Innovative wellbeing benefits: why fertility and reproductive services have entered the workplace
As we enter the second wave of the pandemic many organisations are taking the opportunity to review existing benefit schemes to ensure they are offering cost efficient solutions that provide maximum value and show they truly care for their workers.
Reproductive health and fertility is one area that can be hugely impactful. Fertility challenges can cause significant emotional and physical strain, with every one in six UK couples affected, plus many single people and members of the LGBT community. Fertility journeys are often complex and expensive, and the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced access to treatment nationally.
National Fertility Awareness Week (2-5 November) is a good time to review why reproductive health is still the missing piece in the wellbeing puzzle in the workplace. For businesses today, offering reproductive health and fertility benefits can be a cost-saving move, while supporting a sizable number of employees go through one of their most difficult life moments.
The growing demand for workplace fertility support
One in six couples in the UK (or 3.5 million people) have fertility challenges, and nearly 70,000 IVF treatment cycles are carried out each year nationally. Data shows that one in four women experience miscarriage, 80% of single women suffer from fertility decline simply because they are still to find a suitable 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. This is a group strongly advised to proactively monitor their health while they still have options.
The potentially huge number of employees impacted by fertility issues is a major challenge for employers. However, it remains a taboo subject fraught with difficulty. Unfortunately, many professionals using employee assistance programmes, private healthcare and the NHS are yet to find a solution that works. What is more, employees facing fertility challenges typically suffer from a huge burden of emotional, physical and financial stress. The Impact of Fertility Problems (2016) research from the Fertility Network UK shows that 90% experience some level of depression and 43% feel suicidal. While a recent study from the Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey – Infertility in America (2015) – revealed that 61% of people rated infertility as more stressful than divorce. For some, treatment costs can equal the deposit on a house.
Action taken now and will pay dividends for employers
The current crisis is having a profound effect on employees’ health and wellbeing and for those employees going through or seeking fertility treatment the pressures are amplified. Timing is crucial and delaying fertility treatments, or any family-building option, for six months or a year can mean the difference between having a child and not having a child.
A UK study by Babu Karavadra and co-authored by Professor Adam Balen, and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists President Eddie Morris, presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, shows that COVID-19 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. Four in five participants felt uncertainty over their treatments and the unknown impacts of the pandemic, such as pregnancy outcomes and gynaecology services. Although most UK fertility services have now started to resume, significant doubts remain in the minds of fertility experts about the delivery of fertility care, both short-term and in the future.
Proactively addressing fertility challenges with employees and providing a solution for them has a multitude of benefits for employees and employers. The fertility landscape is complex and navigating it can be challenging and costly. Effective corporate programmes use digital health solutions (such as on demand video consultations, at home fertility testing kits and drug delivery solutions) to simplify employees’ fertility journeys and make sure they get what they need from the safety and comfort of their homes while maximising outcomes.
Commercially, employers which show this level of care, inclusion and support for employees 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 minority groups such as women and LGBT+ employees, positively supports the corporate agenda and regulatory frameworks around gender balance and diversity and inclusion.
End to end guide to build a business case
Despite it being an essential health and wellbeing matter that affects millions of UK employees and has been exacerbated by current situation, fertility and reproductive health remains a taboo. For many employers taking the first steps can feel like a mountain to climb. The white paper, Building a Business Case for Fertility and Reproductive Healthcare Benefits collates scientific and market research, along with the most common queries from the hundreds of employers who we spoke with, to help you create a business case on this overlooked topic. Parts of the agenda include:
- industry landscape and trend
- how to quantify the impact of fertility and reproductive health on your employees
- what a typical fertility journey looks like and what it means to managers
- which solutions are right for your employees.
The author is Tony Chen, founder at Fertifa.
This article is provided by Fertifa.
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