Supporting employees through fertility issues: Your burning questions answered

Celebrating having a baby on the way. Excited young lesbian couple smiling cheerfully and embracing each other after taking a home pregnancy test. Young female couple expecting a baby.

Reproductive health is a hot topic and with more than 500 people registering for our webinar on the topic, interest appears to be growing in how employers can support employees through fertility issues. 52% of attendees who took part in our webinar poll told us that more employees are starting to ask about fertility benefits at work. Furthermore, whilst 63% don’t currently have a fertility benefit in place, a whopping 92% said they were definitely, or maybe, going to invest in this in the next 12 to 24 months.

Here, Caroline Noublanche, CEO and Co-Founder of Apricity, who sponsored the webinar, elaborates on some of the far-ranging questions that were raised by the highly-engaged webinar audience. From what a fertility benefit is, to what causes infertility, to how to prepare managers to have conversations on this topic and how Apricity achieves its high success rates.

Q: Perhaps a very basic question….but when you talk about “fertility benefits” what does that mean/what would those benefits look like?

By fertility benefit, we mean financial support offered by an employer to support their employees through their fertility journey. Companies usually choose between going through their private medical insurance, using a flexible benefit system or opting for a cash allowance that they make available to employees, either every year or across their lifetime at the company. Companies can also opt to offer interest-free loans or cover costs themselves.

Employers may choose to pay for diagnostics only, or cover one or several treatments. 

Q: We currently offer 5 days fertility leave – is there anything else you feel would enhance this?

You can provide education and support for your employees on this matter. Ideally your company would also offer a fertility benefit that pays for the diagnosis and treatment of infertility issues, such as those offered by Apricity. Please visit our employee benefit page here to explore the options available.

Q: I think it’s important to talk about the barriers [to fertility] to get help such as weight, because that is one barrier that is causing issues for me in moving forward. Why is that?

For women, being overweight can cause problems at all stages of the fertility journey as it affects the ability to do ultrasound scans effectively, the embryology process, and ultimately the ability to get pregnant, due to hormone imbalances.

Obesity can also affect male fertility, also because of hormonal imbalance but also due to sexual dysfunction and diabetes. 

Being underweight (BMI under 18.5) can reduce a woman’s fertility by causing hormone imbalances that affect ovulation and the chance of getting pregnant.

Q: I would like to hear [more] about the main causes of infertility?

Around one in six people have difficulties conceiving, for many different reasons. The factors are age, macroenvironment factors and medical reasons. 

Male infertility issues (sperm count, motility, abnormality) contribute to one out of three couples who struggle with conception.

Women also face fertility challenges due to gynecological conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids, or PCOS, but also because of age or ovulation disorders. 

Then there can be multiple factors at play between the man and the woman, and then unknown reasons account for 15% of infertility problems. 

Companies can offer diagnostic testing for their employees, and can also cover the costs for some or all of the treatment their employees need to have a baby.

Q: Has any infertility cause been linked to working conditions/environment?

Jobs considered at risk, for instance in the chemical and manufacturing industries, military-related, hairdressing, driving, shift work, extreme heat, firefighting…may have implications for infertility.

Join our growing network of employers
Receive Make A Difference News straight to your inbox

While there are no direct links, stress at work can also contribute to higher blood pressure and rates of cortisol in the body, and can promote unhealthy habits such as eating unhealthily, drinking alcohol and smoking. Living a healthy lifestyle is proven to increase fertility for those without a medical condition that prevents them from conceiving naturally.

Apricity’s virtual fertility clinic model lowers stress and absenteeism by reducing the time off a person needs, compared to traditional clinics. They typically only need two in-person appointments compared to around ten. 

Q: [With virtual clinics] how would you complete scans?  

Ultrasound scans are conducted either by mobile sonographers that come to your home or office (London and M25), or you can visit one of the ultrasound facilities from our nation-wide network, or go to one of our partner clinics, whichever is most convenient.

Q: What are the success rates vs in person clinics?

Our success rates are 56% vs the 31% UK average. 

Q: Where are the eggs / sperm frozen?

They are frozen in the same facility that you have your procedure in.

Q: How has the Apricity approach delivered the 25% uplift in success over and above the average NHS rates?

Success rates are much better at Apricity thanks to medical adherence (mobile app), using data from 55,000 fertility cycles to personalise medical plans, less stress from the at-home experience, the choice of our partner clinics for the quality of their lab and the implementation of AI.

Q: Was the company you mentioned called Gaia?

Yes, we have a common offer Apricity x Gaia for corporates. This offer is an insurance offer, in which the employer pays for a coverage fee (tbd but in the range of £3k) and the employee pays the rest in installments only if successful: 

When the employee has a child, they will pay back their cycle costs with a flexible repayment plan, payable in affordable monthly installments. If they don’t have a child after 3 cycles, they don’t pay back anything. And if they decide to stop trying early, Gaia will discount their cycle costs. 

Q: I work in a male dominated business, and I cannot imagine how I can speak to my manager about fertility?

To download Fertility Matters at Work guides, including Preparing to talk to your workplace about fertility treatment, click here, scroll down the page until you see the form, sign up for free and you will get access to their whole resource library.

Q: As I understand it there’s no legal employment protection for employees going through fertility treatment (in the same way there is for pregnancy, for example). How can we encourage employees to feel safe disclosing that they’re considering or going through treatment in order to better support them?

You are protected under pregnancy legislation at the point of embryo transfer and also two weeks after a negative test, but there is no protection before that stage. FM@W are trying to change this and currently have a private members bill in parliament.

Q: A colleague who has recently gone through the fertility process commented that an embryo that doesn’t ‘take’ is essentially a miscarriage – and the loss is very real. How would you suggest approaching this and supporting the colleagues?

Fertility treatment can be an extremely stressful process. In fact, 50% of people find IVF as or more stressful than the bereavement of a close loved one. 

For this reason, we offer counseling sessions with BICA-accredited fertility counselors. Unlimited sessions are included in Apricity treatment packages during and up to three months following cycle completion.

Q: How do we implement support for colleagues who are frontline and don’t always have access to webinars?

A very effective way to inform staff about their fertility benefit is to advertise it in your job adverts, tell employees about it when they first join the company, and put it in their contracts. At Apricity, we offer to come to your place of work to offer diagnostic testing and/or free consultations with their fertility advisors.  

Q: I’ve encountered occasions of absence due to personal stress, down to couples not being able to find a surrogate. Can you please offer any advice or support with that?

Yes! We partner with My Surrogacy Journey to find the perfect egg donor, perform medical screening and accompany the egg donor through an egg donation cycle.

We then perform the steps necessary for embryology, from receiving and washing a sperm sample to culturing the eggs and sperm into embryos, ready for transfer to the surrogate.

Q: Fertility treatment is not the only solution to create a family – do you embrace adoption as a choice?

While adoption is not a service that we offer at Apricity, there are many other ways to become a parent and create a family.

You might also like:


Sponsored by The Watercooler


Sign up to receive Make A Difference's fortnightly round up of features, news, reports, case studies, practical tools and more for employers who want to make a difference to work culture, mental health and wellbeing.