The following article was recently published as part of Cityworks’ Expert Advice Column.
One of the many consequences of the current COVID-19 environment that we find ourselves facing, is the British Fertility Society’s decision that all fertility treatments are suspended effectively by the 15th April for both NHS and private fertility clinics.
For the 3.5 million people in the UK who are currently undergoing or about to embark upon a fertility journey and the thousands in early pregnancy; this represents an unimaginably difficult situation. Taking national statistics, up to 25% of any company’s people and their partners could be impacted by the decision. Tony Chen, founder of Fertifa, answers some commonly-asked questions from the HR and benefits network.
How can we support employees going through fertility challenges and pregnancy at this time?
Supporting employee wellbeing has perhaps never been a bigger challenge – as we all adjust to a new work/life balance; while coming to terms with the worries and stresses of living through a pandemic. Taking some simple steps to leverage your benefits and wellbeing network and contacts can provide much-needed support and guidance for employees who are also dealing with the additional impact of suspended fertility services.
You may not currently be considering introducing a fertility benefit as part of your employee benefits package, but talking to a specialist fertility provider now can give your staff and managers access to expert advice. For example, we’re helping managers to support their impacted staff by offering our virtual fertility and pregnancy support package which includes expert insights, a 24/7 messaging service, virtual consultations and at-home testing and drug deliveries.
Employees gain vital, additional support and feel more engaged – with no cost to your corporate budget, no input required from you (simply let your employees know to contact us directly) and an opportunity for you to collect feedback on the types of benefit that really add value to your people. We’re also publishing a series of COVID-19 articles, written by our in-house experts, including guidance on pregnancy and COVID-19, and fertility and pregnancy FAQs. These are useful background reading for employers, and employees can be directed here for the latest guidance and support.
Can our healthcare providers such as PMI and EAP offer support for fertility and early pregnancy?
PMI and EAP do not currently provide fertility cover and, from our conversations with the main private medical insurers, this is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. Fertility is a highly complex and individual experience, and so requires a bespoke approach which offers emotional, physical and mental ‘handholding’ and guidance, coupled with specialist fertility, medical expertise. PMI providers generally don’t offer such a service due to the significant amounts of time, cost, capacity and knowledge required.
What should we be considering now in relation to our employee benefits package?
It’s difficult to know exactly how employee benefits and HR budgets and programmes will be affected in the longer term. However, there are some concrete steps that managers can take now. Many of the HR and benefits professionals we work with are telling us that this is a good opportunity to challenge whether what’s in place now is fit for purpose and whether small changes could begin to be implemented over a phased period to better support employees now and in the future.
Thinking specifically about healthcare, we’d encourage HR and benefits managers to consider the role that will be played by remote medical solutions. In the foreseeable future, whilst our NHS is stretched and employees may struggle to get appointments or have cancellations, virtual healthcare can play a vital role for all of us. From online education material and telehealth appointments, to testing kits and drug deliveries, access to a remote healthcare service will enable your employees to get what they need, from the safety and comfort of their own homes. We believe that these solutions will continue to be valued long after we return to our offices.