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It’s been more than 15 years since Canada legalized same-sex marriage. Yet it’s only been more recently that provinces such as Ontario have added reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to their list of covered medical procedures. Even then, coverage for these procedures remains limited.

It’s part of a growing gap between family diversity and coverage. Surrogacy, IVF, and even adoption are more common, yet Canadians’ benefits just aren’t keeping up.

What can be done about this gap? Your benefits plan could be part of the answer.

Why Canadian Families Are More Diverse

As noted, Canada legalized same-sex marriage in 2005. Since then, more same-sex couples have gotten married, and the number continues to grow. It’s unlikely this trend is going anywhere either, given that more Gen Zers identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

That means more diversity in the workplace, but it also means more diversity in family structure. Research shows that gay and lesbian couples are just as competent as their heterosexual counterparts when it comes to raising children. Despite that, there’s been slow progress in allowing LGBTQ+ couples to add children to their families.

Adoption is one avenue for many gay and lesbian couples. Others turn to newer reproductive methods, like surrogacy and IVF. New parental leaves designed to support adoptive parents are one way of addressing the gap between biological heterosexual families and LGBTQ+ families. Coverage for IVF and surrogacy is another.

LGBTQ+ people aren’t the only ones who benefit from better coverage in this arena. More Canadian women are delaying childbearing, sometimes well into their 30s. As fertility decreases with age, many will turn to IVF and other treatments to conceive and start or complete their families. Some will choose to freeze their eggs as well, to give them options as they continue to age.

Again, cost can be a barrier for these women. With experts sounding the alarm about declining birth rates in the West, it’s time consider offering more support to Canadians who want to become parents.

Government Coverage Is Limited

In Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, a portion of IVF costs are covered under the provincial health insurance. However, the final cost is still high. Surrogacy, which routinely costs much more, is not covered in any province.

These limited coverage amounts are relatively recent additions. Ontario only started covering IVF in 2017. While it’s a step in the right direction, it’s uncertain if other provinces will follow suit and if any province will ever fully fund the cost of IVF for hopeful Canadian parents. It’s also unknown if other methods of forming families will eventually be covered.

Where Do Employers Fit in?

Employers can help bridge the gap between Canadians’ desire to become parents and the costs of getting there. Benefits that offer supplemental coverage for IVF could help. In some provinces, employer benefits may be the only support hopeful Canadian parents can receive.

Many employers take a negative view of parents and would-be parents, seeing them as needing more time off and being less committed to their jobs. A recent UK survey challenges that view. It showed more than half of employees would be willing to remain at a job if reproductive technology needs or other family benefits were covered. More than half were also willing to overlook other employer shortcomings.

As we enter into a new era of work-life balance, it’s important for employers to re-evaluate what they offer to their employees. Employees have spent the last year evaluating what’s most important to them. Helping them achieve that could improve job satisfaction and productivity, as well as help you retain key talent for your business.

Wondering what benefits you should be offering to your team? It’s time to get in touch with the experts. We can help you identify the benefits you should be offering and help you deliver them too.

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Kaneez Jaffer

Kaneez is a Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) with an advanced knowledge of human resources and organizational structure and design. She has extensive experience with HRIS systems and understands the need to move HR from a transactional model to a transformational one. She has worked in the investment banking, insurance, and legal industries, as well as with large not-for-profit centres helping to simplify and streamline their internal systems. Kaneez is an expert in building relationships and affecting change in a positive and productive way. She acts as the key HR business partner at Apri Insurance Services Inc, managing the implementation of JungoHR, while providing expert advice and counsel on a range of HR matters. Kaneez holds a Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management as well as a Certificate in HR Law for HR Professionals from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada.

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