Two-thirds (61 per cent) of employees anticipate that their employer will pay for their IVF treatment in full or part, a survey has found.
The study by Apricity, conducted by Bilendi, found that businesses are ill-equipped to provide employees with what they want, as currently only 17 per cent offer this benefit.
The survey of 500 people found the majority (82 per cent) of respondents – who had already undergone IVF, and wanted to do it again – would only consider working for a company that offered fertility benefits.
Becky Kearns, co-founder of Fertility Matters at Work, said that, although employers covering the cost of fertility treatments would be helpful, it was “not the only thing” they could do. “Having access to a policy, flexibility to attend appointments and support for emotional and mental health would make the biggest difference to an individual's fertility journey at work,” said Kearns, who added that if employers can offer financial support, “that's amazing, but we don’t believe it should be an expectation”.
She said offering financial aid without having an “accessible policy in place, and having trained line managers on the topic”, meant employees would not have “crucial emotional support”.
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The data found that the majority (84 per cent) had to take time off work during treatment, and two-fifths (38 per cent) took time off as annual leave. A further 16 per cent took no time off at all.
This is despite two-thirds (62 per cent) saying they found fertility treatment just as, if not more, stressful than losing their job. Half (50 per cent) said it was as stressful as a bereavement, and 51 per cent said they found it as stressful as divorce.
Jamila Lecky, global reward consultant at Mott MacDonald and a member of the Workplace Fertility Community, said given that an IVF cycle typically costs between £8,000 and £15,000, it was “unsurprising” that employees would look for organisations that offered better fertility benefits. “With more than 3.5 million people affected by fertility challenges in the UK, fertility benefits, as with maternity and other parental benefits, will increasingly become a factor for attracting and retaining top talent, with those that do offer financial support, either in full or partially, gaining a competitive advantage as a result,” she said.
Lecky added that “even though some organisations may not be able to afford to pay for therapy, there are additional free or inexpensive activities that can be performed to help employees through IVF. These can include offering flexible work schedules so that employees can attend appointments, paying for time off during treatment, and providing professional counselling services to help with the emotional, physical and financial burden that comes with fertility issues”.
IVF can be “very costly and not all those seeking it will be approved to receive the treatment under the NHS free of cost”, according to Melanie Morton, employment lawyer at Freeths.
“While many employers do provide staff with private medical insurance cover, most insurance providers do not pay out for fertility treatments, deeming it a lifestyle choice,” said Morton. She added that the cost of fertility treatments can be “extremely stressful”, but that employers can provide “paid time off for the [IVF] procedure” or just follow up with them.
Meanwhile, a parliamentary bill discussing time-off rights for fertility treatments is currently underway, which will require employers to allow staff to take time off from work for appointments for fertility treatment and for connected purposes.