A staggering 61 percent expect their employer to cover the cost of their IVF treatment, either in full or partially.
However, only 17 percent of UK employers currently offer this health benefit.
This is according to a new study from UK virtual fertility clinic Apricity, which also found that 82 percent would only consider working for an employer that offered fertility benefits if they were looking to do IVF again.
The need for financial support
Fertility is a severely underfunded area of the NHS, which only pays for about 20 percent of treatments in some parts of the UK. The waiting time is between one and two years in England, and patients are selected via a postcode lottery system.
A staggering 84 percent of the patients surveyed funded their treatment themselves.
The cost of treatment puts huge financial strain on patients – in context, the average income of respondents was £31,400, while one cycle of IVFwith medication costs upwards of £7,000 (often advertised at £5000 without medication), and at least three cycles are recommended for success.
Also, 57 percent of patients found they did not understand the true financial costs at stake before getting into treatment. Also, 81 percent considered stopping while 39 percent only went through two of the three cycles needed for full treatment, with financial pressure being the top reason (32%).
Almost two-thirds (61%) of respondents said they would expect their employer to cover these costs, either in full or part, and 82 percent said they would only consider working for an employer that offered fertility benefits if they were looking to do IVF again.
The need for paid employment leave
Fertility treatment is a significant time commitment, which can take up months if not years of a patient’s life. It is also proven to be one of the most stressful milestones in a person’s life.
While 84 percent of respondents had to take time off during treatment, more than a third (38%) took this time off under annual leave and a further 16 percent took no time off at all.
Also, 62 percent of UK responders found fertility treatment just as, if not more stressful than losing their job, half (50%) found fertility treatment just as if not more stressful than the bereavement of a close loved one and more than half (51%) of UK respondents found fertility treatment just as if not more stressful than divorce.
Employer support for fertility treatment is an underrepresented issue, reflected in the parliamentary bill currently being discussed on time-off rights for fertility treatments.
This bill will require employers to allow employees to take time off from work for appointments for fertility treatment; and for connected purposes.
Shame and stress caused by fertility treatment
Even in 2022, there remains a lot of stigma and shame surrounding fertility treatment. Almost half (47%) of survey respondents didn’t tell their friends or family about their IVF treatment, the biggest reason being shame and embarrassment (52%).
Fertility treatment can have negative consequences for both romantic and personal relationships and 81 percent of patients in the UK considered quitting mid-treatment (3 cycles of IVF is considered a full treatment), and 80 percent of couples said it caused friction in their relationship.
There is also a lot of fear around infertility itself. Despite one in six couples in the UK experiencing infertility, half (46%) waited over 12 months before seeing a doctor, with patients over 35 waiting longer than those under 35 due to general apprehension and lack of knowledge.
Caroline Noublanche, Founder and CEO of Apricity commented:
“With the private sector taking up the vast majority of the UK fertility market and the NHS under massive strain, more people are looking to their employers to step up and support them on their fertility journey both financially and with flexible working. This is currently much more common in the US, where 81 percent of the best workplaces are providing reimbursement for fertility treatments compared to just 17 percent already in place in the UK.
“At Apricity we’re working to make the fertility journey as smooth and stress-free as possible, and have already partnered with some of the largest UK employers, insurers and employee benefit platforms including Axa PPP, Reward Gateway and Mercer Marsh, and we expect more to join us offering fertility benefits. Uniquely, Apricity removes a lot of the disruption for patients and employers alike by significantly reducing the number of visits to the clinic. If more employers supported the process and more clinics used new technology solutions, we’d be able to collectively better manage the process and reduce the stigma.”
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.