Why companies should offer fertility benefits. Diversity is essential in the workplace. For that reason, companies that refuse to hire qualified women are now under pressure to change their hiring practises or explain their unwillingness to do so. However, the corporate responsibility to ensure diversity should not end there. If companies are looking to hire more women, they must be mindful of the issues these women may face. While companies are willing to offer paid maternity leave, sick days for children and flex time for mothers in the workplace, not many seek ways to support women struggling with infertility or those who wish to delay having children.
Canadian women on average are choosing to have children later in life for varying reasons. Some of them decide to complete postgraduate education before starting a family while others take time to travel or pursue career ambitions before motherhood. Others while focussing on other goals have not had the opportunity to find a suitable partner.
Men will continue to produce sperm their entire lives, but women are born with all their eggs. As women age, both the number and quality of their eggs decrease. If a man decides to put off having children for later in his life, he will not face the same biological consequences as a woman. Furthermore, even younger women are sometimes unable to conceive due to infertility.
Options for women struggling with infertility and those who want to delay motherhood
Fortunately, assisted reproductive technology can help. Women who want to preserve the integrity of their eggs while they delay motherhood can opt for oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing). For women who are ready to start a family but are finding it difficult to conceive naturally, procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) can help.
The downside of these procedures is that they are expensive and regular health plans do not cover them. That is why Canadian companies should offer some form of fertility benefits that will give more women access to the fertility treatments they need.
Dealing with fertility issues can lead to financial problems, depression, anxiety, and strained relationships. At work, this can translate to poor performance and decreased productivity as well as increased absenteeism—things that are all bad for business.
How can fertility benefits help?
With these challenges in mind companies like Apple and Facebook have decided to offer female employees up to the US $20,000 for egg freezing. These companies have set an excellent example for Canadian companies to follow. Canadian companies should consider putting money towards helping women afford procedures like IVF as well.
Larger companies may be the only ones able to contribute a significant portion of the cost of these procedures. Still, even small and mid-sized companies can play their part in creating a fertility-friendly workplace. Small and mid-sized companies can start by offering flexible healthcare spending accounts that include the option of putting a portion of employee benefits towards fertility treatments. Employers should also consider offering paid leave for women who have had a miscarriage and time off for fertility treatment.