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On average 1 in 6 couples are impacted my fertility challenges in the UK. Undergoing fertility treatment can impact significantly on an employee’s physical and mental health as well as subjecting them to financial stress where they are self-funding fertility treatment. Up to 68% of individuals who went through fertility treatment say it affected their mental wellbeing.
A recent study by Fertility Network UK found that 77% of workers who struggled with fertility issues had disclosed this to their employer, however only 24% of those felt that their employer had a supportive workplace policy in place for those issues. In a poll, 47% said adjustments such as fridges for medications, a quiet space to inject or flexibility to take last minute calls or appointments had not been made available. Likely as a result of these issues, almost 70% of employees took sick leave during fertility treatment.
A better understanding and awareness of fertility challenges and treatments will help employers address these types of issues more fairly and consistently. It will also help promote a culture of understanding and inclusivity in the workplace; this in turn will help improve employee wellbeing, productivity and retention rates.
Currently in the UK there is no legal entitlement to take time off to undergo fertility treatment however the Equality and Human Rights Commission Code of Practice recommends that employers treat requests for time off for IVF treatments “sympathetically” and recommends that employers establish procedures for allowing time off for IVF and fertility treatments.
Employers should also be aware that during the final stage of IVF treatment, which is known as the ‘embryo transfer’, pregnancy rights will come into effect.
Most employers are managing fertility treatment by using their existing policies such as: medical leave policies, flexible working policies, home working/hybrid working policies and sickness policies. However, on certain occasions these policies may not always be appropriate.
We have identified 3 measures which employers can implement to support their employees going through fertility treatment.
Employers should implement a Fertility Treatment Policy which clearly outlines their approach to employees receiving fertility treatment. This policy should outline:
The benefits of having such a policy include:
Holding a training session either organised internally or facilitated by an external provider is a great way to improve awareness of the issues faced by employees who have fertility challenges. This will help affected employees to feel supported and included. It will also help employees, such as Line Managers, to be considerate and aware of the issues that may be facing colleagues and the procedures and policies the employer has in place to help.
Employers could consider offering medical support and wellbeing services to help affected employees. Some organisations offer financial benefits for those undergoing a fertility journey, such as private medical insurance. This is a great way for organisations to support employees and shows that they are a socially conscious employer.
If you have any questions about navigating fertility policies, or any other query related to Employment Law, please feel free to get in touch with our Employment team.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor.