Gwenda Burns: What should employers consider when planning fertility support?

gwenda burns

In the UK alone, around three and a half million people are currently suffering from some kind of fertility problem, according to the NHS. Infertility has a wide range of causes, and there are many different treatments ranging from drug therapy to assisted conception.

An employee may need to take some time off during their normal working hours to visit the clinic; the amount of time will depend on the nature of the tests and treatments, as well as the distance between their clinic and place of work, and the timing of their appointments. If an employer can allow some degree of flexibility in the working day, this will not only make the whole process much easier, but often has wider benefits for employee relations across the board.

The more flexibility an employer is able to offer, the less disruption there will be, and an understanding employer can make all the difference to an employee during fertility treatment. Many organisations now recognise this and are allowing their employees time off for fertility treatment. Some offer unlimited leave, while others give a set number of days with the option of additional unpaid leave and flexible working.

Those that have adopted such policies say employees have responded very positively and responsibly. They have found it generates goodwill which helps foster a happy workforce, and this, in turn, improves productivity and builds good customer relations.

One example of an employer that has a policy on fertility treatments is Asda, which allows up to three periods of paid leave for IVF, with five days for women and one day for men, along with the option of swapping shifts to fit around appointments, and additional unpaid leave if necessary. Additionally, Tesco offers time off with contractual pay to employees undergoing treatment, up to a maximum of one working week, pro-rata for part time roles.

Gwenda Burns is chief executive of the Fertility Network UK