Mother’s Day stirs up a lot of emotions. For many, it’s a day to celebrate the bond of love and affection between a mother and a child.
However, it is a complicated time for people struggling with infertility. Mother’s Day serves as a reminder of their diagnosis and inability to conceive.
This impacts more people than you might know: one in eight couples in the United States.
Infertility is incredibly stressful and draining. Indeed, research has even shown the stress levels of women diagnosed with infertility are equivalent to those with cancer, AIDS, or heart disease.
Needless to say, employers need to consider how they support and manage employees living with infertility. Mother’s Day is the perfect time to take a stand and set a new precedent.
Let’s take a look at the employee experience of those living with infertility and how you can help today:
Awareness and Support
Unfortunately, employees living with infertility lack support in the workplace.
A recent Come Recommended survey of 1,000 U.S. employees diagnosed with infertility found that only 29% feel supported by their employer. As a result, they quit (30%), are actively looking for or are open to new job opportunities (27%), or potentially worst of all, they stay even though they are unhappy (32%).
This lack of support may be why 47% of them do not disclose their condition at work. To make matters worse, if their colleagues don’t know, they may inadvertently make insensitive or even offensive remarks.
For example, a common April Fools joke is faking a pregnancy. While this may be funny to some, not so to those living with infertility.
Establish a workplace environment where employees know they are welcome to open up about their experience with infertility, should they wish to do so.
For example, if you already provide fertility-related benefits, such as health insurance that covers treatments, send a company-wide e-mail in advance of Mother’s Day reminding employees of the benefit’s details and why you offer it.
If an employee, especially someone within senior leadership, is already open about their infertility, encourage them to lead by example. Talk openly about the experience, when appropriate, and offer to be a resource for others struggling.
If neither of these scenarios ring true for your company, you can always create an anonymous “share wall” in the break room or other common area. This allows employees to leave notes to each other about whatever is going on in their lives. Other employees can reply with notes of support to show they are listening.
Additionally, consider hosting a screening of Vegas Baby, a new documentary which follows aspiring parents on the gamble of infertility and shows the emotional, physical, and financial toll it takes. The film will be available on iTunes in advance of Mother’s Day, or you can book a local theater.
Financial and Emotional Cost
From 2012 to 2016, I experienced four miscarriages, attempted in vitro fertilization (IVF) seven times, and gave birth to stillborn twins before finally having my daughter, Aurora. The struggle was beyond words.
Everyone’s experience with infertility is different, but they all have one thing in common: it’s costly. Here are some infertility benefits worth considering:
Discounted Services. Look into well-being services like LifeWorks and Fond that offer corporate discount programs for valuable perks and discounted services. These could include yoga and acupuncture, which both reduce stress and can potentially improve the outcome of fertility treatments.
Paid Medical Leave. Make it clear which infertility-related appointments and treatments would qualify for paid medical leave. Then, establish a clear policy that makes it easy for employees who need infertility treatment to determine how to request paid time for medical leave.
Fertility Coaching. Prepay for coaching sessions that help your employees understand and manage their emotions and provide direction throughout their infertility treatments, or provide employees with a subscription to a fertility concierge service like Progyny.
If you already offer an employee assistance program (EAP), it may cover infertility support along with other helpful services, like counseling and legal consultation.
Egg Freezing. Look into corporate package options for egg freezing with providers. Companies like EggBanxx or Extend Fertility make egg freezing much more affordable for both the patient and the employer.
This helps employees manage their financial well-being, which would otherwise be an added stress.
Health Insurance. While it might not be mandated by your state, adding infertility coverage to health insurance is not as costly as you’d think, and it has many benefits.
A study by EMD Serono, Path2Parenthood, and RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, found that 91% of employers offering infertility treatment have not experienced an increase in their medical costs as a result, and infertility coverage can be provided at less than 1% of total premium cost.
Explore options with your insurance broker. Our research found the three most popular plans included: 1) lifetime maximum of $25,000, 2) all services covered, and 3) lifetime maximum of $10,000.
Employees with infertility struggle to establish a healthy work/life balance. They likely will require a lot of doctor’s appointments, so it’s a challenge to manage their workload while starting their family.
If you offer a combination of flex-time and telecommuting options, an official paid medical leave policy for infertility treatments might become less necessary. Offer guidance on the best work-from-home and time management practices to make this policy successful for both employees and the company.
Use Mother’s Day as a turning point—it’s the perfect time to make changes to your culture and offer infertility benefits for employees who may feel unsupported, misunderstood, and isolated.
They don’t need to be silent anymore.
How are you supporting employees with infertility this Mother’s Day?
|Waldorf, Maryland-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, a content-marketing and digital-PR consultancy for job-search and human-resources technologies. She is the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle.|