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Are a lack of fertility benefits playing into the great resignation?

Written by Cliona Gallagher on Tuesday, 07 June 2022. Posted in Insight, HR, Analysis, People

2021 was the year the great resignation took hold, with over 4.4 million people across the UK quitting their jobs.

Are a lack of fertility benefits playing into the great resignation?

Are a lack of fertility benefits playing into the great resignation?

2021 was the year the great resignation took hold, with over 4.4 million people across the UK quitting their jobs. By the end of November, the number of job vacancies had hit a twenty year high, with the equivalent of 1.5 job openings per unemployed person. 

While the outlook for 2022 was more optimistic, the competition for talent remains fierce. Amid this market pressure, we have seen a concern for corporate healthcare come to the forefront and form a crucial component of workplace strategies. 

Shifting priorities 

Over the past two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on individuals’ mental and physical wellbeing and triggered a significant shift in workplace priorities. Long gone are the days where the pay packet was the be all and end all. Now, employees are equally drawn towards bespoke benefits packages – and as part of this, we are increasingly seeing a rise in fertility benefits. 

According to the NHS, 1 in 6 couples in the UK are affected by fertility issues, yet currently a third of UK companies have no plans to offer support. Amid this backdrop, it will come as no surprise that nearly two thirds of employees undergoing fertility treatment felt the need to hide the reason they were taking time off work and nearly 40 percent have contemplated quitting their job.

While many consider fertility treatment to be a private matter, it puts a significant mental and physical strain on those going through it – including at work. Therefore, it is crucial that employers consider themselves as contributors to the wider health and emotional wellbeing of employees. 

Interest in fertility benefits 

The fertility benefits offered by a company can vary tremendously, both in the type of treatment covered and the financial contributions to this. From providing access to appointments with a specialised consultant and covering the subscription costs for a fertility tracker, to contributing to IVF treatment, egg freezing and even surrogacy, the scope to support employees is vast. 

Throughout the course of the pandemic, we have seen a particular increase in interest regarding egg freezing and fit-for-fertility testing. In response, a large number of companies are now working to develop bespoke packages that empower their employees to understand their fertility status, so they can plan whether they want to preserve their fertility or make practical decisions about family planning. 

At HCA Healthcare UK, we have seen a 72 percent increase in the number of onsite wellbeing sessions which we are delivering within workplaces. This is across a range of topics, from fit-for-fertility tests, through to fertility preservation and egg/embryo freezing, as well as IVF.

Empowering employees & employers 

Providing employees with the knowledge they need to make informed choices is a key role which companies should be taking on. At the same time, one crucial factor companies cannot afford to overlook is the wider support employees may require whilst on this journey. This can range all the way from extended time off for individuals to recuperate from treatments to training for leadership teams to ensure they feel equipped to support their employees in an appropriate manner.  

It is also important to remember that fertility isn’t just a women’s issue. Whilst we may immediately associate treatments with female employees, any fertility benefits must be developed with all employees in mind. When undergoing treatments, whether as a couple or alone, the emotional impacts can be just as challenging and, in fact, up to 50 percent of fertility issues sit with men. 

In many respects, the tide is turning. At HCA Healthcare UK, we have already seen a real drive from employers to create environments where employees can have open conversations about their fertility plans, or alternatively, are providing expert support that staff members can access privately through their workplace health schemes. 

For example, in 2019, LinkedIn launched a fertility benefits programme to provide financial support to employees going through IVF or an adoption programme. Moreover, just last year, several household names including NatWest and Centrica unveiled a fertility benefits programme which offers up to £45,000 per employee towards appropriate treatments and services.

Looking ahead

Whilst this is a great step forward, there is no standard approach when it comes to providing fertility benefits. Each individual’s needs will be different, and it is essential companies are sensitive to this when working to shape benefits programmes that support their employees from a 360-degree perspective. 

Considering that nearly 41 percent of global employees are contemplating changing their job, the reality is that employers need to consider corporate health – including fertility benefits – as part of their wider responsibility as a good employer. 

 

About the Author

Cliona Gallagher

Cliona Gallagher

GP and Occupational Health Physician at Roodlane Medical, part of HCA Healthcare UK (MB BCh BAO DCH MICGP DOccMed)

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