Sandra Greenbank, Nutritional Therapist & creator of the Corporate Fertility Policy, explores the impact that COVID-19 has had on those struggling with fertility and how employers can offer support
Infertility affects about 1 in 7 couples, all of whom are of working age. It is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a ‘disease of the reproductive system’, with fertility treatment being a necessary medical procedure, in order to create the family that they long for.
Unsurprisingly, there is a high prevalence of anxiety and depression in those facing an infertility diagnosis. According to The Fertility Network UK, this number is as high as 90%.
Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, fertility treatment globally has been put on hold indefinitely due to the lack of knowledge about its impact on early pregnancy. This has thrown those couples who rely on assisted reproductive technology into turmoil. They are grieving the loss of opportunity to even try for a baby, and they do not know when they will be able to re-start their treatment. They do not know whether by the time the restrictions are lifted, it will be too late for them. It is a major hurdle for them to overcome.
Support your employees
What can you as an employer do now, in order to support your employees in the immediate term, as well as in the longer term?
- Supporting mental health is more important now than ever before. Does your organisation have suitable support options for employees such as counselling services? Are you able to increase your offering of counselling and support during this time?
- Fertility treatment is also a large financial burden. Is there any additional support available for those employees who have had to take a pay cut for an indefinite amount of time?
- What else can your organisation do, in order to support employee wellbeing and maintain staff morale during this time? If your employees are now working from home, they may need coaching to help manage this as well. Are they sticking to a schedule of work with regular breaks and evenings off, exercising, eating well and getting out in the fresh air? Do they have a designated table and chair where they can work undisturbed? If they are still commuting to the office, are they able to work flexibly, in order to schedule their commute during quieter hours? What else can you do to help ensure your employees are kept safe and well?
- Aim to start opening up the dialogue between employees and managers around the subject of infertility, in order to reduce feelings of anxiety and isolation. For a manager to be able to have effective communication around the subject of infertility, they ideally need to have a degree of training and knowledge around this subject.
- Consider that employees who have had their treatment halted will be eager to get back on track as soon as the restrictions are lifted. Creating a fertility policy within the company now, so that this is ready for when those fertility treatments are able to start again, will be reassuring to those members of staff and is likely to have a positive impact on productivity and mental health. Longer-term, it is also likely to have a beneficial impact on employee retention, satisfaction and productivity.