What American companies can teach European start-ups about enhancing access to reproductive health care

Infertility is a common problem. One in six people will experience fertility troubles at some point in their lives, according to recent data from the World Health Organisation, and many more will experience stress and mental health problems as a result. Furthermore, 69% of workers said that having fertility problems hurt their careers. Therefore, reproductive and family-forming services should be a key component of employee benefits programmes for companies that want to appropriately assist their personnel.

Startups can boost employee well-being, increase employee loyalty, promote an inclusive workplace culture, and attract top talent by providing more substantial employee support when they provide inclusive fertility benefits. Interesting, huh? This is what European companies can learn about reproduction from the US fertility benefits model.

Subsidising costs first

The foundation of the US healthcare system is private healthcare, which is extremely expensive for individuals. But as a result, in the US, it is typical for companies to foot the bill for employee health insurance plans, which frequently include reproductive help. In fact, it’s believed that more than half of US firms provide their personnel with perks for surrogacy, adoption, and fertility support. In contrast, paying for employees’ private healthcare and reproductive services in Europe is more of an exception than a norm, especially for smaller businesses. This is mostly a result of the NHS’s existence in the UK. However, this does not imply that getting fertility treatment in Europe is simple or inexpensive.

In the UK, people are finding it more difficult to obtain free reproductive treatments due to long wait times, rising expenses, and a “postcode lottery” system. The situation is similarly complicated in the rest of Europe: to provide just two instances, Germany forbids same-sex couples and single women from receiving publicly financed fertility care, while Ireland has no funding at all for such services. Due to the absence of support, many people must seek out private fertility care. But for a sizable number of people, the exorbitant expense of fertility therapy prevents them from receiving the assistance they so desperately need (or forces them to incur severe debt in order to do so).

Companies may significantly improve the mental health and wellbeing of staff members who seek reproductive help by instantly reducing the financial load and stress associated with fertility treatments for their teams through the provision of financial assistance. Although it may seem pricey, businesses must keep in mind that not all employees will require the perk. For those who do, it will have a significant influence.

Additionally, providing financial assistance to staff members for family planning and fertility services may be quite advantageous for your employer brand because it will indicate that you care about their health and wellness as well as their issues and priorities outside of work.

For policies to be inclusive, they must be thorough.

When it comes to inclusive reproductive and family-forming services, the US market is setting the bar. When it comes to fertility benefits, organisations like Lyft, Walmart, Zoom, and Fox provide its employees with a wide variety of choices. IVF and surrogacy, as well as menopause and gynaecological support, are all services that US fertility providers like Kindbody and Maven help businesses offer. In Europe, the situation is very different. IVF and egg storage are the focal points of many European companies’ fertility programmes. Even while it’s crucial to provide these services, doing so entirely is not welcoming.

Startups that wish to support all employees should learn from the US and implement comprehensive rules that address the needs of every employee and every kind of family. This entails providing a comprehensive array of family-building assistance, such as surrogacy, adoption services, fertility testing, and even fertility coaching.

Sadly, non-commercial surrogacy is still far more difficult to get in Europe than it is in the United States because it is still illegal in places like Italy, Spain, and France. Offering surrogacy support as an employer, however, can have a significant impact, especially for male same-sex couples who would otherwise be unable to conceive a biological child. This is especially true for businesses in nations where it is allowed to get non-commercial surrogacy, like the UK. Subsidising high adoption costs can support a variety of workers who want to start or expand their families.

Offering fertility treatment and facilitating it are two different concerns.

More accepting views towards fertility concerns at work have also emerged from the normalisation and broad adoption of family-forming and fertility benefits policies in the US. This is not to suggest that infertility has fully lost its stigma, but on the whole, the US is much more open to fertility help in the workplace than Europe.

Without first making sure the company’s cultural attitudes are in line with that objective, it is impossible to increase access to fertility and put inclusive fertility policies into place. The objective is to promote inclusive attitudes towards conception by promoting candid dialogues about conception, starting families, and parenthood. This could entail finding out what the staff wants and needs from a fertility policy, as well as making sure that information about fertility policies is easily available and that its use is encouraged. It’s also crucial that the business be set up to assist parents in other ways, such as with inclusive parental leave policies for first-time parents.

Employees’ worries that seeking treatment will have a negative impact on their job can be reduced by promoting pro-fertility treatment attitudes towards the workplace.

It’s crucial to view policies as a whole.

Companies wishing to learn from their US counterparts should roundly examine how they assist family formation and fertility. For employees to overcome the emotional weight of fertility issues, many US corporations, including Walmart and Salesforce, offer counselling and therapy sessions in addition to clinical fertility treatment alternatives.

The infrastructure to support employees emotionally through this frequently trying time ensures that employees can continue to thrive both at work and outside of it. Additionally, it shows employees that policies are not just for show but actually exist to support employees who require it.

Flexible working arrangements or “fertility leave,” which allows staff to take time off for appointments or treatment side effects, can be another excellent option for European startups to offer additional support to staff members undergoing reproductive treatment. This is in addition to mental health support.

Since just 14 states presently require insurance plans to cover infertility, the US approach is far from ideal. However, when it comes to creating inclusive fertility and family-forming policies that promote access to fertility, the US fertility business is setting the bar high, while Europe is lagging behind by a few years.

Drawing inspiration from the US model’s successes can therefore be a useful tool for entrepreneurs wanting to provide more inclusive, effective perks. In order to increase access to fertility, safeguard and improve employee wellness, and foster an inclusive culture that enables the company and its people to thrive, I’d also recommend you to have a look at European businesses like SoundCloud and the Co-op. These organisations are already providing fertility support to staff.

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