Culture   //   August 11, 2023

One year on: How abortion-rights decision affected company cultures

Norms around politics in the workplace have shifted over the past decade, and companies have contended with taking their own stances as organizations. That became clearer last year when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal right to abortion, promoting hundreds of U.S.-based companies to take a stand.

Disney, JP Morgan Chase, Levi Strauss, Meta, and other major employers at the time announced they’d cover costs for employees who needed to travel for the procedure if their state outlawed it. It came amid a tight labor market with the great resignation in full-swing, and as companies competed more fiercely than ever for needed talent. 

Now new data shows how employees and job hunters’ perceptions of those organizations changed after they announced which side they are on – or remained silent. 

“The world was a very different place 10 years ago when it comes to these social issues seeping into the workplace,” said Svenja Gudell, chief economist at jobs platform Indeed.

“The world was a very different place 10 years ago when it comes to these social issues seeping into the workplace."
Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Indeed.

Job seeker interest rose for employers offering out-of-state abortion travel benefits following the SCOTUS decision, but those employers also saw satisfaction among current employees decline, according to a new report from hiring platform Indeed. That’s in part due to varying attitudes between men and women.

For the report, Indeed created a list of companies that publicly announced abortion travel benefits and collected data on job satisfaction, job search and click volume, and wage information on Glassdoor and Indeed, ultimately analyzing over 2 million postings and over 6 million company reviews. 

“When firms announce a politically-charged and gender-focused policy, this has consequences for how workers sort across firms,” the report said.

Bospar, a boutique PR agency with just over 100 employees, told employees it would cover the cost of travel to a state where abortion is legal after the SCOTUS decision was leaked early last year. 

No one has taken up the offer yet, though staff have said they appreciate knowing they have an emergency lever to pull, co-founder Curtis Sparrer said.

Here are some other statistics demonstrating employees’ sentiments toward employers that took a stand, or didn’t, on abortion rights:

  • After the SCOTUS decision, companies offering abortion travel benefits saw an 8% increase in job posting clicks compared with comparable companies not offering the benefits. 
  • Boosted job seeker interest was concentrated in female-dominated jobs, as well as those in Democratic-leaning states and states with “trigger laws” – where abortion was or is at risk of getting banned.
  • Employers that announced abortion rights benefits saw satisfaction among existing employees based on reviews of management fall 8%, with the decline driven by male-dominated professions.
  • Companies that announced abortion benefits raised pay by 4% as satisfaction fell compared to those who didn’t take a stand.

Just for show?

  • Employers in states with trigger laws were more likely to announce abortion benefits than those in states without them. But the higher a company’s share of employees working in a state with abortion up for debate, the less likely that company was to publicly announce new abortion benefits.
  • “We interpret this as evidence that these announcements were less about a benefit that companies expected many employees to take up, and more about signaling company culture,” the Indeed report said. 
  • Postings for smaller firms that announced saw more positive responses than larger-sized organizations with more established reputations “and the signal of firm culture from the announcement was presumably stronger,” the report said.

Way forward still unknown

There isn’t a clear answer or best practice for employers to follow when it comes to this issue, though the data suggests taking a stance, or even staying silent, does have an impact.

“Job seekers really care about the benefits and culture at the workplace,” and political and ideological leanings are a key factor for many today when making their own employment decisions, Gudell said.

For Sparrer at Bosar, announcing coverage of abortion travel benefits was a “smart business move and just being a decent company,” he said.