Last year’s overturning of Roe v. Wade was a serious blow to so many across the nation. It allowed states to begin passing restrictions on abortion access, which has a direct negative impact for people who became pregnant by abusive partners, child victims of incest, ectopic pregnancy patients, and others who feel that they are not physically, emotionally, psychologically, or financially ready to carry out a pregnancy.
Abortion access has proved to be a vital facet of reproductive healthcare. Amid the Dobbs decision, some employers have taken the initiative to publicly stand for abortion rights. Big companies including Walmart, Patagonia, Chobani, Lyft, Uber, and Dick’s Sporting Goods have all made public the ways in which they are helping their employees access abortion care. We laud these companies for making this incredibly vital stance.
While some workplaces may encounter some limitations due to the state laws under which they operate, every workplace has the capacity to examine their policies to ensure their pregnant or may-become-pregnant employees are protected in both job and financial security as well as their access to the healthcare that they need to lead healthy and happy lives. Firstly, it is vital to look into ways to allowing for employees to utilize a reasonable amount of time for pregnancy leave (which has its own economic benefits). It may also be worth looking into parental leave for partners who didn’t give birth to allow for their partners who did to have more help in the home as they recover. This would also serve to normalize the value that each parent plays in the adjustment period to welcoming a new baby.
Secondly, employers should look into the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act that was recently passed. This act stipulates the need for employers (those who work for congressional, federal, employment, and labor organizations in the public and private sectors with 15 employees or more) to have “reasonable accommodations” for employees from the pregnancy period to postpartum recovery. We encourage any employer who is exempt from this act to still follow its example.
Access to reproductive healthcare improves employee satisfaction, productivity, and overall wellbeing. Below are some recommendations of areas to ensure are covered for the benefit of all employees impacted by a pregnancy.
-Prenatal and postpartum care: Healthcare during pregnancy and afterwards is absolutely crucial to employee welfare. In addition to offering health insurance that helps cover the costs of those appointments, employers must encourage an environment that allows for employees to take off of work for them. It is often difficult for pregnant employees to find availability with their doctors after work hours, so ensure that the workday isn’t so inflexible that the pregnant employee does not have the ability to adjust their work schedule to allow those appointments. Folks who need to end a pregnancy may also need flexible and accommodating sick leave policies, too. Employees should provide the flexibility for staff to take time off for their health for any reason, to create a positive culture where taking time off for health isn’t stigmatized or discouraged.
-Fertility treatments: Some employees may be undergoing additional stress due to a difficulty in getting pregnant. Black women face a higher rates of infertility issues than white women, yet are less likely to receive fertility care due to reasons ranging from its financial inaccessibility, lack of mental health care to coincide with it, and issues finding a physician that works with them. It’s up to employers to demonstrate that they stand by their employees by meeting their health needs, including those related to pregnancy and family planning. Reproductive care means everyone deserves to have the opportunity to pursue the family and home life they desire, and this is one more way employers can show their investment and care for their employees.
-Family Planning/Contraceptive Care: Some employees are not at the stage where they are interested in becoming pregnant, and may want access to contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. For others, contraceptives are medically necessary to manage symptoms of chronic illnesses like PCOS or acne, for example. Regardless of the reason, every employee who desires contraceptives should have the ability to access it without judgment or barriers to access, which is why it is imperative that employers look into providing comprehensive contraceptive coverage in their health insurance.
We are unsure what the legal landscape for abortion access and reproductive healthcare will be in the future, but we look forward to seeing all that the employers around us do to take care of their employees’ reproductive health.
RALIANCE is a trusted adviser for organizations committed to building cultures that are safe, equitable, and respectful. RALIANCE offers unparalleled expertise in serving survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse which drives our mission to help organizations across sectors create inclusive environments for all. For more information, please visit www.RALIANCE.org.