Why reproductive health matters at work

A recent webinar by Fertifa focused on how employers can address the mental health issues associated with reproductive health.

working mum sits at desk, stressed


Our mental health – and the way companies support their employees – is arguably more in the spotlight now than it has ever been. Having emerged from the recent national mental health awareness week it’s clear that the stigma previously associated with talking about mental health has thankfully largely disappeared.

However, talking about fertility and reproductive health at work still remains a taboo subject, and can have a devastating impact on mental health. So how many employees is this affecting?

  • One in six couples in the UK have difficulties conceiving
  • One in four women experience a miscarriage
  • Every LGBT+ person will need fertility support if they want to start a family
  • 40% of fertility issues are caused by a male factor

Research by Fertility Network UK shows that 90% of people going through a fertility journey feel depressed and 43% feel suicidal.

When we put this into context and start thinking about businesses and employee demographics we can start to see the sheer numbers of people within any organisation that might be impacted!

Ruth Petzold, EDI manager at Anchor Hanover, says her company has been working hard to introduce support for its employees after a colleague approached her and raised the issue of how fertility was acknowledged and addressed in the workplace .

“A colleague asked how we could work together to make some positive changes and support others who may be struggling as a result of fertility challenges or going through treatment.

“We saw that there were some quick steps we could take, such as moving information about ‘fertility-related’ time off out of the maternity policy, which could be very triggering for people already struggling. We also engaged with groups such as our LGBTQ+ group, developed guidance for managers on how to approach talking about fertility and opened our internal comms channels to our colleagues’ stories and experiences – which have been really powerful.”

Anchor Hanover announced earlier this year that it is partnering with Fertifa to give its staff access to a range of reproductive health education and services, including virtual consultations with leading fertility doctors, discounted private fertility investigations and treatment, help to navigate NHS fertility treatment and 24/7 access to dedicated fertility advisors.

“Adding fertility support and services to the employee benefits we offer is an important step in acknowledging the huge burden of emotional, physical and financial stress that many people experience as a direct result of fertility challenges,” says Petzold.

Lucie McGrath, Head of Client Strategy and proposition development at Willis Towers Watson, agrees that considering the impact of fertility and reproductive health on employees must be a priority for HR professionals. In a recent WTW survey of 200 corporate clients findings showed that the top short-term priority for respondents, regardless of the size of their organisation, was enhancing emotional wellbeing services and stress/resilience management for their employees.

“Can offering fertility benefits in the workplace offer value? In a single word – yes!” says Lucie.

“There are undoubtedly huge benefits for employees who may be impacted by challenges or concerned about their future reproductive health, and there is a significant opportunity for employers to also see benefits in the recruitment, engagement and retention of their staff, and to support their equality, diversity and inclusion strategies. My advice would be for companies to simply make a start in addressing the issue of fertility – as doing some things is far better than doing nothing.”

Ruth and Lucie’s top tips are as follows:

  • Don’t be fearful of having to start a ‘massive project’. Doing some things is better than doing nothing
  • Start your journey by acknowledging the taboo-nature of the subject, and the impact it can have, and build a supportive culture with small changes and education
  • Consider what your benefits/guidance might cover: fertility treatment, adoption, surrogacy, maternity and paternity, menopause?
  • Engage with interested groups and utilise the growth of employee voice and networks in your organisation (eg LGBTQ+, mental wellbeing, fertility networks) and share real-life stories where you can
  • Access specialist information, education and guidance from companies like Fertifa or charities such as Fertility Network UK
  • Above all – embrace empathetic and inclusive leadership

*This is an edited version of a report on a recent webinar published by Fertifa, a fertility benefits provider. Willis Towers Watson has also published a reproductive health guide

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