Sadly, many employers bury their heads in the sand about fertility, haven’t got a policy in place about time off for appointments and reasonable adjustments, and, in some cases, even discriminate against people going through fertility treatment.

What is the cost of ignoring fertility issues in the workplace, in terms of the financial and emotional toll, the cost to the workplace and the loss of valuable and conscientious employees, whose careers are cut short?

The key findings from ‘The 2023 Workplace Infertility Stigma Survey’ carried out byFertility Family:

  • ‘3 in 4 people feel their employer doesn’t create an open environment to discuss fertility
  • 1 in 5 people feared they would miss out on future opportunities if their employer knew about their fertility struggles
  • Only 1 in 25 people (4%) received financial support from their employer
  • 1 in 5 employees would rather call in sick than inform their employer of a fertility appointment
  • 47% of companies have no supportive policies for employees struggling with fertility
  • Only 2% of line managers (1 in 50) had been trained on fertility issues and how to address these conversations
  • Almost 8 in 10 employees feel flexible working should be allowed for employees to leave for fertility-related appointments
  • 1 in 3 (36%) feel line managers should be trained on fertility issues and how to address these conversations with colleagues’

What are the financial challenges of fertility treatment?

Although IVF is available for some people on the NHS, many people will have to self-fund their treatments. For same sex couples and single people, depending where they live, they may need to self-fund unsuccessful IUIs to prove their infertility, before having access to NHS IVF funding.

If these people are then refused paid leave from work for appointments, they will be put under further financial strain, which can then also have a mental health impact.

People may lose out on longer-term career income and promotions if they are discriminated against or if they have to choose between a career and family.

What are the emotional challenges of fertility treatment?

Experiencing infertility is emotionally draining, as is going through the treatment itself.Hopes are pinned on the outcome and it’s devastating to go through IVF and not to get a positive pregnancy test result. IVF and some other fertility treatments involve taking fertility medication, which can have a number of side effects too. The overall well-being of people going through IVF is important for a successful cycle. While stress is not believed to be the sole cause of infertility, it can have a negative impact on fertility treatment.

Not being supported by an employer can increase stress levels and have a longer-term impact on the employee’s mental health and well-being.

What are the implications for employers who don’t support their employees while they are going through their fertility treatment?

·      The additional stress the employees will be under could have a negative impact on their work output and their health and may lead to a need for more time off from work

·      An increase in dishonesty – employees may lie about the reasons for their absence, or take a full sick day for each appointment rather than admitting to having fertility treatment, because of the stigma attached, or a fear of discrimination

·      Conscientious and valuable workers could leave the company due to feeling unsupported.

There is currently no statutory right to take time off to attend a fertility clinic. However, discrimination is against the law and there is also an expectation that employers will have due regard for the well-being of their employees.


How can employers help people who are going through fertility treatment?

·      Undertake training or research to find out more about the impact of infertility and fertility treatments and provide training for line managers too

·      Recognise that infertility and treatment are challenging, both physically, mentally and emotionally and take this into consideration

·      Allow people to work flexible hours, where possible, to accommodate appointments

·      Allow compassionate leave or paid time off for fertility appointments, as with other medical appointments.

·      Treat the side-effects of the hormone treatments in the same way as any other sick leave

·      Show compassion and understanding

·      Have a transparent policy in place that shows that the needs of employees going through fertility treatment will be met, including leave for appointments, sick pay and reasonable adjustments to working conditions/tasks where appropriate.

Here at The IVF Network, we provide a wide range of information, through our dedicated channel of experts, our website and our blog posts, to help you to be more informed on 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”

The WorldHealth Organisation (WHO)