Health Organization. It’s not some lifestyle choice. While companies can definitely be pronatalist in many policies, attacking infertility treatment benefits is completely unfair, not to mention not doing your homework about it. What IS tragic? Companies that cover IVF… but won’t include an adoption benefit in their plans.
The reason most companies include these benefits, from IVF to gender reassignment surgery, in their plans is because it’s a low cost, good PR move. Very few employees as a whole take advantage of that benefit (insurance charges much more for c-sections and other major surgeries than a round of IVF). I’ve worked in HR for 20+ years and am very familiar with benefit planning strategies.
I’m also childless not by choice, having spent my entire life savings on 6 rounds of donor egg IVF, miscarriage, and 4 failed adoption attempts…while also being a woman who f*cking hated the workplaces that made the childless/childfree invisible compared to those with children. So I’ve got a vantage point that involves supporting everyone – even though I’ve been screwed over by employers for not having kids (and my inability to).
Thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear about your experience. I too support everyone’s choices. My point was not to attack IVF in and of itself, but discuss how employees’ personal reproductive choices are supported (and not) and treated differently by employers. I get that you have seen this first hand and professionally for many years. I worked in HR myself, am aware of industrial psychology studies focusing on HR policies in the last couple of decades, and have talked directly with many HR directors about this over the years, e.g., why they cover what they cover and not. The preference to support and offer policies that cover choice To have children, not permanent birth control is all too common. I would also say that sexism as it relates to permanent birth control, is part of the larger behemoth of pronatalism. Both have many negative impacts on those who have children, those who don’t not by choice, and by choice. I am with you on how those without children in the workplace have a harder time in many areas. It is better than 20 to 30 years ago, but still has lots of room for improvement toward better equitable treatment.