How to support employees going through fertility treatment in the workplace?

AUTHOR: Zoya Ali BSc MSc

Still a hushed and taboo topic – almost 1 in every 6 couples have fertility issues in the UK-that’s about 3.5 million. The global infertility rate is increasing as people choose to have children later in their lives, with the average age to have a first child now 30.7 years in the UK. This means that fertility treatment is becoming more and more common.

Infertility and the fertility treatment journey can be a roller coaster, both emotionally and physically. Almost 90% of people experience depression as a result of infertility. Over 40% do not disclose that they are undergoing fertility treatment to their employers fearing that it would negatively impact their career prospects (Fertility Network UK).

Here are a few recommendations on how you can support your employees undergoing fertility treatment better:

1. Help people understand the basics about their fertility.

Up to 59% of respondents in a Fertility Network UK survey felt their employer would benefit from education about fertility and treatment options to help better understand and support the needs of someone undergoing treatment.

Referring your employee to resources that may help them understand the basics of all things reproductive health will make them more confident in their reproductive journeys.

2. Help establish the feeling of a supportive environment.

Educational workshops can be a stepping stone to understanding the concerns your employees might have surrounding their fertility. These can help build open dialogue and encourage them to discuss fertility issues without concerns of negative consequences.

88 % of employees who felt unsupported during IVF treatment have left or consider leaving their job. Partnering with organisations that provide fertility counselling can support your employees during this emotional turmoil.

3. Establish a fertility benefits policy in the workplace.

Eligible employees in the UK have a statutory right to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave (gov.uk). On the other hand, preconception care is not a
statutory right, which is why most employers do not have formal policies in place.

With the numbers of NHS-funded cycles declining rapidly and extensive criteria couples, especially LGBTQ+ couples, have to fulfil before accessing a funded cycle, many people are opting for private treatment but few can afford it (HFEA). The average cost per cycle in a private clinic is about £5,000, but it can cost even more depending on the treatment options chosen and the clinic (HFEA).

Establishing fertility benefits policies – covering proactive fertility testing, fertility treatment or egg freezing costs or providing low-interest loans – can help align your interests with your employees, supporting their individual journeys to parenthood, facilitating equality, diversity and inclusion.

4. Establish flexible work options.

Fertility treatment is time-consuming because it means having to attend multiple tests, appointments, consultations and procedures. Appointments can often end up with long wait times, or need recovery time. For most people, a single cycle of IVF can take between four and six weeks.

Usually the time employees take off work for fertility treatment is deducted from their paid time off or sick leave. Not having a fertility treatment leave policy has been linked to greater levels of distress, risk of burnout and reduced performance.

Providing flexible working hours and arrangements can help support employees with the time they might need to attend clinic appointments.

5. Finding the right partner to support reproductive health policies.

About Hertility Health
Hertility Health is shaping the future of Reproductive Health by giving women the ability to understand and manage their fertility and hormone health from menstruation to menopause. 1 in 3 women suffer with a reproductive health issue, yet conversations around fertility, menopause and menstrual symptoms are still stigmatised in the workplace. As employees suffer in silence – up to £4k is lost per employee, per year due to reduced productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism.

To learn more about our Reproductive Health Education and Benefits for Employers, reach out to [email protected]  or visit our website https://hertilityhealth.com/benefits.