Offering abortion benefits become double-edged sword, new study shows

By Dave Andrusko

At first blush, a company offering “Abortion Benefits” might seem to be in win-win situation. These benefits cover travel costs from a state that provides legal protection to unborn babies to one that doesn’t. Some women will take advantage of this and those who object—men or women —are powerless to do anything about it.

However, a new study suggests there is a tradeoff. “Not all employees are happy with it; some employees have accused their employers on social media of being ‘woke,’” according to Patrick Thibodeau, Senior News Writer at TechTarget.

On the one hand

A German research institute found that companies with reproductive care policies, enacted after the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade last year, had 8% more clicks on job postings compared with similar companies that did not announce such benefits. The IZA Institute of Labor Economics study used data from the job site Indeed. …

The results showed that companies can recruit more workers of specific genders and political beliefs by offering abortion benefits, researchers said.

But, on the other hand,

[T]he study also examined Glassdoor’s anonymous employee reviews of companies that offer abortion benefits. It showed a decrease in ratings for senior management and reported a 325% increase in the use of the word woke in reviews. The drop in satisfaction was more pronounced in male-dominated jobs.

Thibodeau interviewed Evan Starr, associate professor of management and organization at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and one of the researchers on the study. Smith said the findings “suggest that firms that announce that they will cover out-of-state abortions experience an increase in job seeker interest, but it is coming mostly from states where abortions are already legal.”

Starr added that the abortion benefit is “more of a way to signal firm culture rather than provide an actual fringe benefit.” On the flip side, “covering out-of-state abortions is a turnoff for others in the company, notably men,” he said.

Thibodeau also interviewed David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, an HR consulting firm in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Lewis said the abortion benefits issue can create a polarizing work environment by “creating support from one population and negativity from another.”

“You also are running a huge risk around how employees and clients feel about the issue,” he said.

“Responding to hot-button issues is complicated,” Crystal Styron, senior principal in the Gartner HR practice, told Thibodeau. Executives need to consider “unique preferences and demographics when considering when and how to weigh in on sociopolitical issues,” she said.

Styron added. “Taking a strong stance may alienate others who are not in favor of that position.”

So did the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade influence corporate site selection, as was predicted right after the June 2022 Dobbs decision? Only a few cases emerged, John Boyd, principal of The Boyd Co., a corporate site selection consulting firm in Boca Raton, Florida, told Thibodeau.

That hasn’t stopped some blue states from making reproductive rights protections “fundamental to their economic development approach,” Boyd said.

But overall, in terms of site selection, Boyd sees the emergence of crime as a leading issue in office locations.