Fertility and family-forming journeys can be complex. From researching clinics, to attending appointments, to figuring out the financial impact, time adds up. It’s no wonder 74% of employees pursuing family forming admit to researching their options during the workday. This phenomenon — when employees haven’t taken time off but are less productive due to other personal distractions — is called presenteeism. Research suggests that presenteeism costs employers 10 times more than absenteeism.
While creating a flexible workplace can help ensure employees can be honest about taking off the time they need, employers also have the opportunity to address challenges at their source by reducing the logistical and financial burdens of family forming. Here are a few ways that fertility benefits can help employees feel less stressed and more supported.
Financial stress and family forming
Financial stress and presenteeism are connected. In a recent Carrot survey, we asked if people felt their company’s benefits were enough to cover their family-forming needs — and 50% responded no, expressing concern about costs. Another survey found that 49% of financially-stressed employees spent three or more hours each week dealing with financial issues while at work.
Fertility and family-forming costs vary but often exceed tens of thousands of dollars. The average cost of one cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF) is $21,600.The average cost of successful first-attempt GC pregnancy starts at $136,000 (including everything from the agency and legal fees to the in-vitro fertilization process). And only 12% of our survey respondents had specific fertility benefits at work; 55% did not have access to benefits through insurance, either. Of those with fertility benefits, even fewer had support for adoption fees (24%) or GC journeys (10%).
Lack of access to financial support doesn’t mean people won’t pursue parenthood — but they may get into debt to do so. 32% of respondents planned to go into debt to fund their journey, with some even saying they would sell their house, dip into their retirement savings, or start a GoFundMe page. Others said they simply wouldn’t be able to pursue their family-forming goals because of costs.
Fertility benefits can help reduce financial stress and make family forming possible for employees. Depending on the benefit, employees may have access to discounted rates and receive a financial benefit from their employer dedicated to fertility and family forming. For employers, offering fertility benefits can even ultimately lower overall healthcare costs by helping to reduce NICU events and multiple births. Offering evidence-based, non-invasive alternatives to in vitro fertilization (IVF) when appropriate can also help reduce costs. Providing fertility benefits is also beneficial to recruitment and retention efforts: 77% of respondents said they would be more likely to stay with a company if offered fertility benefits, and 88% said they would change jobs to access fertility benefits.
Care coordination for fertility and family forming
From start to finish, the fertility and family-forming process can involve several time-consuming steps. For example, someone pursuing in vitro fertilization (IVF) with donor sperm needs to find a clinic near them, a sperm bank or known donor, and work out legal considerations. An adoption journey can take six months at the minimum and at least three to 12 additional months to finalize everything.
For some, the journey is so complex that it can be difficult to know where to start.
“The legal and logistical aspects of journeys like adoption and GC services can be overwhelming,” said Evan Friedenberg, U.S. operations team lead at Carrot. “In my role at Carrot, I help members understand their options and what step to take next so they can keep moving forward.”
Providing fertility benefits that include care coordination can make this process easier and reduce the amount of time employees need to spend searching for clinics and setting appointments. Care coordination can also help members find clinics and services that meet their specific preferences, such as options that are LGBTQ+ friendly.
The emotional side of family forming
Fertility and family forming can be emotionally taxing, especially if someone hits a bump in the road. In our survey, 89% of respondents said fertility and family forming impacted their mental health.
“I was always told by others that [adoption] is such a challenging process, but I don't think I fully understood how emotional it is,” said Emily P., a prospective parent. “It's so hard to sit in the uncertainty of it all and really just wait for your life to change in a really big way. You don't know if it'll happen now or years from now.”
The importance of mental health — and the impact mental health struggles can have on the workplace — have come into particular focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Depression is a top cause of presenteeism and highly associated with time management challenges and overall productivity. In addition to providing mental health support for employees, it can also be helpful to offer resources specific to their experiences through fertility benefits. At Carrot, for example, members have unlimited access to unlimited chats with mental health professionals with experience in family-forming journeys.
Creating a work environment that welcomes open conversation can help, too. Research suggests that when employees feel more comfortable discussing fertility issues in the workplace, they’re more likely to feel supported. In our survey, 56% of respondents said that people at their workplace did not talk openly about their fertility, and 30% feared that talking about fertility issues with their boss would put their job at risk. Providing manager training can help make conversations easier and reduce stress.
A healthy and productive workplace starts with understanding the stressors your employees might be under. With one in eight couples experiencing infertility and 63% of LGBTQ+ families planning to pursue adoption or donor-assisted journeys, chances are there are employees in your company starting a stressful journey of their own. Clearing their path forward helps create a healthier, more focused workplace where employees want to stay.
If you’re interested in learning more about Carrot and how we can support your employees’ fertility and family-forming needs, let us know.