What are the implications of being childless-not-by-choice for your employees

In this blog post, we explain the stresses and strains that being childless-not-by-choice and infertility treatment can bring to your employees. We also explain how you can better support them during this difficult time.
Frau mit unerfuelltem Kinderwunsch

More and more people require reproductive medical help to fulfil their desire to have children – every sixth person is affected. Every 10th couple in Germany is currently childless-not-by-choice. So there is a high probability that this also affects employees in your company or team. 

The stresses associated with this are great.

Emotional burden

The inability to have children places a heavy emotional burden on your employees. Why me? Will it work out? Will we still be able to start a family? What have I done wrong? Am I no longer a proper woman, or a proper man? These are all questions that those who are childless-not-by-choice ask themselves.

Most of those affected did not expect to be affected by infertility and have children firmly included in their life plan. Entire life plans are called into question by infertility and it is not uncommon for employees to rethink their professional decisions and ambitions as a result.

This is especially the case if childlessness-not-by-choice lasts for a long time and employees undergo several infertility treatments or suffer miscarriages.

Time burden

Those impacted by infertility and childlessness-not-by-choice have a great need for information. They want to be as well informed as possible regarding potential causes and treatment options in order to have the best chance of fulfilling their own desire to have children.

The search for information alone can take a lot of time. There are many possible sources of information, but none meets all the requirements at the same time: accessible, understandable, comprehensive, structured and independent. This poses a challenge for those affected, as the search for information is usually tedious and time-consuming.

Medical examinations until the cause is found take further time and often drag on. On average, it takes 4.5 years for people in Germany to receive the correct diagnosis for infertility.

If fertility treatment is then carried out, many appointments with the gynaecologist and in the fertility clinic follow, especially for women. In the context of IVF treatment, clinic visits every 2-3 days are not uncommon in order to monitor the progress of the hormone stimulation treatment. These appointments are usually not long, but they must take place during normal working hours, which then presents your staff with enormous time challenges.

Employees who do not want to tell their employer that they are undergoing fertility treatment take leave during this time or go on sick leave – even under other pretexts. Others reduce their working hours as a precautionary measure, and it is not uncommon for repeated infertility treatments to lead to employees giving up their jobs because they cannot reconcile the treatment with their work requirements.

Physical burden

In most cases, fertility treatment is associated with hormone therapy. For patients, this can be accompanied by unpleasant side effects such as weight gain, hot flushes, headaches, dizziness and depressive moods.

Egg collection, for example for IVF treatment, is usually done in a surgical procedure under general anaesthesia. Most patients are able to return to work after one day’s sick leave, but depending on how the operation goes, physical recovery can take a few days longer.

Sometimes infertility treatment can be physically very stressful for patients, which of course has a direct impact on productivity and – in combination with other stresses – also on motivation at work.

Financial burden

The financial burden of infertility treatment can very quickly run into the tens of thousands.

In some cases, health insurance companies cover part of the costs of fertility treatment, but this is by no means the case for all those affected, nor does it cover the entire cost of treatment.

In the case of young, heterosexual and married couples (woman under 40, man under 50), the statutory health insurance funds cover 50% of the costs for up to three IVF treatment attempts, provided there is diagnosed infertility. However, this does not apply to numerous – medically very useful – additional treatments, such as the prolonged cultivation of embryos or the freezing of surplus embryos for a later cryocycle.

Even for patients with ideal health insurance, there is often a high co-payment.

Treatments of same-sex couples or single women with sperm donation as well as treatments of unmarried or women over 40 do not have to be covered by health insurance and are also not covered by the majority of insurance companies.

These people then automatically become 100% self-payers.

For some infertility patients there are additional subsidies from the state and the federal government, but these are also linked to preconditions and only cover individual treatments and also not all those affected.

The financial burden is cited by involuntarily childless people as the number one reason why they do not undergo infertility treatment in the first place. In a study conducted by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) in 2020, 85% of all involuntarily childless people stated that they were concerned about the costs of infertility treatment. The financial burden thus becomes an emotional burden for those affected.

As sad as it is, for many people the fulfilment of their own desire to have a child fails because the financial burden of infertility treatment would be too great.

What should you do?

All this affects, on average, every sixth person in Germany – every sixth employee in your company and team.

Do you want to know how you can support your employees in case of unfulfilled desire to have children?

Get in touch with us and we will help you to help your employees.

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