- Walmart is rolling out a doula benefit that it will offer to associates in the U.S. state of Georgia, the retailer announced in a June 17 blog post.
- The benefit will cover associates for doula services in the amount of up to $1,000 per pregnancy. The doula must be credentialed through one of two organizations — DONA International or the National Black Doulas Association. It is part of the company's "Life with Baby" program, a component of its medical plan which offers associates no-cost access to resources.
- The company is starting the benefit "where we believe we can leverage our network of health care resources to create immediate positive impact in supporting healthy pregnancies," Lisa Woods, the company's vice president, physical and emotional well-being, said in the blog post.
The pandemic led many employers to expand benefits that support working parents, according to a February Care.com report. The website's survey of employers found half said they would offer new or expanded child care benefits, with 66% choosing to provide additional work flexibility and 63% opting to expand childcare benefits.
That trend could be in part a response to the perceived ineffectiveness of programs that were in place last year. A September 2020 Willis Towers Watson survey found fewer than half of employer respondents said their benefits were meeting working parents' needs. One in four respondents to the same survey reported having lost talent due to increased caregiving responsibilities.
The reality of parents leaving the workforce during the pandemic is also reflected in other research. A 2020 Pew Research Center data analysis found that the share of U.S. mothers and fathers who were working declined last year, while employment among mothers declined regardless of the age of their children — though Black, Asian and Hispanic mothers experienced larger unemployment declines compared to White mothers.
Doula support could aid working mothers in ways that other parent-focused employee benefits may not; a 2014 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota showed women with doula support had lower odds of requiring a caesarean delivery compared to those who did not have doula support.
"For women who may be at higher risk of complications, doulas can also play an essential role in helping to protect the health of pregnancy," said Woods. "They can help to decrease time spent during labor, decrease the incidence of c-section births and help to improve the overall birthing experience. Yet, in the U.S., doulas are often not considered an essential health service, and therefore are paid for in many cases entirely out of pocket."
The retailer now joins a couple of other large employers to begin offering coverage for doula services. Microsoft, through its Health Connect Plan, started a similar $1,000 per pregnancy doula benefit in January. That same month, CVS Health rolled out a doula benefit of $1,200 per year to eligible employees.
In addition to benefits, HR teams may need to implement cultural changes that allow working parents to effectively focus on work and collaboration despite the challenges posed by child care and other activities. In an October 2020 U.S. Chamber of Commerce event, executives pointed to flexible scheduling and smaller steps, such as allowing employees to have their children with them during video calls and meetings, as potential solutions.