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Blue @ Work

Are you supporting new parents in the workplace?

Emphasize quality benefits over quantity.

Millennials make up 85 percent of all pregnancies, and while most will experience a healthy pregnancy, a recent analysis of Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) data show this generation is experiencing some of the highest increases in health conditions that could lead to higher risks of pregnancy and childbirth complications. Learn more and get resources to share with your employees with our free "Understanding Millennial Health and Pregnancy" PDF Fileflyer.

Picture your workforce. Whether you employ five people, 50 or 500, it's likely you'll have a millennial in the mix. Millennials currently make up 50 percent of the workforce and will make up 75 percent in 2025. They’re also currently in their childbearing years.

Whether or not you employ millennials today, it’s very likely that you will in the future — so it’s time to future-proof your benefits strategy to help you attract and retain quality employees.

We’re covering several options and considerations for your benefits strategy to help support new or soon-to-be parents in the workplace, broken down into three main parts: benefits, culture, and well-being.

Benefits: Emphasize quality over quantity

When it comes to family-friendly benefits, paid leave is the most coveted. According to Unum, more than half of U.S. workers want paid family leave External Site — including 64 percent of millennials. And, as the push to mandate paid leave at the federal level gets stronger, large companies are making headlines with their generous policies: unlimited paid leave during the first year at Netflix; 20 weeks of paid leave for birth mothers at Amazon; and 16 weeks of paid leave at Wells Fargo. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield also recently changed its policy for paid family leave, adding six weeks of leave at 100 percent pay for new parents.

However, this level of paid leave is often out of reach for smaller companies. And, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) External Site, which offers job-protected (but unpaid) leave for 12 weeks every calendar year, only applies to companies and employees that meet specific criteria External Site. Mike Erickson, team leader for employee benefits and wellness at Wellmark, has some tips and advice for benefits administrators who want to attract and retain millennial employees in their childbearing years.

  1. Observe past trends. Answering the following questions can help you identify pain points or areas for future growth in your benefits strategy for new parents:
    • How much scheduled time did they take?
    • Were they engaged in their work right away when they came back?
    • Did they take additional, unscheduled time off that added unexpected strain to your operating model?
    • Did they leave for another position shortly after returning from leave?
  2. Learn what your employees want. “There are a lot of opportunities for benefits that new parents will appreciate,” Erickson says. “Before making any changes, get feedback from your employees to understand what they do and don’t value.” This can be as simple as sending out a 5-10 question survey each year or discussing the topic at an all-employee meeting.
  3. Help them see the value of what you do offer. Family-friendly benefits aren’t only about allowing your employees to take extended leave — they’re also about the support you provide after they return to work. For example, you might have a comfortable setup for new moms to pump breast milk at work. Or, you have an arrangement with a local childcare facility to provide discounted care.

Bottom line: It’s not just about the benefits. “People don’t usually come to your company for benefits or stay for the benefits,” Erickson says. “At the end of the day, it’s just a piece of the puzzle.”

Culture: How supportive are you?

As any expectant parent knows, it can be nerve-wracking to figure out how to balance work and home life. You can offer your employees a benefit that doesn't cost a dime: support. By creating a culture of support and open dialogue around work-life balance, your employees will feel valued and engaged.

When an employee approaches you about the upcoming birth of a child or perhaps an adoption, start the conversation early about their plan for taking time off and transitioning back to work after that. By planning ahead, both of you will have time to talk through projects, daily tasks and put together a backup plan for how their work will continue when on leave.

You can offer your employees the best benefits and salaries, but if they don't feel connected to the work or mission of your company, odds are they aren't engaged. With the help of SALVEO Partner's Thriving Workplace Culture Survey (TWCS) and your dedicated well-being consultant, you can learn how to bridge the current engagement gap within your workplace.

Be sure to ask your expectant parents:

  • How can you help?
  • What support do your employees have?
  • What will they be expected to do when they return?

This support can help take reduce stress, which is so important when it comes to the new parent's health.

Well-being: How can you help your employees thrive?

Think about the typical worries of new parents. Finances and time management will be at the top of the list. What benefits do you have in place to help? Here are some to consider. 


We know finances are a major concern for many, and adding a new baby into the family only increases costs. But, there are some ways you can help an employee prepare:

Make things convenient for new parents

We've all said it: There just aren't enough hours in the day. That's why looking for solutions that will help employees get the most out of their day will help them feel supported and will help them be more present at work. With a health plan from Wellmark you can offer your employees these time-saving resources:

  • With Doctor On Demand® there's no driving to an appointment or waiting in an office. It offers virtual visits with board-certified physicians for a number of minor ailments, from a run-of-the-mill cold or flu to headaches, skin conditions or bronchitis. Physicians can even prescribe medication, if needed.
  • BeWell 24/7SM Opens in a new window connects Wellmark customers with real people who can help with a variety of health-related concerns no matter the time or day. Your employees and their families can get help coordinating appointments, managing complex situations, getting a second opinion, and more. Just have them call Eight, Four, Four, Eight, Four, Be Well 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • myWellmark® is another great resource employees can use to manage their health care. With myWellmark employees can view and track claims Secure Site, understand how their benefits worked and even find in-network health care providers and facilities.

And, here's one more thing to consider: breastfeeding support.

Encourage your employees to check their exact benefits for breast pumps through their insurance provider. For Wellmark members, breast pumps are generally covered every two years. Wellmark does require a prescription on any durable medical equipment (DME) Opens in a new window, including breast pumps even if it can be purchased without one.

Under the ACA, employers are required to provide a private space for employees to pump breast milk. But by going above the minimum and dedicating a comfortable and clean room where they can pump, it can make a huge difference in their return to work plan.

You're there for your employees and we’re here for you. Wellmark can help you understand your employees and put together a benefits package that’s right for you. We’ll use data to help you make smart benefits decisions.

Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at Send Email.