On Friday, the US supreme court voted 5 to 4 to overturn the landmark Roe V Wade 1973 ruling that gave constitutional protection to safe abortions across the country. This means that individual states have the power to decide on whether to legislate against abortions or not.
Within hours of the ruling, 13 states acted to ban abortions completely – sometimes without any exceptions in the case of rape and incest. Examples include Idaho, Arkansas and Oklahoma, where women and doctors performing abortions could face prison time.
A further 13 US states are expected to move to also ban and criminalize abortions.
In response to the situation – as well as huge protests outside courthouses and government buildings across the US – many big employers in the US have moved to offer support to their workers.
Many HR leaders and team may be struggling to know what to do in response to employee questions or demands, so here are three examples of what big employers are doing to safeguard workers’ rights to safe abortions in the US.
Pay employees expenses to travel out of state
The major approach that US employers have taken is to guarantee their workers access to comprehensive healthcare, which includes family planning and reproductive care.
Examples include Warner Bros, Meta, Disney, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan and Patagonia.
A Warner Bros’ spokesperson told the New York Times: “In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision, we immediately expanded our health care benefits options to cover transportation expenses for employees and their covered family members who need to travel to access abortion and reproductive care”.
While Johnson & Johnson shared on Friday: “As the world’s most broadly based health care company, we strive to improve access and affordability, create healthier communities, and put health within reach for the people we serve.
“We also believe health care decisions are best determined by individuals in consultation with their health care provider.”
Meta shared it would reimburse travel expenses for those who need out of state reproductive care. At the same time, the tech giant banned staff from discussing the Roe V Wade decision at work.
Managers at Meta pointed employees to a 12 May memo, which has been seen by the New York Times, and stated “discussing abortion openly at work has a heightened risk of creating a hostile work environment” and so the company has taken “the position that we would not allow open discussion.”
Business Insider reported that Amazon took a similar stance, covering the cost for employees to access abortions out of state, as well as asking staff to “ be respectful of everyone’s perspectives” after some workers celebrate the defeat of Roe V Wade on company Slack channels.
Outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia took a different approach.
In a LinkedIn post, the company wrote: “Caring for employees extends beyond basic health insurance, so we take a more holistic approach to coverage and support overall wellness to which every human has a right. That means offering employees the dignity of access to reproductive health care.
“It means supporting employees’ choices around if or when they have a child. It means giving parents the resources they need to work and raise children.”
But Patagonia went one step further by also offering “training and bail for those who peacefully protest for reproductive justice”. Live Nation Entertainment has offered to do the same, according to Bloomberg.
Pay to relocate employees
Some employers have gone even further and offered to relocate employees to different states that will not be implementing abortion bans.
One example is Salesforce. The cloud computing giant shared that it will pay travel costs associated with abortions, offering counselling with the support of Lyra Health, as well as relocate companies if they are worried about access to abortions or other reproductive medical procedures.
CNBC reported that Brent Hyder, Salesforce chief people officer, wrote on Slack: “If you have concerns about access to critical health care in your state, Salesforce will provide financial support for travel, available through our health care providers, and/or help relocate you and members of your immediate family.”
Google has taken a similar approach, and is allowing workers to “apply for relocation without justification”. This is not a change to existing HR policies, but Google is taking the opportunity to remind employees that relocation is an option open to them.
‘This is a profound change for the country that deeply affects so many of us, especially women. Please be mindful of what your co-workers may be feeling and, as always, treat each other with respect,’ wrote Fiona Cicconi, chief people officer at Google.
Rethink office locations
Language learning app Duolingo has like many other tech companies fledge to pay for out of state abortion travel. A spokesperson told Fast Company that Duolingo was “updating our benefits to ensure every Duolingo employee in the United States can access reproductive healthcare, including reimbursement for any travel expenses necessary for accessing abortion services”.
But Duolingo’s CEO Luis von Ahn went one step further on Twitter.
von Ahn tweeted:
To all Pennsylvania politicians: I love that @duolingo is headquartered in Pittsburgh and that y'all use it as an example that successful tech companies can start here. If PA makes abortion illegal, we won't be able to attract talent and we'll have to grow our offices elsewhere.
— Luis von Ahn (@LuisvonAhn) June 24, 2022
In the ongoing war for talent, dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’, could employers’ attitudes towards the Roe V Wade ruling be another factor in whether employees do or do not apply for jobs with them?
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