Untapped Wellness Dollars Are Funding Much-Needed Workplace Lactation Benefits
Human resource leaders are getting creative about identifying resources to fund lactation benefits for employees. Their secret weapon? Untapped reservoirs of wellness dollars from the company’s insurance carrier.
Wellness dollars, a percentage of a company’s insurance premiums that are held in reserve for funding wellness-related efforts, can help fill the void for employers looking to create a vibrant, beyond-compliant caregiving culture for new parents. Women with children continue to represent the fastest growing workforce segment. Fast Company recently reported that 16 million working mothers are supporting 28 million children. And among working mothers, 47% are their family’s primary income earner, marking an increase of 10% from 2018.¹
New Medical Guidelines & Formula Shortage Drive Resurgent Interest for Lactation Support
Given the American Academy of Pediatrics newest guidelines, which recommend exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age and then continued breastfeeding for up to 2 years of age and beyond, new parents need even more support from employers to continue feeding their babies breast milk after they return to work. Additionally, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, the recent baby formula crisis has prompted more parents to pursue breastfeeding, with returning to work being the single most overwhelming obstacle to reaching breastfeeding goals. Employers have an opportunity to alleviate stress and burnout by introducing lactation support benefits. Approximately 60% of working women indicate they lack adequate time and accommodations to pump breast milk.²
At Kin, where we’ve helped 100+ companies customize lactation benefits that foster healthy returns for new parents, we find that employers recognize the critical nature of lactation support but may face budget limitations. Employers should explore wellness dollars as an ideal way to take the first steps toward introducing a lactation program and make some of the one-time purchases for breast pumps and supplies in the workplace. By taking this measured approach, employers are able to assess the program’s value and impact on employee satisfaction, retention and recruitment before making a bigger commitment.
One Kin client has taken full advantage of a wellness fund to bolster its family-friendly benefits in recent years by adding lactation support for their employees and their partners. The company used wellness dollars to purchase hospital-grade breast pumps so that new moms returning to work didn’t have to worry about bringing their own pumps back and forth. By making pumping as convenient as possible, with a dedicated space and supplies, employees can settle into a stress-free routine that improves overall productivity. Another benefit: a significant boost in employee satisfaction. Among both male and female employees, 83% felt more positive about the company after lactation benefits were offered.³
Defining & Harnessing Wellness Dollars to Create a Caregiver Culture
So what exactly is this best-kept secret? Wellness dollars are funds that health insurance carriers offer to employers to be spent on wellness programs for their employees. The basic premise is that workplace wellness programs improve physical and mental health, thereby resulting in fewer claims paid out by an insurer.
While not all carriers offer wellness dollars, it’s worth your time to determine if you have unused funds sitting in reserve or if you can possibly negotiate to get them added to your company’s package. The name may differ by carrier and may also be referred to as a health engagement fund, health improvement fund, wellness credits, fit rewards or wellness incentives.
A few key considerations:
Contact your carrier today. Don’t hesitate to ask your broker or insurance account manager if your package includes a wellness fund. If so, you’ll want to know before the year ends!
Use it or lose it. Wellness funds do not accrue or carry over, so be sure to act quickly to see if you have any funds sitting in reserve.
Funds can differ year to year. In addition to not carrying over, your wellness dollar amounts can vary each year.
Be clear on the approval process. Ask your carrier how funds are dispersed and gain the required approval for your preferred wellness program.
Choose broadly appealing programs like lactation support services. Programs that support new parents underscore your company’s commitment to creating a nurturing caregiver culture where a family’s well-being is highly valued.
Next Steps: Jump Start Your Lactation Program for New Families
Once you’ve confirmed the details of your wellness dollars, here are some steps you can take to get started in supporting maternal and baby well-being in your workplace.
- A great first stop is our Human Resources Toolkit, which includes an Employer Self-Evaluation Checklist, along with information on lactation space planning, reasonable break time guidelines, and an employer survey template to solicit feedback.
- In addition to thinking about supplies like hospital-grade (multi-user) breast pumps and related accessories, we suggest you touch base early on with your facilities department about the best options for a dedicated, private pumping space. If you don’t already have one, you can create or update a lactation accommodation policy to guide the process.
- Employers can also find more background from the Department of Health & Human Services, which offers helpful information on supporting employees who’d like to continue breastfeeding when they return to work.
The Kin team is passionate about easing transitions for new breastfeeding parents and transforming workplace culture. We’re here to help! Together, we’ll develop a resourceful, turnkey lactation program that optimizes your wellness dollars.
- State of Motherhood Survey of 17,000 U.S. Moms, Motherly, May 2022
- Kozhimannil et al, Access to Workplace Accommodation to Support Breastfeeding, Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, 2016
- Rocheleau et al, Promoting Worker Well-Being Through Maternal and Child Health, CDC, 2019