‘Family is Family’: Why Intel’s New Adoption & Fertility Policies are a Step in the Right Direction

sperm and eggs
Via freedigitalphotos.net

By Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D.

This week Intel announced new job benefit policies that include tripling their adoption assistance program, and quadrupling their fertility coverage, noting, “family is family – no matter what it looks like.”

This comes after the company unveiled an expanded “family bonding leave” policy in January, which allows employees who are new parents to take up to eight weeks of paid leave, in addition to the existing pregnancy policy that provides new mothers with up to 13 weeks of paid time off. The “family bonding leave” can be taken any time within the first 12 months of a child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

Recognizing that the cost of adoption has nearly doubled since they first began offering adoption benefits in 2009, Intel is increasing their adoption benefit from $5,000 to $15,000 and removing the lifetime maximum.

“Whether Intel employees are looking into adopting a first child, or are creating room in their home for those who need it most, removing a lifetime maximum on adoption benefits allows employees to bring the maximum amount of love into their family,” a company press release stated.

In addition, fertility benefits will be increased from $10,000 to $40,000, with an additional $20,000 available for prescription coverage. Also hugely significant is the removal of the requirement to have a medical diagnosis in order to qualify – something that had previously excluded same sex couples from this benefit.

“As a 30-something, I’m just now beginning to think about what my family plan might look like. These benefits remove a lot of the stress that myself and many of my colleagues — both men and women — have around creating our families.  These are personal, complex choices, and for Intel to better enable us to make those choices at any time in our lives, well, that makes all the difference to me,” Karlin Keller, senior technical assistant to the senior vice president of human resources remarked in an Intel press release.

At this time last year, Facebook and Apple made news for announcing that egg freezing would be a job benefit for women – a move that drew both praise and criticism for both expanding and potentially limited women’s reproductive options.

For instance, a post published on Ethics & Society entitled “Options or oppression: What do new egg freezing job benefits mean for women?” argued:

Women should not in any way feel pressured or coerced into freezing their eggs in order to indicate that they are taking their job seriously and are deserving of promotion. A woman’s decision to retrieve and freeze her eggs should not be based on the assumption that her employer will view her more favorably because she has taken active steps to postpone childbearing, and will not take maternity leave for some time, if at all.

To be sure, egg freezing can also be viewed as a way to expand women’s reproductive autonomy and options. The arguments in favor of egg freezing are not new: the process allows women to store eggs for future use for a variety of reasons, including fertility concerns after cancer treatment, economic reasons, and the most widely-cited example: allowing women to put off having children in order to focus on their careers.

There is a major difference between job benefits focused primarily on egg freezing – a process exclusively involving women’s bodies – and an expansion of adoption and fertility benefits, including those applicable to same sex parents. Policies like these help to shift the perception of “families” as rigidly defined units comprised of a mother and father and their biological and genetic children, to one that is far more inclusive and frankly, accurate.

While corporate policies like Intel’s are certainly not yet the norm, it is a crucial step toward a more equitable view of expanding varieties of families – particularly those involving adoption, foster parenting, and same sex parents – and a welcome addition to the discussion.

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is a bioethicist at the Center for Ethics Education at Fordham University, editor of Ethics & Society, and coordinates the HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @elizabethics

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