So here I am, freelancer, job hunter, career woman, home maker, mummy and thinking about when’s the right time for number 2 in a few years’ time when I’m way past 40 – yes I want it all! Why not!
Having a bit of headspace right now, finally reading through all the books I piled up over the years, I recalled a memory from a Sociology class many moons ago during a lesson about gender and women’s role through history, a tutor saying, “women’s wombs, are their tombs”. I recall vividly thinking at the time “whatever that means” as images of Egyptian tombs flashed through my mind wondering what to have for lunch that day.
Back in the here and now, I thought to myself “why has this memory come back suddenly and how true does it resonate with women in the workplace now”. Being a workplace employee benefits purest wanting more change in this space and reflecting on the challenges we faced to conceive our first in our late 30’s – also knowing the number of colleagues who faced similar challenges, I wonder why we aren’t doing more on this in the workplace? Is it because UK employers feel it is not their place, or because it is felt fertility issues only impacts a small proportion of people in any one organisation – so if some support was on offer the ROI would be low, or is it perceived by offering such support employers feel they are somehow indirectly encouraging their employees to have children later on in life…It’s probably a combination of all these.
So, here’s the thing, as you get older conceiving is much harder. No matter how fit or healthy you are, statistically and biologically things are just not the same, whether you’re male or female. Fertility stress can affect a large population in the workplace. 1 in 6 couples, that is 3.5 million, in the UK suffer from fertility challenges and every 1 in 4 women experience miscarriages. Late family planning demographics has also become a trend. More UK women conceive when they are over 30 years of age than in their 20s. Furthermore, LGBTQ employees may also be seeking fertility support via surrogacy/egg or sperm donation. Therefore, whilst it’s not on the forefront of the employer’s mind, it will be on many peoples’ minds– many of whom are at the prime of their careers.
Throughout all the stages in my career planning I don’t ever recall having an open discussion about how my family aspirations could be weaved into the various roles I was doing at the time and wanting to work towards. For many employees, the time for thinking about starting a family coincides with the most successful and productive career-building years. Finding the information for a non-fertility expert (i.e. most people) on the quest for the answers they need can take months of “googling” “asking F & F’s”, and even then the individual is left wondering if they’ve done enough research to find the right solution for them.
By offering workplace fertility support, employers could provide a simple mechanism for employees to access the educational support and guidance when they need it and lessen the stress associated with all the fact finding. Fertility treatment doesn’t always mean IVF. Both employers and their employees need more education and access to affordable treatment in this space. When I talk about fertility support as a benefit in the workplace, I don’t mean an option pushed into your benefits plan for employees to pick and choose. Workplace fertility is one facet within an overall wellbeing strategy sitting alongside other initiatives (e.g. better work life balance, menopause awareness) which supports the “whole person” throughout their journey with their employer.
Currently the NHS and Private Medical Insurance do not provide a holistic approach to fertility needs. The NHS offers limited access to fertility treatment with numerous restrictions. Typically, long queues and lower success rates are the two main obstacles people face. Similarly, traditional insurance has accessibility issues due to its fundamental business model which is based on probability and premium. Egg freezing and surrogacy for instance, may be insurable i.e. they are based on ones’ willingness, and once enrolled, employees will undertake treatments so the claim would exceed what the policy may cover. The complexity and length of a fertility journey also require emotional support, something that is too niche for insurance companies and employee assistance providers to get involved with.
Fertifa is a holistic fertility workplace offering, which provides the education and access to fertility treatment, without being too onerous on the employer. I’m supporting Fertifa right now as there is a gap in the UK employee benefits market when it comes to this type of solution, so I really want this to be a success as it will benefit many employees and offer a more rounded approach to wellbeing in the workplace. Fertifa takes the time out with HR and wellbeing teams within the organisation to understand the overall strategy, gaps in the current benefits (e.g. current insurance coverage, EAP and leave policies) and then implements a one stop fertility support programme. The best part is employees who are on the fertility journey can have an initial consultation and speak to a human about where they are at in their personal journey. Furthermore, our fertility experts talk employees through the next best steps reassuring them along their journey.
If you feel something like this can enhance your overall people offering, Fertifa can support and reinforce your HR policies. Find out more at www.fertifa.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org