Lacey Loehr is the Director of Employer Programs at Pacify. She helps companies design thoughtful family benefits that support parents and the companies for which they work. Lacey began her career as a health and wellness consultant at Mercer, and has subsequently worked with purpose-driven technology companies like Pacify that support employee wellbeing.
In this Expert Interview, AdvancingWellness CEO Mari Ryan and Lacey explore the topic of family friendly workplaces.
Mari Ryan: Welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Essentials Series. I'm Mari Ryan, I'm the CEO and founder of Advancing Wellness. It's my pleasure to welcome you today to this expert interview, where we explore topics that impact employee wellbeing. My guest today is Lacey Loehr.
Lacey is the Director of Employer Programs at Pacify. She helps companies design thoughtful family benefits that support parents and the companies for which they work. Lacey began her career as a health and wellness consultant at Mercer, and has subsequently worked with purpose-driven technology companies like Pacify that support employee wellbeing.
Pacify is reinventing support for new parents; they provide on-demand access to a nationwide network of nurses, nutritionists, and lactation consultants. A Pacify membership includes unlimited tele-health consultations, 24/7, with no appointments and no waiting. Pacify works with public and private organizations to create exceptional maternity experiences, improve health outcomes and drive down costs.
Welcome, Lacey, I’m delighted to have you here today.
Lacey Loehr: Thank you, Mari, happy to be here, and thanks so much for inviting me to participate in the series.
Mari Ryan: Great, thanks. Today we are going to talk about family-friendly workplaces, or wait, we’re here in the United States, maybe not so family-friendly workplaces. We’ve known for a number of years that the United States is probably not the leader in this area and that we’re actually way behind in our support for families through benefits and family leave policies. I’m curious, why do you think that is?
Lacey Loehr: It’s a great question, and there is no doubt that we are way behind other countries. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation to not have a formal paid parental leave policy. We have a long way to go, certainly, and I think a couple of the issues boil down to politics and cost. I think, traditionally, the U.S. has been as paternalistic as some other, particularly European nations, in terms of family support. I don’t think that women, particularly new moms, have always been in the driver’s seat of this type of legislation, and I think, sometimes, especially when it comes to paid leave, although there are many other types of support for growing families, when it comes to paid leave, it’s typically a very expensive program when you are talking about a policy replacement and getting other folks to cover specific work.
Because of those two things, as with many issues, I think politics and costs play a big role there. I do think the good news is we’re seeing, particularly at the state level, whether it’s states like California, or most recently, New York – so state-by-state laws – that are at least addressing the state wage component. Of course, FMLA is in place, so job-protected means for folks, but what we find is that only covers just over half of workers because certainly there are smaller businesses that aren’t covered by that, or part-time workers; there is just over 60% of workers covered by that, and roughly a third of workers have access to some type of paid leave.
The good news is we are seeing progress. We certainly have a long way to go. What we’ve seen most recently is states taking it upon themselves and employers taking it upon themselves to create progressive environments and support women and growing families.
Mari Ryan: It’s great to hear that there is progress on this because certainly we know that small businesses, and as you mentioned, part-time workers, are probably not going to have access to these kinds of benefits. Good to hear states are making some movement in this area.
Lacey Loehr: Absolutely.
Mari Ryan: Maternity benefits are typically offered through a health insurance plan, and sometimes employers may add some additional policies, such as you mentioned, the parental leave types of things. Tell us a little bit about how these benefits have evolved.
Lacey Loehr: Sure, that’s a great question and certainly the status quo is to have some type of maternity program in place through the insurance provider. Pretty much all of the largest insurance providers, whether it’s self-funding companies or fully insured companies, will have some type of maternity offerings. The bad news is these programs really haven’t changed a lot in the past twenty years. You let your employer to know that you are pregnant, and usually sometime during the first or second trimester you get a big packet in the mail from the insurance company. It has a to-do list by trimester for you, it certainly has your health risk assessment. You have access to a generic breast pump. There is some reiteration on the what to expect series. So, some type of static content, breast pump, checklist – pregnancy packet.
I think what we are finding is, and I think there’s been an interesting number of new companies pop up, like Pacify that are trying to help make a better experience for growing families at work, we find that particularly options that have a little bit more mobile access, or that have on-demand availability for employees. I know for interior programs, many of them are structured around outbound nurse calls, and employees don’t love getting those, or feeling like they are being managed. We typically see low, single digit percentage participation on those types of programs.
Of course, things like help risk assessment are crucial, and it is super-important to know what types of support you have in place through your insurance provider, but because we’re seeing things like 80% of pediatric ER visits being dismissed as non-urgent, or a lot of moms not able to meet their breastfeeding goals, that the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breast feeding for about six months. We are nowhere close to that today. We are certainly seeing gaps in what is provided, and certainly what parents need help with. Because of that, I think there is more innovation in the states. Again, provide more on-demand support, mobile care, more holistic experience for employees.
Mari Ryan: It seems like it’s an area that is ripe for innovation and moving with the technology and other elements. What are the key trends that you are seeing with regard to family-friendly workplaces?
Lacey Loehr: It’s a great question. We are certainly seeing that this is a topic that employers are investing in. We did a survey earlier this year with a number of large companies, and simply asked them if maternity and paternity support were areas that were either ramping up in for the next twelve months, maintaining the status quo, or cutting back in, and we heard that no large employers that participated in the survey were cutting back in maternity and paternity support. We did see the vast majority, around 57%, sticking with the status quo, and about 43% investing in more support for their growing families. It’s certainly an area that companies are investing more in.
I think it runs the gamut. Of course, all employees want access to paid leave. That is a hot topic in the workplace, but we see a number of other areas that support employees that are maybe not as big of a list as that, so we certainly see, and it kind of varies based on the life cycle of the pregnancy, or stage of parenthood. Certainly, even around the early stages, like fertility and infertility, we are seeing a lot of companies that are not. Breast feeding and lactation support, of course. All employers are required to have a room where moms can pump throughout the workday and have that lactation space. That’s a big area where we’re seeing companies invest in, going above and beyond the basic requirements for that.
Other areas are around flexibility and return to work. Particularly around flexibility is an item that doesn’t require a huge budget to implement, but I think it’s something that parents appreciate and take advantage of. Certainly, the clinical support too, so access to folks like nutritionists, or lactation consultants. That’s the pediatric support, if you will, as another category.
The range is whether it’s for pregnancy, early parenthood, return to work, a lot around back up and daycare, too, especially for larger employers. We see more folks having back up in elder care as well.
Mari Ryan: Fabulous, that’s great to hear about some of those trends and the way that some of those employers are moving. I’m curious; are family-friendly policies good for business?
Lacey Loehr: My short answer is absolutely. I think that they’re not only help to foster an inclusive culture, and promote company loyalty and wellbeing, but I think the whole person shows up for work, whether you are an expecting mom or a new dad. I think a growing family, that time of new life is crucial. It’s hard to be a new parent and maintain your work responsibilities as well.
I’ll give you one example that has very clear ROIs around breastfeeding; Cigna has one of the best studies we’ve found around the business case for breastfeeding. They did a two-year study looking at when moms were able to meet their breastfeeding goals and do that exclusively for the time that they set out to, or when moms were not able to. There are enormous health benefits and therefore cost savings for employers on illnesses, ER visits, topics like asthma and eczema. I think that’s one area where that’s a good business case for breastfeeding, and in turn they are providing some type of afterhours that work. That emergency room – that is a crucial one. I think afterhours when employees aren’t supported, they end up in expensive types of care, like emergency rooms, which sometimes that’s the right place to be at two in the morning if your baby really needs help. Other times that might not either, depending on the issue and how that gets triaged, that might not be the best place for mom and baby to be at two o’clock in the morning.
I certainly think that having a family-friendly workplace is great for business. You see a lot of compelling facts around retention and overall employee wellbeing and satisfaction when work programs like this are in place.
Mari Ryan: It’s exciting to hear that Pacify and programs such as this are available to support families and be able to give them the resources that they need at their fingertips. It sounds like it could be very cost effective and provide a lot of peace of mind for parents.
If our audience wants to learn a little bit more about you or the work that you’re doing at Pacify, where can they reach you?
Lacey Loehr: Absolutely. We’d love to continue the conversation and the best way to get in touch, probably the most simple way is to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will circle right back. That’s the best way to get in touch. Our website is Pacify.com if folks want to learn a little bit more. I’m very excited to see the momentum we’re seeing in the family benefits space. I think it’s about time to offer support for our hardworking parents and I’m very excited to help build the momentum. Thanks again for having me and for talking about these important topics.
Mari Ryan: All so very important topics, so thanks so much for your time today. Nice to be with you, Lacey.
Lacey Loehr: You too, thanks Mari.
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