Bank of America, Yelp, Starbucks, Tesla, Dicks Sporting Goods, and more are now offering Lifestyle Spending Accounts (LSAs) to support employees’ reproductive health and well-being.

Many large U.S. companies are supporting their employees’ well-being by covering travel-related expenses related to health care, including reproductive health services. Employee well-being benefits have become the number one offering employees are seeking in addition to healthcare and retirement benefits.

Lifestyle Spending Accounts (LSAs) make it easy for employers to offer flexible well-being benefits to their employees. Eligible expenses for LSAs may include yoga, spiritual retreats, sexual reassignment, surrogacy, in-vitro, adoption, and now for some companies, well-being travel for legal, state-supported abortion.

Following the Dobbs Decision that reversed Roe v. Wade in the U.S., reproductive health and well-being is in the spotlight within workplaces everywhere. The subject is polarizing and already creating concern for other areas that are up to be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Other human resource concerns now also have questions in areas of in-vitro fertilization and stem-cell therapies. The micro and macro effects have been demonstrated and well documented by economists since abortion became an essential right in 1973.

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States generally protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion. The decision struck down many U.S. federal and state abortion laws.

How this ruling impacts the workforce

According to a 2022 Pew Research Study on public views of abortion, 61% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. The greater argument to be made by companies is – within a global pandemic environment where hiring and retaining talent remains in crisis – how will the overturn impact working populations in the U.S.?

At the same time, how do we also support the thoughts and opinions of all who are for or against, while not creating alienation with other areas of our employee culture? There’s a lot to unpack here.

In the fall of 2021, an economics professor inspired an amicus brief along with 154 additional economists. This brief outlined decades of research on the loss of access to abortion and how that extinguishes women’s ability to fully participate in society.

As the negative ripples begin to systemically manifest in other seemingly unrelated areas of public debate, such as universal healthcare, childcare, and family welfare, the indisputable and immediate areas of impact reside with the labor market broadly.

Review: ‘The Harmful Effects of Overturning Roe v. Wade,” The Scientific American

“According to a 2022 study by the National Women’s Law Center, there are three-quarters of a million fewer women in the workforce based on the pandemic. Women went home to take care of kids, putting their careers aside, because their paycheck was less than their partners. What does the workplace landscape look like when reproductive rights are off the table,” commented Sylvia Flores, Chief of Brand at Espresa.

Why this employee benefit matters

There has never been a work environment where companies, individually, and collectively have had more power to positively transform people’s lives than today. The philosophical values, culture, and mission of a company are oftentimes more important to a potential or current employee than the paycheck.

People who identify as women, trans, or gender-neutral whose reproductive rights may have been minimized need to know their individual rights are supported.

“If an employee is in a state with reproductive rights restrictions and a company has a presence there, they need to consider the stress and attrition rates for their employees,” discussed Alex Shubat, CEO of Espresa.

He continued, “Many of our clients are using their LSAs or reimbursement programs to help employees confidentially travel wherever they need to go to get the help they need. What is most encouraging is that these companies are firmly and publicly discussing this hotbed issue without hesitation.”

People who identify as women, trans, or gender-neutral whose reproductive rights may have been minimized need to know their individual rights are supported.

LSAs are swiftly becoming the all-inclusive and flexible benefit for employees, living outside of ERISA and other federally mandated regulations. That means a company can design an inclusive employee benefits program to meet the core values of its people and organization. This includes providing an allowance for sexual and reproductive health care services.

Protections for reproductive autonomy, by law

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 protects women against discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or reproductive health care, which includes abortion.

From SHRM:

Per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an employee having an abortion, not having an abortion or contemplating having an abortion would be protected under the statute. For example, it would be unlawful for a manager to pressure an employee to have an abortion, or not to have an abortion, in order to retain a job, get better assignments or stay on a path for advancement.[1]

Employers must keep an employee’s abortion private in order to keep from being exposed to a discrimination or harassment claim under Title VII and/or state discrimination laws. If employees use employer-sponsored benefits to seek any reproductive health services in another state, their privacy would be protected under these laws.

“Regardless of what side of the aisle you find yourself on, employee rights on privacy are not up for negotiation,” discussed Sylvia Flores. “Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), require that employee medical information remain confidential unless the employee volunteers health information freely. Using traditional expense management tools does not work for this use case, since expenses are usually approved by a manager and finance department. LSA adjudications are outsourced to us and are confidential.”

Review: These Are the U.S. Companies Offering Abortion-Related Benefits’ Forbes

LSAs – delivering benefits beyond state boundaries

Freedom of choice and inclusivity for all employees is top of mind for employers everywhere. Lifestyle Spending Accounts deliver a way for the workplace to meet people and their immediate needs where they are, including a program design that supports medical travel for procedures unsupported by certain states. Depending on the LSA program design, this benefit may also include family members.

The value of LSAs to all employee populations

LSAs present the most flexibility for all employees, regardless of location, globally. With Espresa LSAs and reimbursements, employees have access online and to a native mobile app. Supporting wellbeing outside of what health insurance providers offer, LSAs are free of government-imposed spending restrictions and allow employees to spend freely on what they care about.

Discover how Espresa LSAs can help support employees without burdening the HR and people team. Reach out to one of our Culture Benefits experts today for a demo!

[1] Source, SHRM: FAQs on the Overturning of Roe v. Wade, June 2022


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