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07 Dec 2021

How to help employees understand and plan for the costs of fertility treatment

For many employees, starting a family is a lifelong dream and expectation. But the realities of trying to start or grow a family with the help of fertility treatment can be more complex – and costly.




The costs of starting a family

While introducing a baby into your home is an exciting time, it’s also expensive. The average cost of the first 12 months is £6,000, or £500 a month, according to research by the insurer LV.

And they don’t get cheaper as they get bigger. In 2020, the additional basic cost of a child, from birth to age 18, was £71,611 for a couple family and £97,862 for a lone-parent family. If housing and childcare costs are added these costs rise to £152,747 and £185,413 respectively.

Of course, paid parental leave helps if you are entitled to it. If you have worked at your company for more than 26 weeks, statutory maternity pay is paid for up to 39 weeks. You get 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks and £151.97 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.

Fathers get two weeks of paid paternity leave if they’re an employee and have been working at a company for 26 weeks or more. Parents are also entitled to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave for each child and adopted child, up to their 18th birthday.

Planning in advance

Anyone planning on bringing a child into the world needs to make sure their finances can handle a new addition. As a HR or line manager, you can direct your colleagues to this baby costs calculator from MoneyHelper, which includes essentials needed for baby at home and when out and about.

Childcare costs

By far the biggest expense for new parents is childcare, according to figures from Child Poverty Action Group:

  • the average cost of sending a child under the age of two to nursery is £138 a week part-time (25 hours) and £263 a week full-time (50 hours)
  • a registered childminder for a child under two costs £118 a week for £25 hours and £164 in London
  • Day nursery is £138 or £180 in London, and a nanny is £250-£400 a week
  • the average cost for families using an after-school club for five days is £62 a week
  • in 2021 the average price of holiday childcare was £138 per week.

Extra help

New parents need to check they are receiving all the benefits or grants they might be entitled to, such as Child Tax Credit of up to £3,390 per year and Working Tax Credit of up to £2,005 a year. There is info about extra sources of income and support available to help manage household bills and save money in the MoneyHelper guide, What benefits you can claim and other ways to increase your income.

The cost of fertility treatment

For the many couples who struggle with their fertility, the cost of bringing home a baby starts with the cost of trying to conceive.

With one in six couples experiencing difficulty conceiving, over 1.3 million IVF cycles and more than 260,000 donor insemination (DI) cycles have been performed in the UK since 1991, resulting in the birth of 390,000 babies, all according to the Human Fertilisation & Embryo Authority (HFEA).

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) means an egg is removed from the person's ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised egg is then returned to the womb to grow and develop. According to HFEA, the standard IVF treatment costs between £4,000 and £8,000 per cycle, and three cycles are recommended as the cumulative effect of three full cycles of IVF increases the chances of a successful pregnancy to 45-53%.

IUI is a type of first-line fertility treatment commonly used for some heterosexual couples where there may be a problem with ovulation, for example, or by people using donated sperm in their treatment, including single people and female couples.

Costs of IUI treatment range from about £700 to £1,600 for each cycle of IUI treatment and donor sperm can be an additional cost. According to the HFEA, over half of people having IUI (artificial insemination) become pregnant over the first six cycles.

If we do the maths, the costs of IVF and IUI add up rapidly. Three full cycles of IVF could cost a couple or individual £24,000. Six cycles of IUI could cost around £10,000.

Another option is surrogacy, when someone agrees to carry and give birth to a child for a person or people, who will become the birth parent(s) after birth.

The total cost of surrogacy in the UK can surpass £50,000 depending on the clinic and surrogate. Total UK surrogacy costs will include not just reasonable expenses to the surrogate, but also the clinical payments of fertility treatment which may include the use of donor eggs, frozen embryo transfer cycles, medication fees and legal fees.

What help is available?

According to Anya Sizer, a spokesperson from Fertility Network UK, around 65% of couples in the UK who want IVF treatment have to self-fund.

“It depends where you live,” she explains. “Scotland provides three full cycles of IVF per eligible couple, Wales two full cycles and Northern Ireland one cycle, although they're hoping to move towards three full cycles. In England it is a postcode lottery, meaning free provision is very patchy”.

The prospects are bleak if you are on a low salary. “Unfortunately, people are being priced out of fertility treatment, so if you live in an area where there isn't much IVF provision on the NHS, the options are to remortgage your house, crowdfund or ask family and friends. But there isn't any set way of doing it”.

Of course, some companies now offer fertility treatment as packages of care, such as Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance, which provides up to £15,000 for fertility investigations and treatment. It also supports its staff through menopause, fertility and parenthood by providing access to practical and emotional support, as well as financial support, when it comes to starting a family.

It’s not all about cost

The emotional costs of trying to conceive can be huge. “Fertility treatment is all-consuming, causing a lot of anxiety and depression. In fact, 90% of men and women struggling with fertility issues experience feelings of depression and 42% experience feel suicidal,” says Francesca Steyn, Peppy’s director of fertility services and chair of the Royal College of Nursing Fertility Nurses’ Forum.

Approximately 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. “The miscarriage itself plus the fear of miscarrying again can take a massive toll on mental health,” says Steyn.

What employers can do

The fertility journey is harrowing enough without having to factor in work and what to say to your employer. It’s common for people to not tell their boss that they're going through IVF, which means they have to make something up to explain why they're having so much time off.

However, the physical and mental and emotional side effects of IVF don’t stay at home, they can impact performance and how employees are feeling at work. “If you’re going through fertility treatment it can become impossible to focus on anything else, including your job,” says Steyn.

“From worrying about how to explain the next appointment to your boss, to waiting to find out if an embryo transfer worked – it can be very stressful and sometimes harrowing.”

As a result, 85% of people feel fertility treatment has a negative impact on their work and 19% reduce their hours or leave the workplace altogether. Despite this, support for employees looking or actively trying to start a family is extremely limited.

Currently, just over one-third of employers either offer fertility support or plan to offer it in the future, according to new research by Peppy and The British Infertility Counselling Association.

It is vital that employers support major life changes, including trying to conceive or starting or growing a family, which can have such a major impact on physical, mental, emotional and financial wellbeing.

This article is provided by Peppy.

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