How to Support Staff With Fertility Treatment
Workplace fertility challenges affect millions of people in the UK, and yet this issue is largely overlooked within working environments. With as many as one in seven couples suffering fertility difficulties, it’s important to ensure that business owners are aware of what their employees may be going through and that they provide appropriate support when needed1. Currently, there is no statutory time off for fertility treatment. This article outlines the proposals in The Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) Bill 2022-2023, a Private Members Bill currently progressing through the House of Commons. We’ll also explore how you as an employer can best support your employees if they face any fertility difficulties.
Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) Bill 2022-2023
This bill (introduced by Conservative MP Nickie Aiken) will improve rights within the workplace for those undergoing fertility treatment. If brought into law, the Bill would give employees going through treatment the legal right to paid time off to attend appointments it would also extend to their partners as they too could take unpaid leave to accompany them.
The Bill would also mean that those undergoing fertility treatment would be protected from discrimination in a similar way to pregnant employees.
What Protections Do Employees Have Now?
Going through fertility treatment can require many medical appointments, but unfortunately, there is no legal requirement for employers to provide time off for this process. While pregnant employees can take time off for antenatal check-ups, fertility treatment appointments usually don’t fall under this category. In fact, employees are only considered pregnant after an embryo transfer, which is the final stage of IVF. That means individuals seeking time off may have to use sick leave or holiday.
How Can I Support My Staff With Fertility Treatment?
Many employers are now taking action to support their employees by introducing their own policies that not only support employees but also their partners as well.
With some employees reluctant to talk to their employer about their fertility difficulties as they believe it may have an adverse impact on their career, having a fertility policy can help to create a culture of openness in the workplace, and is the first and best step to take to ensure your staff feel comfortable.
Statistics show that 63% of surveyed employees reported reduced engagement at work whilst undergoing fertility treatment and 56% experienced decreased job satisfaction. Meanwhile, a staggering 38% considered leaving their job or had even quit while trying to conceive2.
Employers can take steps such as:
- Creating an open and understanding atmosphere.
- Having flexible work arrangements.
- Offering time off for appointments.
- Providing medication fridges.
- Creating private spaces for injections and calls.
- Providing access to mental health support services such as counselling, support groups, and access to online resources.
- Training line managers so they understand the issues involved in fertility treatments and the significant impact the process is likely to have on an employee.
Several companies, including Goldman Sachs and Facebook, offer fertility benefit programs, while the NHS and the Co-Op offer paid time off and access to counselling and wellbeing support. The Co-Op is also among the latest of the large UK employers to announce the launch of a new fertility policy.
According to a survey by Fertifa, 90% of employees who face fertility challenges will move to an employer that offers fertility benefits and support3.
The Challenges of Creating a Fertility Policy
As the treatment varies greatly depending on the fertility issue in question and on the individual person’s biological response to the treatment, it makes it challenging for employers to design a policy. Here are a few options to consider:
- How much time off should be allowed in a 12 month period? If paid, where should the cap be?
- Will the policy set a nominal amount of paid leave but make clear that further paid leave is available at the discretion of the employer?
- When is absence subject to the usual sickness provisions?
- Is it sometimes better to agree to a temporary flexible working request?
- What other wellbeing support is on offer?
By creating a fertility-friendly workplace employers have an opportunity to take proactive steps to bolster the confidence of their workforce and emphasise the value of their employees.
In addition to this, employers benefit both financially and reputationally: those that prioritise fertility and equal opportunities are far more attractive than those who do not.
Ultimately, fertility policies not only provide crucial support for those going through fertility treatments but can also help increase talent recruitment and retention rates to provide companies with a competitive edge.
For any additional information or help creating your own fertility policy contact us today for comprehensive support.
1: NHS, (2020) Infertility. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/#:~:text=Around%201%20in%207%20couples,every%202%20or%203%20days).
2: Payne, N. & van den Akker, O. (October 2016) Fertility Network UK Survey on the Impact of Fertility Problems. http://fertilitynetworkuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/SURVEY-RESULTS-Impact-of-Fertility-Problems.pdf
3: Fertifa. (2023) https://www.fertifa.com/services/fertility
A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.