Fertility In The Workplace – What Employers Need To Know

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The news that Fertility Network UK has launched a Fertility in the Workplace initiative to support both you and your employees will come as welcome news to many.

We all know that you as an employer have a duty of care to your employees, especially when it comes to health issues.  But fertility issues aren’t discussed as freely as other health issues and how are you to know what to do when it comes to their employees who are undergoing assisted conception treatment? 

Thankfully there is now guidance available to help you help both your employees and your business.

“Research shows having a supportive fertility in the workplace policy is good for business and employees – levels of distress associated with fertility treatment are reduced and employees are more likely to be productive and remain in work – that’s why Fertility Network is launching Fertility in the Workplace – an initiative designed to help employers support employees facing fertility challenges.”

Fertility Network UK

Fertility Facts:

  • The World Health Organisation defines infertility as a disease
  • Fertility issues affect both men and women, mixed and same sex couples and individuals
  • 42% of fertility patients have felt suicidal at times
  • 50 % felt concerned that treatment would affect their career prospects
  • Maternity rights under the Equality Act 2010 and protection apply from the date of embryo transfer (often referred to as the implantation of an embryo)
  • If fertility treatment is successful, maternity rights and protection continue from the date of embryo transfer until the end of a woman’s maternity leave. If fertility treatment is not successful, maternity rights and protection apply from the date of embryo transfer and then for a further two weeks after a negative test (which is typically taken two weeks after embryo transfer/implantation)

Why Would I Need A Fertility Policy?

Having a policy in place and a general understanding of what IVF treatment entails is going to become the norm as the average age for giving birth increases and more people could potentially turn to IVF, so it’s sensible to put a plan in place sooner rather than later.  Your business may also thank you for it.

Research carried out by Fertility Network UK also shows that 19 per cent of people facing fertility issues reduce their hours or leave employment completely. This can be challenging for an employer not only operationally but also financially as the average cost to employers to replace a single member of staff is estimated by ACAS to be more than £30,000.

There are multiple research studies that prove employees who feel supported at work and engaged with their employer perform better at work and are less likely to leave. And perhaps more importantly for you, this research also shows that employers experience improved business outcomes.

What Might A Good Fertility Policy Include?

  • Flexible working hours and/or time off work
  • A good understanding of the assisted conception treatment process for both men and women, same sex couples and surrogates
  • A supportive and understanding environment in which to discuss and plan for the demands of treatment

To break this down, employees undergoing assisted conception treatments typically require around six to eight flexible days at work, this includes appointments for a variety of consultations, tests and scans, egg collection and transfer. Men also need to attend appointments for tests and sample collection, but should ideally be there to support their partner or surrogate for more invasive pre-treatment procedures, egg collection and transfer.  This is also dependant on whether fertility treatment is taking place within the UK or abroad. 

A good fertility policy has the potential to benefit both you as an employer and your employees as it could reduce the amount of time off needed, increase employee loyalty, minimise any additional work-related stress felt by your employees and ensure a supportive work environment. 

The Fertility Network UK Survey Results:

  • Those having treatment experienced high levels of distress and 42% even experienced suicidal feelings.
  • Despite concerns about privacy, potential damage to career prospects and lack of employer understanding, 72% disclosed to their employer, mainly because they needed to ask for time off work.
  • 23% reported the existence of specific workplace policy relating to fertility treatment
  • 42% reported really good support from their employer
  • 60% felt their employer would benefit from education to help them understand the needs of someone having treatment.

Putting a fertility policy in place may benefit both you and your workforce in ways you hadn’t realised.  Further support and advice can be found at https://fertilitynetwork.org and an informative and helpful video about their Fertility In The Workplace Initiative can be found here.

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