07 July 2022

Roundtable Readout- Roe vs. Wade: What now for organizations?

Priyanka Mehrotra
Research Lead

TL;DR

  • We asked a group of leaders about their organizations’ response to the overturn of the Roe vs. Wade ruling and how they are supporting their employees.
  • There is a general sense of fear preventing leaders from taking a stand on the issue
  • Companies are more focused on the healthcare aspect of the issue
  • Data privacy is a challenge but companies are not thinking about it
  • It’s too soon to tell what the long-term implications this will be for organizations

On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs. Wade ruling, leaving many companies scrambling. In response, we convened a roundtable of leaders on June 30 to discuss these challenges and identify possible solutions.

Specifically, we discussed 3 questions:

  • How organizations are communicating about Roe vs. Wade, both internally and externally
  • How organizations can support those affected by this reversal
  • What are some of the broader implications for talent attraction, retention, and employee experience

Key takeaways

There is a general sense of fear resulting in a slow or lack of response from organizations on the issue

Companies had been quick and vocal about expressing their support for social issues in the recent past, such as the Black Lives Matter (#BLM) movement. Yet, many have stayed silent on this issue both internally and externally due to a few reasons:

  • While some groups and individuals expect their employers to take a stand on the issue, others prefer to avoid political discussions at work.
  • Many companies have offices across the globe. Taking a stand on a U.S.-based issue that does not impact large parts of the organization has deterred many leaders from speaking out publicly.
  • Many leaders are afraid of expressing a personal view or explicitly showing support or dissent for the ruling. Instead, they are limiting their response to acknowledging differing beliefs.

However, there is also a general fear of repercussions from staying silent on the issue. Employees have an increased level of expectations from their employers to take a stand, mainly because many organizations have been vocal about political issues in the recent past.

Many companies are focusing on the healthcare aspect of the issue

Many companies, unwilling to take a political stance on the topic, are using language that promotes healthcare access for employees to show their support. Because the overturn of the ruling changed laws overnight in some states, many HR leaders are not clear on the current benefits available to employees and how they will change in the future. Participants mentioned the lack of communication from their insurance companies, making it hard for organizations to share information with employees resulting in confusion and fear.

Some companies are finding other ways of helping their employees, such as:

  • Expanding benefits to include travel expense coverage
  • Communicating that the health and safety of their employees is their top priority
  • Working with their benefits provider to ensure that all employees, regardless of location, have access to the healthcare they need

Some are also providing mental health and wellbeing support by:

  • Encouraging conversations led by employee or business resource groups (E / BRGs) with guidelines on how to start a conversation on the topic, and set expectations around sharing, listening, and respecting each other
  • Opening up forums and town halls for communications with leadership
  • Promoting employee assistance programs (EAPs) for emotional support, including crisis lines offered to employees in need
  • Bringing in external facilitators to guide discussion and hold courageous conversations without repercussions

Privacy is a concern, but many are not thinking about it

There are serious legal implications that could emerge from the data collected on employees, but few companies are thinking about it or addressing it right now. Data tracking on employees who request medical support could lead to privacy concerns around access and usage. Similarly, reimbursements for travel expenses that require disclosure of travel purposes could also result in privacy challenges.

One of the ways companies can prevent such challenges is by using a third-party administrator for travel reimbursements or stipends which would ensure privacy for employees. Additionally, companies can restrict access to sensitive data such as biometrics. Finally, some organizations are revisiting their paid time off (PTO) policies to remove the distinction between sick time and PTOs and help afford employees privacy when applying for a leave without disclosing the specific reasons.

It’s too soon to know the broader impact on organizations

Participants agreed that while there will certainly be some implications for organizations based on how they approach this issue, it is too early to tell whether they will be long-term and significant. Over time, companies could find themselves asking questions such as:

  • Is this impacting the experience different populations have within the company?
  • Is talent attraction impacted because of it?
  • Has it impacted our attrition in the long term?
  • Do we see this affecting our brand?

Organizations are aware that any communications regarding the overturn will affect their company culture over time.

Thank you to all who participated and shared their experiences. We welcome your suggestions, thoughts, and feedback at [email protected].

Priyanka Mehrotra
Research Lead at RedThread Research

Priyanka Mehrotra is a Research Lead at RedThread Research. Before joining the company in 2018, she was part of the research team at Bersin by Deloitte where she worked on talent management, D&I, and people analytics as well as conducted research and contributed content for Bersin’s Mid-market study. Prior to Bersin by Deloitte, Priyanka worked at several non-profits, think-tanks, and international organizations where she published and co-authored several articles.

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