Fertility benefits: the missing piece of the health and wellbeing puzzle
Evidence and peer-based research from Fertifa.
Following our survey in June that 96% of employers will place more focus on employee health and wellbeing as a result of the pandemic, it has been widely acknowledged that now is a perfect opportunity for businesses to review their existing health and wellbeing schemes.
This has been driven in part by the serious challenges many employers have faced, yet with an appreciation that employee health and wellbeing has been, and will continue to be, impacted by COVID-19.
And that this, in turn, will impact on corporate objectives if left unchecked.
In this article, we will discuss how reproductive health and fertility – the missing pieces of the wellbeing puzzle, which have featured frequently in government and media headlines over the past few months – is drawing more corporate attention than ever.
We also hear from a number of organisations who are leading the way in implementing programmes for their employees and look at the opportunity for every fertility ambassador in the workplace to help us ‘share to shape the future’.
A silent demand
There is a ‘silent’ but far bigger demand for workplace fertility support than many imagine.
1 in 6 couples in the UK – or 3.5 million people – have fertility challenges and nearly 70,000 IVF treatment cycles are carried out each year in the UK.
Data shows that 1 in 4 women experience miscarriage, 80% of single women suffer from fertility decline simply because they are still to find the right partner and 40% of all fertility problems are due to male factor infertility. 100% of the LGBTQ+ group planning to start a family need help to do so.
With a continued decline in the global fertility rate and a late-family demographic trend, reproductive health no longer applies only to those facing challenges, but also, crucially, for those who are not yet on the road to conception.
Proactively monitoring fertility health is becoming increasingly important.
This potentially huge number of employees impacted by fertility issues is a major challenge for employers. And yet it remains a taboo subject.
Unfortunately, existing employee assistance programmes, private healthcare and the NHS do not provide the solution.
Employees facing fertility challenges typically – and understandably – suffer from a huge burden of emotional, physical and financial stress. Fertility Network’s own research outlines that “90% experience some level of depression and 43% feel suicidal”.
In a recent study 61% of people rated infertility as more stressful than divorce. For some, treatment costs can equal the deposit on a house.
As a fundamental part of human health and wellbeing for many, employees can continue to strive to become parents – often spending many years trying to achieve a successful pregnancy.
Fertility support at the workplace
Proactively addressing fertility challenges with employees and providing a solution for them has a multitude of benefits for organisations.
Commercially, companies save money and become more efficient.
They become a workplace that future employees proactively seek out. Re-recruitment decreases, absenteeism falls and the productivity of happy and healthy employees increases. Offering guidance on fertility challenges, which often disproportionately impact women in the workplace, also positively supports the corporate agenda and regulatory frameworks around gender balance and diversity and inclusion.
Importantly, companies with a fertility policy find they are more easily able to support a positive corporate wellbeing culture which is truly HR focussed.
At this time, with talk of a pandemic baby boom on the horizon, a significant number of people are experiencing one of the most difficult moments in their life.
The latest European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (“ESHRE”) report shows that the virus has had a negative impact on fertility treatment for the majority (92%) of patients, specifically because of treatment delays, where 81.6% of tests or treatments were postponed.
Given we spend such a significant proportion of our lives at work, more can always be done by employers to ensure employee wellbeing and support.
The silver lining to the Covid-19 cloud is that we have seen many UK firms think about the impact of infertility at the workplace. Some of these companies have shared their thoughts here.
Louise Garrod, Employee Experience Manager at Ubisoft CRC, says: “Time and time again, we have seen fertility challenges cause our employees to face mental, physical and financial struggles.”
Sarah Williamson, Head of Corporate Sales & Partnerships at Home Instead Senior Care shares her thoughts: “We recognise the huge impact that fertility can have on the lives of individuals and their families. [It is a] key part of our wider health and wellbeing strategy to support our employees and families throughout their fertility journey.”
Hortense Thorpe, Fertility Ambassador at Centrica, one of the 2020 Times Top 50 Employers for Women, adds: ”Fertility is such a workplace taboo. We can break it and help not only our Fertility Group members, but also our Women’s Network and Spectrum (LGBT+ community) network.”
We work to educate, engage and empower workforces across the UK to take control of their reproductive health through modern, relevant fertility benefit programmes. Find out more at www.fertifa.com.