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 65% of employees say they have spent time at work researching fertility treatments, benefits, and family forming. 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 Carrot survey, for employees looking to start or grow their families, only 32% said they can afford fertility treatments if needed. 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 a successful first-attempt gestational carrier (GC) pregnancy starts at $136,000 (including everything from the agency and legal fees to the IVF process). Yet, many companies lack inclusive fertility and family-forming benefits that support the different paths to parenthood.
But a lack of access to financial support doesn’t mean people won’t pursue parenthood — they may just get into debt to do so. 29% of respondents planned to go into debt to fund their journey, with some saying they would dip into their savings, take a second job, or sell minor possessions.
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 IVF when appropriate can also help reduce costs. Providing fertility benefits is also beneficial to recruitment and retention efforts: 72% of respondents said they would be stay at their company longer if they had access to fertility benefits, and 65% 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, a couple pursuing reciprocal IVF would need to find a clinic near them, a sperm bank or known donor, and work out legal considerations. Furthermore, an adoption journey can take six months at the minimum and at least three to 12 additional months to finalize everything.
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. 89% of respondents reported in a survey that fertility and family forming impacted their mental health.
"[The adoption process] is a stop-and-run type of thing," said Eduardo, a Carrot member. "It's a lengthy and emotional process, where you just never know what's going to happen."
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, 79% of people said they feel uncomfortable discussing fertility openly at work, and 33% are uncomfortable having these discussions with a supervisor or manager. 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 six couples experiencing infertility globally 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.