If you’re wondering how to better support your employees struggling with infertility, this article delves into the ways in which an employer can support their staff along their fertility journey. It will also highlight how a fertility policy can better support HR as well as help staff understand their workplace fertility rights.
Fertility in the Workplace Initiative
A survey undertaken by Fertility Network UK as part of the launch for their ‘Fertility in the Workplace Initiative’, revealed the difficulties experienced by employees with combining work and going through fertility treatment.
72% of the respondents disclosed to their employer that they were undergoing treatment, with 41% stating that they received good support from their employee, but only 23% reported that their workplace had some form of policy relating to fertility treatment.
Those who received good support reported lower levels of distress.
With 1 in 6 couples experiencing fertility issues, how can those going through investigations and treatment be best supported by employers?
Training, Education & Awareness
Invest in the education of senior members of staff and management with a course such as a fertility awareness training course, to place them in a better position to be able to truly support those going through treatment.
Hybrid / Flexible Working
Patients going through treatment have said that hybrid working or working from home has made it easier to attend appointments. As this style of working is not suitable for all jobs, a flexible approach to work patterns and daily tasks, making it easier for employees to change tasks or patterns when necessary, could be put in place during this period.
For those that attend a place of work, depending on the time of the working day / shift, the employee may need to store or take medication. Ensuring that they have access to a working fridge to discreetly store medication, and a clean quiet room where they can administer medication, can be hugely helpful.
Employees may have to wear more comfortable clothing during treatment, although this may only be an issue if employees wear a uniform. But knowing they can have access to a bigger size, or are able to wear their own trousers, for example, will put them at ease.
The offer of more flexible breaks can be very welcome. During treatment, patients are advised to drink at least 2-3 litres of fluid daily. If they have limited break times, they might be reluctant to do this, which can lead to dehydration if they have a lot of follicles.
Make a quiet space available
Fertility is a sensitive topic, and many would appreciate somewhere quiet and private to take a call, or to digest information that may not always be positive.
Have a written policy
Having a written policy on fertility and the issues which can arise undoubtedly gives an employer the opportunity to show its understanding of fertility in the workplace, whilst maintaining employee expectations on the support which is available.
It would also remove any uncertainty employees may have about how an employer will address such issues at work, and what employees should do to access support.
A package of measures might include rights to time off work for both parties to the treatment, as well as support if the treatment isn’t successful and miscarriage occurs, egg freezing, and HR support on a confidential basis.
A fertility policy ideally should be written with a specialist understanding of fertility treatments and potential legal issues. It should also not assume it applies only to men and women in heterosexual couples.
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