Employers, can we talk about fertility treatments?
Infertility is a common issue and is categorized as a chronic disease by WHO. However, this is not something we see reflected in workplaces. Today, pregnancy and maternity benefits are highly visible in the workplace. But fertility challenges are still invisible. We need to change this!
Cecilie Hvidberg Jakobsen
28. december - 2021
But is the problem big enough?
Infertility is a common issue. Approx 12% of children born today are conceived via fertility treatment and infertility is categorized as a chronic disease by WHO. However, this is not something we see reflected in workplaces. Today, pregnancy and maternity benefits are highly visible in the workplace. But fertility challenges are still invisible. We need to change this!
Fertility treatments can be very long, have serious emotional and physical impacts and are very costly. Also, they can have serious financial impacts on a woman and her partner. Today it is not normal for women to share their infertility struggles with their employees. This is out of concern that doing so will have negative effects on their careers.
“But we have a lot to offer our employees who is planning to found a family”
Yes. But this is something different. Most companies’ policies focus on those who have had success in their family-planning and on issues like duration of parental leave and work-life balance.
When you are in fertility treatment, you become your own project manager, as you lack the necessary assistance. It was something completely different when I became a mother. Here I felt that I was being taken care of. However, I needed at least as much help during my fertility treatment ”.
Sofie, 31 and working as a consultant in a big financial company.
For many couples, it is an incredibly personal and painful experience to be in fertility treatment, and one that is difficult to share with others. Discussing it with colleagues and a manager is not something that feels natural. According to an online survey we made with 2.963 women in fertility treatment, 90% of women did not tell their employer about their treatment. When we are asking why, it is out of fear that the employer won't take them seriously and due to concerns about its negative effects on their career.
What can you actually do to help?
During treatment, women will be on heavy hormonal medicine, daily injections (maybe handled in the office), frequent visits to the clinic for bloodwork and ultrasounds, or in some cases surgery. The combination of physical side effects, the fact that they cannot have a child on their own and the stress of failed treatments month after month can be damaging to their mental health. 50% of women experiencing infertility rated it as the most stressful experience in their life. Furthermore, the financial cost of the procedures further disrupts a family. It makes sense that couples who go through fertility treatments are three times more likely to divorce or split.
Employers must be willing to discuss infertility openly and create policies to support women and couples that are in need of fertility treatment to start a family. If it becomes more open and there is actually someone who understands and helps them through the process, the tough fertility journey can become just a bit easier.
If the employees know they will be supported, it will be easier for them to share their personal situation. If you’re in a position to create or influence company policies, consider the following actions to ensure you are supporting your employees as they go through fertility treatments:
- Create employee benefit plans that involve flexible work hours if you are in fertility treatment. (to participate in appointments and tests).
- Try to normalize the conversation around infertility and fertility issues.
- Educate managers about the impact of fertility treatments on work and provide guidance on potential solutions.
- Offer flexibility in career planning for people in fertility treatment.
All of this will also send a strong signal that you’re a family-friendly employer. This can help attract and retain talent. So can we please start talking about fertility treatments in workplaces?
What are the biggest issues in fertility-treatment today?
Fertility healthcare is still lacking good user experiences and remains behind other industries when it comes to digital user experience. At wawa fertility we are working to address these issues and create a better experience and thereby better treatment for women and couples in treatment.
28. december - 2021
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