Why fertility is the missing link in your employee benefits
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From exhaustion to social isolation, COVID-19 has made employers focus on the importance of health and wellbeing at work. Now, as we enter the second wave of the pandemic, the need for companies to support their employees is greater than ever. Many organizations are taking the opportunity to review existing benefit schemes to ensure they are offering cost efficient solutions that provide maximum value.
Reproductive health and fertility is one area that can be hugely impactful. Fertility challenges can cause significant emotional and physical strain, with every 1 in 6 U.K. 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.
In this Fertifa briefing, we explain why reproductive health is the missing piece in the wellbeing puzzle. 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.
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 nationally. Data shows that 1 in 4 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 whilst 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 programs, private healthcare and the NHS are yet to find a solution that works. What’s more, employees facing fertility challenges typically suffer from a huge burden of emotional, physical and financial stress. 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.
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 6 months or a year can mean the difference between having a child and not having a child.
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 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 programs 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 safety of comfort of their homes while maximizing outcomes.
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 minority groups such as women and LGBT+ employees, positively supports the corporate agenda and regulatory frameworks around gender balance and diversity and inclusion.
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