14 Dec 2022
Reproductive health support has been growing in popularity as an employee benefit in the UK. The uncertainty surrounding such issues can be a major cause of stress both physically and mentally for employees. NHS waiting lists for investigation and treatment are long and growing.
Many employees do not feel comfortable disclosing that they are undergoing treatment to their employers as they fear it may impact their career prospects. Creating a policy of supporting employees through fertility and reproductive health issues and becoming a family friendly employer can be a valuable recruitment and retention tool.
It is important to realise that fertility is not just a women’s issue. The impact of impaired fertility can affect your male employees too. Your strategy should take into account the diversity of your workforce and consider that fertility issues will affect couples of all genders and orientations as well as single employees looking to start a family.
What are the issues?
Employees may need support for multitude of issues surrounding fertility and reproductive health to enable them to thrive in the workplace. This can include:
- Pregnancy loss
- Impaired fertility
- Lack of paid leave to attend appointments
- Premature births
- Adoption and surrogacy
- IVF and fertility treatment
What can we offer to our employees?
Support can be provided in a multitude of different ways. The costs of implementing benefits can vary wildly but can be structured to meet your budget constraints. Strategies that you may wish to consider include:
- Enhanced paid leave and support for pregnancy loss
- Paid leave or flexible working arrangements for employees going through fertility treatment
- Provide access to support resources, such as helplines and signposting to help employees get access to advice and guidance
- Ensure your Private Medical Insurance provider offers access to fertility investigations
- Provide paid for access to specialist healthcare which can include discounted IVF treatment
Pregnancy and Baby Loss
The CIPD (The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) are the professional body for HR and people development. They have published a report* showing there are gaps in workplace support for employees who have lost a pregnancy or a baby. The report said that only a quarter of surveyed employees received paid compassionate or other special leave, and a fifth received no support from their employer at all. Compassionate leave was considered to be the most important support by those surveyed, but understanding managers and colleagues, paid time off to attend appointments and working from home were also appreciated.
The CIPD is going to publish practical advice to help employers improve the workplace support they provide to employees who lose a pregnancy or a baby. The guidance will cover five main principles:
- Raising awareness about pregnancy and baby loss in a thoughtful and sensitive way and recognising it as a part of workplace wellbeing
- Creating an open and supportive culture that helps to break down stigma and reassures employees that they will be supported
- Ensuring a workplace policy is in place to support employees who lose a baby or pregnancy. Only a third of employers currently have a specific policy on this issue
- Being flexible and compassionate about time off work and managing absence
- Training line managers to ensure they are empathetic and understanding and are fully prepared to manage these highly sensitive discussions with employees who have suffered such a devastating loss
What support services are available for reproductive health?
There are healthcare providers who offer employee benefit packages specifically aimed at supporting employees through fertility issues. Their services can include:
- Educational workshops and webinars for staff and HR
- Access to support from therapists and specialists
- Appointments with fertility advisors
- Employer funded consultations
- At home hormone and fertility testing
- Finance options for IVF treatment
- Access to discounted treatments such as IVF or egg or sperm freezing
These providers often offer additional health services including menopause, men’s health and women’s health support.
Employers also need to consider the position for employees who have a partner who may be experiencing reproductive health issues. They are likely to need emotional support, plus they may also have other struggles such as lack of sleep, potential loss of income etc.
If you would like to discuss options to help provide the right support for your staff please get in touch.