The family is changing – ensure your benefits include them all
The family is changing. Social and cultural shifts over the past few decades have evolved the perception of a ‘normal’ family unit. A rise in the number of divorces and couples choosing not to marry, alongside an evolution of social attitudes towards single parents and same-sex couples means society has a more inclusive understanding of the family unit.
During the Covid-19 pandemic there was a significant surge in demand for family employee benefits due to a need for greater work-life balance. As a result, many organisations now offer some form of family benefit. However, there is a growing recognition that a more diverse approach is required.
There are now more employee benefits options available to employers than ever before. This should mean it’s more straightforward for organisations to provide the right support for employees.
However, as understanding of the complexities of employees’ needs continues to grow, it’s becoming clear there are large groups of people who fall through the cracks of a traditional one-size-fits-all approach to family benefits.
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Consider family forming options
Starting a family can be overwhelming for anybody, but especially for couples who are unable to conceive without help.
Couples who face fertility issues, as well as some LGBTQ+ couples, might require support to start a family. This can take the form of IVF, sperm donation, surrogacy, or adoption, all of which can be costly and difficult to navigate, while also taking a toll emotionally and mentally.
Employers can enable access to counselling and mental health support, as well as financial wellbeing tools. These could provide vital support for employees and help manage the emotional and financial impact for those facing fertility challenges.
In recent years the employee benefits market has seen a rise in the number of providers offering reproductive health benefits and support services, offering a wide range of options for couples with a variety of family forming needs including heterosexual and same-sex couples, as well as trans and non-binary people.
Incorporate financial wellbeing
The financial impact of starting a family can be huge. From essential items and developmental toys and books to the growing cost of childcare, the financial demands of parenthood can affect all couples, even those in a higher pay bracket.
As the cost-of-living crisis looms large, for some families the impact is acute, despite extra government support. For single parent families or lower income households, the rising costs of everyday essentials such as food, clothing and transport have become crippling. Families with adoptive or foster children could also face similar financial worries, as household circumstances can change very quickly, putting additional demands on parents’ finances.
In response, crisis, employers are increasingly looking to provide access to a range of financial wellbeing tools such as debt management, financial education and planning, helping employees understand and gain control of their own financial circumstances. This type of support alongside access to everyday savings through a discount portal could make a significant difference for some families.
Additionally, for families where grandparents take childcare responsibility, retirement planning and pensions advice is most important, especially where grandparents are approaching retirement. Older couples caring for children might benefit from supplementary savings schemes and retail discounts to cope with and prepare for additional demands on finances, so they can avoid depleting their pension or retirement fund.
Make space for families with additional needs
One of society’s last remaining taboos is around those with additional needs. With numerous high-profile campaigns in recent years, attitudes to parenting neurodiverse, disabled, or gender dysphoric children have evolved rapidly.
Many employers have altered their working practices and policies in response, while placing greater emphasis on the extension of healthcare provisions such as private medical insurance), health cash plans and second opinion services to support the wellbeing needs of employees’ families.
For employees who themselves face gender dysphoria, or parenting children who are, services such as an employee assistance programme could provide access counselling or advice, while more tailored support can be provided through PMI or reproductive health benefits, which increasingly include gender dysphoria.
Although attitudes to neurodiversity and disability as a whole are slowly changing, representation of neurodiverse or disabled adults within the workplace is still relatively low. There is also a lack of recognition of the fact that adults with neurodiversity or disability also make up a percentage of the parent population.
It's clear that employers’ attitudes to family benefits are evolving as a result of societal change, but there are still gaps which leave some families unsupported. The focus on diversity, equity and inclusion as a tool for ensuring the wellbeing and engagement of employees will only become more prominent in the coming years, as it becomes an essential element of any organisation’s recruitment and retention programme.
In partnership with PIB Employee Benefits
PIB Employee Benefits is a forward-thinking consulting business.