Fertility in the workplace - How to help your staff and colleagues

Published: 12/08/2022

Fertility in the workplace - how you as an employer can better support your employees who are struggling with fertility issues

This is the second in a series of blogs related to fertility, go and check out the first one by clicking here!

Fertility in the workplace

For some, getting pregnant can be a little too easy… However, it isn't always as straightforward as you might think. No matter the extent of planning and preparation, things don’t always go totally to plan. 

In this article, we’re going to be concentrating on fertility within the workplace - now just to be clear, I don't mean getting pregnant within the workplace! But rather pushing career and fertility simultaneously, having a family and a career at the same time. It’s 100% possible, however, issues commonly arise from one or a mixture of the following reasons:

  1. Poor health: these factors can be inherited conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and even physical disorders such as obesity, anorexia nervosa or even excessive exercise - who would have thought?
  2. Women are prioritising having a career compared to previous generations. great for career progression and driving the need for an equal gender balance in the workplace, but bad for fertility.
  3. Disorders of the reproductive system such as infections, blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis or low sperm count (women bear the brunt of it during fertility treatments, but men are just as likely to have fertility issues).

How to identify if one of your colleagues is going through fertility issues

If you want to support your employees, firstly, you need to identify when they might be experiencing fertility issues. 

Most of the effects of infertility on an individual are internal and obviously not only can you not see these, but individuals also tend to shield these issues - particularly in the workplace! Here are some of the signs that you can look out for.

When conceiving isn’t going to plan it can lead to a wave of emotions. A combination of turbulent hormones and emotions deriving from the failure to achieve pregnancy can cut deep and lead to: 

  1. Depression and a general downtrodden mood, where from the inside looking out everything is bleak.
  2. Decreasing attention span and concentration levels, a lack of motivation inside and outside of the workplace and due to this low mood, productivity takes a hit as well.
  3. Frequent doctor trips - it’s likely that if someone is experiencing fertility issues, they will have increased doctor visits for fertility treatment.
  4. Due to all of the above, it's also likely that these colleagues will have adverse reactions to situations, moods switching at the drop of a coin with small things causing big reactions!

Now you know some of the signs to alert you to a staff member struggling with fertility issues...

Here is how you as an employer can support them!

  1. Allow time for them to heal. Your employees won’t get through these issues overnight, especially if they’re untreatable. Offer paid leave in addition to holiday entitlement, don’t put limits on support! 
  2. Be informed. The more you understand the potential fertility issues your employees may encounter, the better in which you can help support them. As well as avoid potential minefield questions which can cause unnecessary distress.
  3. Assure your colleague with full confidentiality about your discussions, it’ll help them open up to you. Keep these issues private - it is NOT watercooler talk.
  4. Refrain from giving technical advice you’re not qualified to prescribe, instead…offer an expert (this is where we can help you). Trust us, your employee won’t forget the offer of an expert in their time of need.
  5. Reverse the taboo - infertility affects 1 in 6 couples. That’s a lot of couples. Yet there is still a stigma attached it. Make it very clear within the company that having fertility issues is quite common, and that your organisation care enough to provide support, and shout about the available support.
  6. Following on from the previous tip, make it easy for them to talk to you. Maybe have an open door policy at certain times, or have a single HR person be the go to. Or if you do have access to an external expert, assure them it’s completely anonymous and no one in your organisation will know if they don’t want them to.
  7. Finally, a bit of repetition here, but it’s so important to note to remain patient. Don't forget to give ongoing support and offer catch-ups at regular intervals if they do wish to come to you for support.

Fertility rates are dropping!

In this modern climate with advances in technology and medication, it may seem odd that fertility rates are dropping so significantly. The total fertility rate (TFR) in the UK has been declining year on year since 2012, decreasing by 18.75% in the 8-year period leading up to 2020, showing rates falling to 1.56%. Projections from the ONS suggest this general trend is going to continue, with TFR slightly recovering to 1.59 in 2044. 

This trend is consistent globally, TFR has decreased 48.94% in 70 years, down to 2.5%. As much as these figures may be justified through the vast improvements to the human development index (HDI) largely through lifestyle factors. This result is significant, not only through an economic lens but also from a social perspective. With an ageing population comes greater stressors on families, particularly in terms of eldercare. Read more about the effects of eldercare on your staff here!

Not only is the fertility treatment market growing but, more and more employees would switch jobs to have access to fertility-related benefits at work, 68% to be exact! 

To learn more about and decide what kind of fertility benefits you can offer, see our other resources including:

What progressive employers are offering.

Also take a moment to look at the woman's health fertility policy changes, due to start implementation in 2022

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