As many as one in seven couples, all of working age, may have difficulty conceiving. Fertility struggles can affect both businesses and its employees as the reality of the challenge couples as individuals may face are rarely recognised and often misunderstood by employers. As a result, many people suffer in silence.
The positive news is that fertility is gaining increased attention in business circles after the Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) bill was read in parliament in June this year along with the removal of additional barriers for lesbian, bi, and trans individuals’ access to IVF.
The less positive news is that according to Fertility Matters at Work (FMAW) 2020 survey, 72% of people said their workplace did not have a fertility policy in place to support those struggling with fertility issues. And over 68% felt their treatment had a significant impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing.
The survey results also revealed that 69.5% of employees took sick leave during their fertility treatment. Employers face an obvious operational and financial challenge as a result of this figure especially when research shows that employees are more likely to perform well and are less likely to leave their workplace if they feel engaged and supported.
So, how do employers create a fertility-friendly workplace? Here are five steps to achieve this:
Communication is key
Often a policy is where employees first look to see if their workplace even recognises fertility treatment. A Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) report found that having a fertility policy is generally beneficial, to give legitimacy to the issue. The nature of the policy, and the way it’s operated needs to be carefully considered to recognise the sensitivity of the subject, and concerns around privacy and confidentiality.
Employers should ensure that a fertility policy is properly conveyed to employees when it’s implemented and that it is not buried behind maternity policies or other policies that directly deal with parental leave of any kind.
Workload considerations and flexibility
For those navigating a complex fertility path, there is a considerable amount of ‘work’ involved which may include figuring out fertility issues, taking care of underlying health issues, communicating with doctors, going to appointments, and receiving treatments, amongst many other things.
These all take up time and energy and can often be emotionally challenging. With this in mind, businesses should allow employees to plan fertility-related appointments alongside their day-to-day workload. When it comes to retaining workers at their jobs throughout fertility treatment and all of its numerous, perhaps unpredictable appointments, flexibility can make all the difference.
Line Manager Training
For all employees, raising awareness of fertility difficulties at work is a crucial educational component; however, it’s particularly pertinent to offer training for line managers. Line managers are essential to giving the right support.
Workshops, webinar participation, and having access to inclusive, learning resources are all possible methods of delivering educational training.
Social Support Groups
Offering social support groups to employees who have undergone a difficult journey or are presently struggling with fertility can be a key resource in assisting employees in dealing with emotional challenges.
Opening internal dialogue and spreading awareness through storytelling, when staff feel comfortable doing so, are frequently the best places to start.
External support and direction
Businesses could consider offering more specialised fertility counselling in their Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), delivered by professionals with specialised training in the field who can also provide an opportunity for discussing workload concerns.
In order to provide further support for any temporary employment adaptations, occupational health professionals should be aware of the physical and mental effects that fertility issues might have.
For more insight on how to become a Fertility Friendly organisation contact our expert HR team – Hertfordshire’s leading HR consultancy, bringing your business the benefits, protection and experience of an entire HR department.