Written by Nicola Gater | 13th November 2023

Fertility struggles will affect not just an employee’s personal life but also their work life.

There will be physical and emotional stresses that may impact their ability to focus and perform, and medical appointments which could affect their attendance.

There may be financial stresses if they are self-funding fertility treatment. Good employers will be aware of these challenges and offer support, however, many employees feel unable to confide in their manager.

With around one in seven couples experiencing fertility challenges, employers should be mindful of the struggle some employees face and recognise what measures can be taken to support them.

Implementing a fertility policy can address this but according to CIPD, just 27% of employers have a fertility treatment policy in place, and 40% have no plans to introduce one.

If your business has yet to consider the topic, here’s how you can introduce a fertility treatment policy and why offering fertility benefits can contribute towards attracting and retaining employees.

Fertility policy at work

Fertility treatment isn’t the same for everyone – it can depend on the issue and the individual. This means the impact on an employee’s health and capability at work can be very different.

Even before fertility treatments start, employees experiencing fertility difficulties may be quietly suffering with their mental health. Ensure you have good wellbeing awareness, education and support in place, and train your managers to have sensitive conversations around mental health at work.

Once fertility treatments begin, employees may have very little choice about the timing of appointments and less flexibility to arrange them outside working hours.

Employees can experience a range of side effects from the treatments, which may affect their performance at work, and they may need time off, which may fall under your normal sickness absence and pay policies.

Having a fertility treatment policy will guide managers on how to handle these situations and tells employees what they can expect from their employer. It shows employees that you have considered the difficulties they face and that you are supportive of their wellbeing and their wish to balance their career with planning a family.

In a fertility policy, consider how much time off for treatment you can allow. 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? Can you offer flexible working options to accommodate the appointments? What other wellbeing support is on offer?

Before you write a policy, make sure you gauge your employees’ needs. Fertility should not be a taboo topic, and if employees want to, they should feel able to discuss it in the same way they would any other health problem. A policy can signpost the support you offer, which may encourage employees to be more open with you about any treatment.

Provide managers or other individuals in the business with training on how to approach these very sensitive conversations to support people who need it. Confidentiality is critical, and many employees will not want others to know what they are going through, but there may come a time where they really need to tell their manager and they must trust that such private and personal information will go no further.

Offer fertility benefits

As part of a comprehensive benefits package, you may want to introduce fertility benefits. This can speak volumes to your people about how much you care for and support them.

Fertility benefits can range from paid time off for appointments, access to counselling, partial or full IVF funding, at-home fertility testing kits, emotional support, remote and in-person medical consultations, or even partial or full funding for egg freezing.

For example, NatWest has introduced discounts on IVF, egg freezing and other support.

Fertility medications are another commonly offered fertility benefit, which provides medical and prescription coverage for fertility. Listen to what your employees would really value, and balance that with what your organisation has the ability to provide.

Why offer fertility benefits?

Supporting employees with these challenges shows you are an inclusive employer and helps employees feel cared about and less stressed, and reduces the financial burden that expensive fertility treatment can create.

All employers today are competing for skilled and talented employees, and these types of benefits can help them stand out as they strive to attract and retain talent. Many companies have also discovered that a supportive approach to infertility improves employee wellbeing, reducing absence and lowering the impact on performance and productivity.

FertilityIQ’s Family Building Workplace Index found that 61% of employees who received fertility benefit coverage said they felt more loyal and committed to their employer. In addition, 53% stayed with their companies longer because they were receiving fertility benefits.

Introducing employee fertility benefits is a great way to show your employees that you want them to thrive within your company, and that you care about their wellbeing.

If you have any questions or would like HR Consulting support on how to offer fertility policies and benefits, please get in touch with our experts at [email protected].