How Companies Should Talk About Abortion Care with Employees
Kids say what they want when they want, no matter who is listening. My three-year-old son hears (and repeats!) a range of vocabulary from me and his dad, including anatomically correct names for body parts. I think it’s useful for him to know real words versus using made up or coded language. Why?
Because as communicators we know that words have meaning. And when we use euphemisms or avoid certain words all together, we enforce stigmas.
When the Supreme Court decided to end the right to an abortion, further stigmatizing a private healthcare decision, many organizations took notice – and took a stand. Since then, we’ve heard them speak out and take action to make sure their employees’ healthcare needs are met.
Some companies have created relief funds to help with the cost of abortion care and travel to states where they can obtain safe and reliable abortion service, while others are offering relocation assistance for employees who want to move to states where there is adequate abortion access.
While many companies are taking important steps toward supporting their people, what can individuals do?
The Supreme Court’s ruling is impacting people’s sense of security, health and well-being. As humans working with other humans, we can do our part to talk to and support each other. Let’s normalize discussing and sharing information about abortion care at work. Here are five tips on how HR and internal communications can do just that.
1. Remember language matters
As we work to normalize the discussion around abortion access and healthcare, we can unintentionally stigmatize reproductive healthcare in the process. Educate yourself and your people on the dos and don’ts around abortion conversations.
This useful guide from HuffPost helped me understand the negative impacts of using euphemisms instead of just saying the actual word ‘abortion.’
2. Coach your people managers
People managers may be the first person an employee speaks to at work about their abortion. Employees may need to travel to another state for access or need time off to recover from the procedure. An empathetic response from their manager can help support them during this time and build long-term psychological safety.
But let's face it: not all managers are armed with these skills. Change that. Support your managers as they lead their teams during tough times and equip them with up-to-date information and resources.
3. Publish and make up-to-date benefits easy to find
Health benefits matter to your people, especially when they need them most. Don’t make employees sift through booklets of benefits information to find out what the company will do to support them.
Make information easily accessible for all your employees on your intranet or other channels. Information on abortion benefits is top-of-mind for many employees, and even job seekers. Transparency around your benefits is crucial.
According to a survey by LeanIn, more than three-quarters of women under age 40 who responded (76%) are more likely to want to work for a company that supports abortion access.
4. Make sure employees can access benefits while feeling comfortable
This means keeping your employee information confidential – a concern for many employees and employers alike – as well as reimbursing them in a timely fashion.
There are many services available that can aid in the process and Maven is a popular one. They receive glowing reviews for their empathetic and timely customer service, as well as offerings that keep up with the quickly changing policies in the U.S. and world.
5. Align your external statements and internal policies
Make sure that the public statements made on social media and other external channels align with your organization’s policies and procedures. If they don’t, ask why!
We all play apart in holding each other accountable. It's better for you to sound the alarm internally than to be called out publicly on social media.
YOU CAN STILL DO YOUR PART
A lot of hard work is falling to companies to make sure their people’s healthcare needs are met. Rhia Ventures maintains a database that tracks corporate responses to abortion bans, which helps people identify companies who are speaking out and taking action for their employees.
Even if your company hasn’t spoken out or taken action yet, you can still do your part! An individual conversation that sets a tone of comfort is an important step each of us can take toward normalizing the discussion around abortion within our organizations.
The time to speak up and act is now. Your people – your greatest asset – are counting on you.