A new report from Pregnant Then Screwed (based on results found by Women in Data) has revealed that only 42% of women going through fertility treatment actually told their boss.
Of those who did tell their employer, one in four of the women then experienced unfair treatment at work as a result.
Why is it a gender issue, when men also experience infertility?
Around half of infertility issues are caused by male factor infertility, however, it’s mostly women who have the invasive procedures or experience side-effects from the fertility drugs and therefore require more time off from work. It would also, subsequently, be the women who may need lighter duties during pregnancy and potentially more time off after the birth.
What does this bias against fertility treatment look like?
Some women feel unsupported while going through the emotional struggles of infertility and IVF, but for others, the bias can be more direct and personal. Serena toldPregnant Then Screwed, ‘I have been told repeatedly that any side effects from fertility treatment are self-inflicted and I was selfish for having special measures in place as it put more pressure on the rest of the team, just so I could have a baby.’
A recent report by Fertility Family states that ‘women surveyed are more likely to not receive any support from employers whilst experiencing fertility issues (42%women vs 30% men).’
What impact does this bias have on businesses longer term?
Being unsupported in the work place during fertility treatment can lead to longer term mental health issues, meaning more time off and costing employers more in the long run. Many employees fear that their long-term career progress will be jeopardised if they are open about having fertility treatment. In some cases, employees are being forced to choose between their job and fertility treatment and this may lead to businesses losing valuable, conscientious employees. Employers also risk being sued if they are shown to be discriminating against women.
Where does the law stand regarding time off for fertility treatment?
The report by Fertility Family, states that ‘the law currently doesn’t support women in this position. There’s currently a Bill trying to get through parliament to give employees a statutory right to take time off work to attend fertility clinic appointments. The second reading was on March 24th and the results are currently ‘in progress.’
What could be done by employers to address this discrimination?
Regardless of the results of the Bill, there are many measures that employers can take in order to ensure that employees going through fertility treatment are not subjected to discrimination. These may include:
· Increasing their own awareness of what is involved with IVF, so that any reasonable adjustments can be made
· Ensuring that line managers receive training on fertility issues, as currently only 2% do
· Helping employees who need counselling to be able to access it, by knowing where to direct people to for additional support
· Offering flexible working hours to accommodate appointments
· Improving lines of open communication, so that all of their employees feel supported, heard and treated equally
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.
“experts supporting those trying to conceive, Fertility Family”