Walmart’s doula benefits go nationwide

Dive Brief:

  • Ahead of open enrollment, Walmart ushered in a benefits expansion — particularly regarding family planning. Now, (most) Walmart associates can see a doula during their pregnancy and be reimbursed up to $1,000. Exclusions include Walmart workers in Hawaii, and employees who are not enrolled in Walmart’s “premier,” “contribution,” “saver” or “local” benefits packages. 
  • Why doulas? As cited in Walmart’s press release, 2023 research from March of the Dimes suggests that 5.6 million women live in U.S. counties with little to no access to maternity care. Not only can doulas fill in those gaps, but research from the National Black Doulas Association shows that their presence increases the likelihood of positive birthing outcomes.
  • During summer 2021, Walmart rolled out its doula benefits in Georgia. A year later, those benefits were extended to Walmart workers in Louisiana, Indiana and Illinois. In 2022 as well, the retail giant added fertility treatments to its roster through Kindbody, a family-building benefits provider.

Dive Insight:

This is one thread in a greater trend of increased employer action around reproductive health. Many employers responded to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization by offering to partially or fully cover workers’ travel for an out-of-state abortion. 

It may come as no surprise that, according to Maven’s 2023 State of Fertility & Family Benefits report, more than 60% of HR professionals plan to increase family health benefits over the next few years. Almost 90% of HR professionals acknowledged that family benefits are “extremely important” to their current employees, as well as potential hires.

Something that may not be apparent is that family planning and maternal health is a racial justice issue — not just a “women’s” issue or area of concern for working parents. Mercer published a report in 2022 reconfirming that Black and Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by maternal mortality. Leads at Mercer underscored to HR Dive that disparities between Black mothers and White mothers are substantial, across socioeconomic status.

How can HR, employers and benefits professionals bridge this gap? For one, researchers called out reimbursement for doula services as a starting point.