Family benefits are more important than ever — and your employees probably aren’t satisfied

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Do you know what your employees really think about their benefits? Employees’ needs and expectations are constantly changing, so it can be hard for their employers to keep up. That’s why Ovia Health conducts an annual Future of Family Friendly Benefits survey. This year, we asked more than 1,500 working parents which benefits matter most, and where their employers are falling short. 

Overwhelmingly, working parents told us that they are not getting the support they need. Fifty five percent said their employers aren’t family-friendly enough. In fact, more than half gave their employer an overall grade of C or lower. 

For employers, this is a wakeup call — not just because there’s lots of room for improvement, but because family-friendly benefits matter more than ever for employee retention. 

Family benefits are here to stay — and they’re more important than ever for retention 

Among the employees we surveyed, nearly everyone (96.5 percent) told us that family benefits are a top priority. That’s a 24 percent year-over-year increase — a clear indicator that family health benefits weren’t just a passing, pandemic-inspired fad. These days, employees expect benefits that support them from fertility through their return to work and far beyond.

And better family benefits aren’t an optional perk. More than ever, employees are willing to take action to get them. Ninety-one percent of respondents said they would at least consider a lateral move to another company with better family benefits and a family-friendly culture. That’s up 2 percent year-over-year, suggesting that even in an uncertain economy, solid benefits can outweigh the security of a long-term job.

Our survey also suggests that family benefits will become more important in coming years. At the height of the pandemic, many people held off on expanding their families. But this year, 68 percent of our respondents were new, first-time parents. These numbers show that people are turning their attention back to family-building. As more employees expand their families, the demand for women’s health, fertility, and maternity care management benefits will continue to grow.

Survey details: the family benefits that matter most to working parents

Our survey dug deep to find out how employees feel about their benefits, what they really need, and how employers can do better.

One finding was particularly surprising. Employees often don’t know enough about their benefits to make the most of them:

  • Only 22 percent of respondents said their benefits were easy to understand. 
  • Most (63 percent) didn’t even know if they had family benefits such as miscarriage leave and adoption, surrogacy, and maternity care management resources.

But even the benefits employees did understand fell short. For example, nearly a quarter of respondents (24 percent) reported that they don’t have one of the most basic family-friendly benefits: paid parental leave through their employers. 

For those who had leave, 55 percent said their company’s return-to-work policies needed a major overhaul, including the overall company culture for working parents, and details like breastfeeding policies, flexibility, digital health support, childcare support, and support from managers.

  • 31 percent said their team managers weren’t understanding about their parenting needs.
  • 26 percent thought being a parent impacted their ability to get a promotion.
  • 42 percent felt their employers didn’t offer enough flexibility for working parents. 

Employees also told us that their benefits don’t do enough to support diversity, equity, and inclusion — on average, respondents gave their employers a C grade for DEI. 

Top 5 actions employers can take right now to become more family-friendly

Based on our survey results, there are many impactful things employers can do to begin improving family benefits and building a more family-friendly culture. Here are the top five, download the full report for more.

1. Provide enough paid family leave. 

While some leave is better than none at all, four months or more of paid leave is ideal. Beyond providing leave, employers can boost family-friendliness by creating a culture that accepts — and encourages — taking family leave.

2. Revamp return-to-work.

Employees told us that their organizations’ return-to-work (RTW) programs aren’t cutting it. This is an especially critical issue for retention — in those first few months after parental leave, employees face the stress of a major life change. It’s one of the key junctures when they decide whether they can balance their new family responsibilities with their job. 

Here are a few ways employers can improve RTW:

  • Create a clear and concise process for how to take leave and return to work. This includes teaching managers to prep an employee and their team for leave and provide a flexible transition back to work.
  • Establish lactation policies to ensure employees have time to manage pumping with their work schedules. It’s also important to ensure that parents have a clean, private space for expressing milk. Keep in mind that more than one employee may need access to the space, and that they will need time to travel to the lactation room, set up equipment, pump for 15 to 20 minutes, clean equipment, store milk, and return to their work area. 
  • Support employees through perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). PMADs are common in the early months of parenthood, and often untreated. A good RTW program should include tools that help employees screen for PMADs, and managers should be trained to help employees find appropriate support.
  • For more ideas and tips, download our whitepaper on the cost of RTW

3. Increase flexibility.

While a solid RTW plan goes a long way toward supporting parents, flexibility is the other key. As employees transition back after leave, employers can offer a temporarily lighter workload, a flexible work schedule, or a gradual return process. These are invaluable benefits for employees who are managing sleep deprivation, adjusting to a major life change, and figuring out a new work-life balance.

4. Invest in manager training.

Managers set the tone for a family-friendly culture, but figuring out how to be family-friendly isn’t intuitive. Managers need training to recognize and address unconscious biases that impact working parents, and to understand the needs of employees managing PMADs. With training, managers can offer the support employees need to balance work and their major life transitions.

5. Partner with a digital health solution.

An effective digital health solution connects employees to a team of board-certified experts who can help them through the biggest challenges of family building, from conception through pregnancy and parenting. An extra layer of telehealth alone isn’t enough. For the best ROI, choose a solution that’s personalized to each member, proactive about health screenings and risk factors, and responsive to key issues such as sleep coaching, PMADs, and breastfeeding.

Get the details from our latest Future of Family Friendly Benefits survey

Want to know more about the things working parents need to thrive — and stay? Check out the complete results of our Future of Family Friendly Benefits survey here

If you’re looking for a digital health partner for women’s and family health, Ovia can help. We offer 1:1 coaching with certified experts in lactation, parenting, menopause, and women’s health and wellbeing; physician-developed clinical programs; personalized health and wellness education; manager training; and benefits navigators so you can provide comprehensive women’s and family health support to your employees.