Reproductive health and fertility: the missing piece of the employee health and wellbeing puzzle
The majority (96%) of employers will place a greater focus on employee health and wellbeing as a result of the pandemic, according to our June survey. Driven in part by the serious challenges many employers have faced, coupled with the appreciation that employee health and wellbeing will continue to be impacted by the pandemic, it has been widely acknowledged that now is a perfect opportunity for businesses to review their existing health and wellbeing schemes.
Employers are looking for a cost-efficient yet inclusive approach to employee benefits. An area that is drawing more corporate attention than ever is reproductive health and fertility - the missing piece of the wellbeing puzzle, which has featured frequently in government and media headlines over the past few months. - Many organisations are now leading the way in implementing programmes for their employees, while fertility ambassadors in the workplace are helping us ‘share to shape the future’.
Join us at 11:00 on 9 September to hear more about how Fertifa stands for ‘Fertility for All and how our education, health and treatment support packages can be introduced into your business at no, or low-cost to your organisation'. You are also invited to join our roundtable discussion ‘Is any health and wellbeing benefits package complete without reproductive health and fertility support?’ at 15:15 on 23rd September. View the full programme and reigster here to attend.
A silent demand
There is a ‘silent’ but far bigger demand for workplace fertility support than many imagine. Figures from Fertility Network UK reveal that 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 in the UK. Data shows that one in four 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. A group strongly advised to proactively monitor their health whilst they still have options.
This potentially huge number of employees impacted by fertility issues is a major challenge for employers. And yet it remains a taboo subject. Unfortunately, employee assistance programmes, private healthcare and the NHS do not provide the solution. What’s more, employees facing fertility challenges typically suffer from a huge burden of emotional, physical and financial stress. Many (90%) experience some level of depression and 43% feel suicidal, according to Fertility Network UK. 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, employees can continue to strive to become parents – often spending many years trying to achieve a successful pregnancy.
A case for fertility support in the workplace: now is the time
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. Retention increases, absenteeism falls and the productivity of happy and healthy employees rises. 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 people 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 ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology) 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. 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. These concerns relate to the delivery of fertility care in the UK, both short-term and in the future.
The silver lining to the COVID-19 cloud is that we have seen many UK firms leading the way in introducing reproductive health education, treatment and support for their employees.
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. Being in a position to do something to relieve that pressure and offer tangible support in the form of a service like Fertifa is a fantastic way to break the taboo that conversations around fertility have no place in the workplace.”
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. In partnership with Fertifa, as a part of our Wellbeing Framework, we see this support as 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. But with Fertifa’s support as our strategic partner, we can break it and help not only our Fertility Group members, but also our Women’s Network and Spectrum (LGBTQ+ community) networks who all benefit from the best services they offer.”
Sharing to shape the future
Fertility and reproductive health in the workplace remains a taboo. For many employers taking the first steps towards building a supportive, open dialogue and integrated support system for employees can feel like a mountain to climb.
The Workplace Fertility Community needs you!
Fertifa is proud to have founded the UK’s first community for fertility and reproductive health ambassadors in the workplace. Whether you’re an HR or employee benefits professional, or have an interest in championing fertility in your organisation, join today for free access to peer networking opportunities, a series of educational events and both informal and formal support on the questions you have.
We’re honoured to have a group of influential and inspiring individuals steering the community, ensuring that members gain access to the most up-to-date and tried-and-tested approaches to breaking the taboo, contributing to a truly holistic health and wellbeing ecosystem in the workplace.
The author is Tony Chen, founder of Fertifa.
This article is sponsored by Fertifa.
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