March is a significant month for two reasons: Women’s History Month and National Disability Awareness Month. It is a perfect time to highlight one of the most common disability claims made by women in the workplace: maternity leave.
The Mom Project reports that over one million American women will become parents this year, and for many women, pregnancy may be their first experience with disability insurance. Even if employers offer generous paid maternity leave, using short-term disability insurance is still an essential option for many women as they recover from labor and delivery.
Although employer disability plans cover lost wages, employees may still face significant costs such as deductibles, copays, coinsurance, and other expenses associated with a new child. These financial challenges are just one piece of a complicated puzzle. So, what can employers do to help their employees during this time?
Here are four ways employers can assist:
- Offer supplemental medical coverages Supplemental medical coverage can be helpful for expecting and new parents. Hospital indemnity insurance is one such option that can pay a flat dollar amount for each day of hospitalization, with higher amounts paid for the first day. These payments are made directly to the employee and can be used for any purpose, such as offsetting deductibles and coinsurance, supplementing disability payments, purchasing baby items, or setting up a college fund. Hospital indemnity insurance is increasingly offered by employers, with 30% providing coverage and 61% of employers with over 1,000 employees.
- Provide concierge and advocacy benefits Maternal mental health resources, family benefit education, and leave advocacy are crucial for new parents. Employers can offer benefits such as BenefitBump, which provides support for all paths to parenthood and helps employees achieve a successful return to work. Many employees struggle to navigate benefit programs, and employers can help maximize their impact.
- Redesign the return-to-work experience To make returning to work more comfortable for new mothers, employers can consider phased returns. This approach offers check-in days during leave and a gradual return to work, starting with three days a week and ramping up to five. Employers can also offer mentoring programs for new parents and those who are experienced caregivers.
- Assist with child care Employers can help new mothers with child care costs by providing onsite facilities, subsidized rates, or backup care. Child care expenses are at an all-time high, and some women may feel compelled to leave their job when the costs outweigh the benefits of working.
In conclusion, creating a comfortable experience for employees as they become parents is crucial for employers. Although traditional resources may be in place, employers can offer more solutions to show employees they are valued during this pivotal moment in their lives and careers.