Approximately 55,000 couples received IVF treatment or donor insemination in 2021, and the number is increasing year on year. Creating a policy that acknowledges fertility issues ensures an open and inclusive culture in your workplace.
Moreover, 68% of adults say they would switch jobs to gain fertility benefits. So, making an accessible, fertility-friendly environment with clear policies will help you retain talent through the fertility journey. Additionally, it will provide guidance for managers and HR professionals to support their teams.
A fertility policy outlines the process your company has for its employees undergoing fertility treatment. It should clearly state the guidance and support available through all stages of the fertility journey. The policy will provide a baseline knowledge of what infertility is, the causes of infertility and what an individual's fertility options are. Your employees should understand their rights and the support the company will offer them while undergoing fertility treatment. The policy should assist managers in educating them on the best practices while providing a fair approach in line with legislative requirements.
The policy should be inclusive and supportive to all individuals, not just women undergoing IVF treatment, but to all staff, irrespective of their gender and sexual orientation. Be conscious of writing the policy in a neutral tone that does not discriminate against relationship status, age or gender.
This should be a separate policy and not hidden inside another policy, such as a maternity policy. An individual looking to undergo fertility treatment will often search for their fertility policy at work before discussing it with a manager or member of HR. Therefore, having a transparent and accessible policy will give your employees the opportunity to get a better indication of how the company will facilitate their pathway to parenthood.
If you're not sure what to include in your company's fertility policy, then The IVF Network is here to help. Our HR experts and fertility specialists have collaborated to create a model fertility policy. Simply download our free policy template and tailor it to your company's needs.
To get a better understanding of the sections in the policy and why they are included, learn about their importance below.
The policy should clearly define the fertility treatment covered. You may want to include any form of assisted reproduction, such as in vitro fertilisation(IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), for example. You should also include any treatment or medical examinations that the company covers, such as egg collection or embryo transfer.
Fertility treatments can be incredibly challenging. It can be emotionally, physically and financially draining. By implementing this policy, you are indicating to your employees that you are committed to providing an environment where staff are genuinely supported. Employees should feel safe to discuss their fertility treatment and any other medical appointment with their line managers or members of HR and understand the support available to them. By requesting support, measurements can be put in place to assist employees with their workload when necessary.
Employees going through fertility treatment will need to attend medical appointments, and they might require time off for special leave, sick leave or compassionate leave. There should be an absence management framework that is fit for purpose and encompasses the potentially complex fertility journey your employees might be experiencing.
Your policy should clearly state the procedure for absences, the reporting structure and any paid leave entitlement. Making this information accessible to employees lets them know what options are available to them.
It is important to understand that absences will occur, and being supportive and flexible can make all the difference to an employee. For this reason, it is useful to outline the additional support the company offers.
Employers should understand that no two fertility journeys are the same, and therefore, allowing leeway in the policy for flexible working options or reduced hours will be beneficial for all. Employees will physically be absent when attending medical appointments, but it is important to remember the huge mental and emotional expenditure individuals experience during the fertility process and how this might impact their work.
Individuals will need to attend regular appointments. These may often be scheduled last minute and be conducted over an undetermined amount of time. Giving employees flexible leave and hybrid working can help reduce the stress they feel. Additionally, allowing partners leave to attend medical appointments will help both members in the couple.
Appointments may include procedures that are emotionally and physically exhausting. Take this into consideration when proposing leave time and flexibility for time to recover.
IVF treatment can cause nausea, tiredness, and depression. During the fertility treatment, employees can take sick leave in line with statutory sickness policy. However, this requires 7 days of absence to qualify for benefits. Offer more support to your employees undergoing fertility treatment by adding sick leave to the policy and a clear framework so individuals don't have to use their annual leave while undergoing treatment.
In any meeting, be clear to define who knows about the treatment and who the employee is happy to tell. The confidential information disclosed should be treated sympathetically and in strict confidence. Including a section on this in your policy will provide guidance for managers and reassure the employees that the information is confidential.
Establishing clear lines of communication will ensure your employees have the chance to discuss their progress. Keeping in touch to understand what is going on in someone's fertility journey is important. These conversations should be approached with empathy and to alleviate any pressure from the individual.
Some individuals may believe they need to conceal their fertility treatments from their employer to avoid discrimination against them. However, the opposite is true, by discussing the treatment it may protect them against unfair dismissal.
Arranging a confidential chat with HR or a manager is an important step in the process. Fertility or IVF treatment is a long journey and getting to the point of receiving treatment and requiring time off is actually far down the line. Get a better understanding of the early stages of a fertility journey with The IVF Network.
Getting a better understanding of the early stages of the fertility journey is valuable for an employer because you can be mindful and empathetic towards the complex and emotionally charged experience your employee will be experiencing. Having open conversations to ensure expectations are realistic and aligned will mitigate tension.
There are many resources that employers can use to offer support to employees. External resources such as charities like Tommy's, independent regulators like Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) or supportive membership communities such as The IVF Network, have many resources such as fertility specialists, podcasts and events that can offer support to employees. Include these resources in your policy to inform your employees of the support available to them.
The company may also offer internal resources such as occupational health, mental health therapy or Employee Assistant Programmes. Ensure your staff are well versed and fully aware of all the resources and support available to them, and they are clearly stated in the policy.
It is important to signpost any other relevant policies in your fertility policy and make sure employees know where to find them. Other policies that you might want to reference or create may include: adopting/fostering policy, maternity policy, paternity policy, miscarriage policy, LGBT+ policy, surrogacy policy and pregnancy loss.
Still not sure how to best create your fertility policy? Not to worry! Get in touch with The IVF Network team today and speak with our specialists and advisors.
The unfortunate answer is no. There is no requirement to have a policy dedicated specifically to fertility in your workplace. That being said, having one indicates to employees that your company is inclusive and genuinely cares. Many large forward-thinking organisations have such a policy to ensure they are inclusive and supportive.
Having a policy in place may help you retain your staff. With one in seven couples experiencing difficulties conceiving, companies who have adequate guidance and policies in place are retain their talent through the support they offer for those going through fertility treatment.
The legal right for employees undergoing fertility treatment and IVF treatment may be changing due to a recently introduced Fertility Treatment (Employment Right) Bill currently in the House of Commons. This bill, if it passes, will allow employees to take time off work to go to fertility treatment appointments.
There is currently very little to protect individuals and their partners going through fertility treatments. Once an embryo transfer has taken place, an individual is protected against pregnancy and maternity discrimination only if the fertility treatment has been successful. During the 'protected period', they are protected by section 18 of the Equality Act 2010, as the individual is legally pregnant and receives the same rights as a non-IVF pregnancy.
Additionally, there is no statutory right for partners to take time off for fertility treatment, even though there is a statutory right for those taking pregnant partners to antenatal appointments. Moreover, requirements for sickness due to fertility treatment are treated the same way as other staff, so the sickness absence should be accompanied by a doctor's note.
When creating the policy, you may find it necessary to consult and include these laws:
Creating the policy will help to protect and support your employees making them feel safe in their positions.
Please note the information on this page does not provide legal or medical advice, but practical ideas on how to support employees and employers.
Balancing work and fertility can be difficult and stressful. While the policy sets a pathway for how to support employees, it should also be used with other procedures to support your team. Many employees may feel apprehensive about informing their employer of their fertility journey or their IVF treatment because they worry it might impact their career and receive unfair treatment.
Creating this policy and having it easily accessible prevents your talent from leaving and facilitates a workplace free from stigma. The policy can inform your employees of the best practices and how to support individuals going through fertility treatment.
Information on the impact of fertility treatment should be understood by managers. There may be a psychological and physical impact on individuals or various common side effects of medications.
Having an awareness of fertility treatment and an understanding of the process involved benefits the whole workforce because they are more sympathetic towards those taking time off for IVF. It will also positively influence the support you can provide.
It has been mentioned previously, the fertility policy should not be hidden in another policy. Whilst this is for transparency, it is also for compassion. Placing the policy inside another policy, such as a maternity policy, may be upsetting and triggering for the individual.
Do you have a fertility advocate in your company to bridge the gap between employees going through the fertility journey and employers enacting the policy? Having lived experience is exceedingly valuable. Open conversations about fertility internally make individuals aware of the support available.
The IVF Network provides bespoke workshops, access to fertility experts and a supportive community for those undertaking fertility treatment. If you are looking to raise awareness and educate your staff on fertility issues, we can help.
Make sure you are training your managers and HR staff through workshops or online webinars to be inclusive and offer support. Employees should understand that well-meaning comments can be hurtful, so be sensitive around this area.
Training can provide a clear understanding of the realities of treatment for employees, including the physical, mental and financial impact.
We've said it before, but it's worth repeating: flexibility is a necessity. The employer should treat all employees equally, but it is vital to remember that reasonable adjustments for flexible leave for employees to attend a medical appointment will remove some stress for employees.
Offering support sends a clear message to your employees that the company values its talent and that their health and well-being are of the utmost importance. Offering this support allows employees to maintain a work-life balance that recognises the challenges they are going through.
Whether you're an employer or an employee, The IVF Network can help you with any questions. To learn more about the resources, events and workshops The IVF Network has available to our members. Or, to get advice from our experts and specialists, get in touch.