According to the HFEA, ‘In 1991 there were around 6,700 IVF cycles recorded at licensed fertility clinics in the UK. By 2019, the number of cycles had increased tenfold to over 69,000.’
This has had a growing impact on workplace absence rates, with employees taking time off for clinic appointments and investigations, as well as for treatment and recovery.
Despite this rapid upsurge infertility treatment, only 16% of companies have a supportive fertility policy in place.
What does the law state regarding time off for fertility treatment?
Currently, UK law does not give employees a statutory right to attend fertility related appointments. There is currently a Bill trying to get through Parliament to change this.
Many employees feel unsupported at work, so they are choosing not to tell their employers that they are going through fertility treatment, for fear of being discriminated against. In some cases, people feel forced to choose between keeping their job or going through fertility treatment, causing them to delay treatment or to leave their job.
What are the benefits for employers of having a supportive fertility policy?
· Management will have more awareness of the physical and emotional demands of fertility treatment and the need for employees to be able to take time off at short notice (currently only 2% of line managers receive training about fertility issues)
· By putting clear guidelines in place around fertility leave, it will ensure consistency and equality across the company
· It will help with recruitment and retention –having a supportive fertility policy indicates a forward-thinking company, which is inclusive and willing to support their employees
· It can increase productivity – when employees feel supported and understood, they are less likely to need more time off for stress-related illness
· It encourages employees to be open with management about why they need time off
· The company are less likely to be accused of discrimination if a supportive fertility policy is created and implemented
What are the benefits for employees?
· Employees are less likely to face discrimination, as their time off related to fertility treatment will be separate to their sick leave entitlement
· Reasonable adjustments can be made to work load and conditions, where necessary, as employers will be more aware of the emotional and physical challenges affecting employees going through fertility treatment
· Employees will know how much leave they will be entitled to and whether they will receive full pay or partial pay
Here at The IVF Network, we understand the importance of equality for everyone going through fertility issues and treatment. We keep up-to-date with medical developments and social changes, the new laws and the support available. We provide a wide range of information, in an easy-to-access form, through our dedicated channel of experts, our website and our blog posts, to help you to make informed choices at every stage of your personal fertility journey.
We believe that education is the key to supporting both employees and employers. To increase awareness in the corporate world, we work with companies, to help them to create or improve their fertility policies. We also support them with implementation, offering workshops for line managers and employees, to increase their understanding of the impact of fertility treatment within our diverse community. Together, we can make a difference.
‘Fertility treatment 2019: trends and figures’ HFEA
‘One in four women undergoing fertility treatment experience unfair treatment at work’
‘The 2023 Workplace Infertility Stigma Survey: do UK workplaces offer sufficient support for employees on their fertility journeys?
“experts supporting those trying to conceive, Fertility Family”