IBM Joins Exclusive Club of Employers Offering Surrogacy ReimbursementNovember 9, 2017
By Rachel Loftspring, Fertility Law Attorney at Essig & Evans, LLP
With few laws supporting working parents in the United States (repeat after me: there is no federal law mandating paid parental leave), certain employers realize they can use employee benefits packages to their, well, benefit.
In a tight labor market often powered by dual-income families, the most progressive employers are attracting and retaining the best and the brightest with robust benefits packages that appeal to working moms and dads. Benefits such as paid leave and shipping breast milk for traveling moms.
Unfortunately, such benefits are the exception and not the norm—only 13% of US workers actually have paid parental leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a report from New America found that 1 in 4 US birth mothers return to work just 2 weeks after childbirth.
And for intended parents pursuing surrogacy, benefits are rarer. Much rarer. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employer-provided benefits for surrogacy typically take the form of paid leave, not reimbursement, and only about 5% of employers offer such paid leave for intended parents.
Given this, I was thrilled when IBM recently announced, at its employees’ request, the introduction of surrogacy expense reimbursement. Under the new policy, IBM will reimburse employees up to $20,000 for surrogacy related expenses.
The surrogacy reimbursement was part of a larger expansion of employee benefits that increased paid maternity leave for birth mothers to a maximum of 20 weeks and paid parental leave for fathers, partners, and adoptive parents to 12 weeks. (While I applaud IBM for these generous—from a US employer perspective—increases, I also encourage IBM to offer paid leave on a gender-neutral basis).
IBM’s $20,000 reimbursement helps to offset the expensive journey that hopeful parents seeking surrogacy traverse.
While many, varied factors determine the overall cost of each surrogacy, expenses can reach $80,000 and beyond. These include medical costs (including fertility treatments that are often not covered by insurance), mental health evaluations and background check expenses, the gestational carrier’s compensation and expenses, gamete donor costs, legal fees, and matching program costs. Whether insurance is available for maternity care—not all insurance policies cover a surrogacy pregnancy—and what insurance looks like (a consistent source of frustration with the ongoing attacks on the Affordable Care Act) also impacts cost.
In adding surrogacy reimbursement, IBM joins an exclusive club of employers: EY started providing employees with $25,000 for fertility, surrogacy, and egg freezing in April 2016; Johnson & Johnson expanded surrogacy reimbursements to $20,000 in May 2016; and American Express started providing employees with $35,000 for surrogacy in December 2016.
Is reimbursement for surrogacy expenses the next frontier in the race for talent? I certainly hope so!
Have a question about surrogacy? Send me an email at email@example.com or call 513.698.9353.