Employees say Corporate America needs to do more on abortion access and reproductive healthcare

According to a new survey, 59% of US workers want more transparency from their employers about their reproductive benefits.
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· 4 min read

Following the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn the constitutional protection guaranteeing abortion access, many companies have grappled with how to respond, and some have reevaluated internal policies to respect the law while addressing employees’ needs.

While navigating this hot-button issue can be tricky, one thing is clear: Employees want to hear from HR teams and company leadership about their plans. According to an October survey by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization focused on advancing women in the workplace, 59% of US workers want more transparency from their employers about their reproductive benefits.

“This is no longer hypothetical. Employees are concerned about their futures,” Julie Nugent, SVP for strategic solutions and products at Catalyst, told HR Brew. “They’re making decisions based on how their own company—or perhaps a prospective employer—and leaders are addressing both abortion access as well as reproductive care.”

Employees and job-seekers are looking for concrete policies related to reproductive care, and as employers compete for workers in what’s still a tight labor market, HR pros need to be sure their policies and plans don’t run afoul of state and federal laws.

Say more, do more. Employees don’t just want to hear more—they want to see more being done. Some 44% of employees told Catalyst that their organizations and leaders weren’t doing enough to ensure abortion access for employees.

“We heard from employees directly that they want more from their organizations,” Nugent said. “They want to make sure their organizations are what we call ‘walking the talk’—what they’re saying and their actions are matching up.”

Following the decision, companies including Levi Strauss, Disney, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs released statements committing to support employees’ reproductive health or offering reimbursements for travel costs to receive care.

Corporations have become the “last firewall on abortion access,” according to Jen Stark, co-director of the Center for Business and Social Justice at BSR, a nonprofit group that works with companies on social justice issues. As such, reproductive policies can be critical for recruitment and retention.

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And there’s a strong business case for delivering for employees.

“These are business issues,” Stark told HR Brew. “It’s always been more than just about abortion. It’s about what it’s signaling. It’s about worker well-being, and ultimately, it’s about economics.”

Following those statements of support, employees are now looking to see if their companies are following through on June pledges.

“[Employees] can tell if something is genuine, and they can tell if something’s performative,” Nugent said.

Complicated compliance. Reproductive healthcare is an ever-changing issue, and HR pros are having to scrutinize the policies they have in place, all while monitoring the political landscape at the national and state level to ensure they’re compliant with legal variances across the different locations where employees may reside.

Following the Dobbs decision, people teams have been reevaluating their benefits related to reproductive healthcare, according to Nugent and Stark, questioning:

  • Do our healthcare plans cover abortion?
  • How do we cover abortion-related travel expenses?
  • What time off policies are in place related to reproductive health?
  • What additional mental health resources might be needed?
  • What’s possible for benefits-ineligible employees?

Fourteen states have total or near-total bans on abortion. Voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont protected the right to abortion this Election Day by amending their state constitutions, and voters in Montana and Kentucky rejected ballot measures that would further restrict access to reproductive care.

As states continue to either enshrine or limit abortion access, people pros will have the relentless task of keeping up to date.

“Companies need to be careful not promising on something they can’t deliver,” Nugent said. “I do think that due diligence and auditing and understanding what policies you have and what is even possible is really important right now.”—AD

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @adamderose on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Adam for his number on Signal.

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