Despite the end of Fertility Awareness week, Peppy believes workplace fertility support is a topic employers should continue to discuss. One in three of all UK employers are taking serious risks when it comes to the recruitment and retention of personnel by not offering a vital piece of workplace healthcare support. 

Providing fertility supports aids retention

If an organisation is looking to attract, recruit and retain staff of child-bearing age anytime soon, then special focus needs to be placed upon offering workplace fertility support to employees.

Fertility issues can wreak havoc on the lives of individual employees, and become all-consuming physically and emotionally when their journey doesn’t go to plan. Fertility treatment itself can also be extremely distressing at times, as well as being highly time consuming and time-sensitive.

Employees need flexibility to attend multiple medical appointments, often at clinics far away from the workplace, compounding an already stressful experience. As a result, employees can become distracted, depressed and isolated.

While many employees going through this fertility journey worry that their career prospects may be damaged as a result of it, as many as one in five have been forced to either cut their working hours or quit their job completely.

But by being supported in the workplace, through a targeted family-friendly support package, that burden can be lifted thus encouraging reciprocal loyalty and engagement in the long term.

Offering fertility support helps companies recruit and retain this most important demographic, saving the cost and disruption of finding and training new people.

Employers currently have limited plans to offer help

Sadly, our latest research confirms, almost a third of bosses have no plans to offer workplace fertility support. Our survey of more than 500 HR decision makers, found 31% admitted to having no plans to offer fertility support to staff.

Organisations that fail to offer support for fertility issues among their staff need to acknowledge and address a growing concern among UK employees of child-bearing age. Indeed, there has been recognition of the importance of this topic in the press recently, with the launch of a campaign by Cities of London and Westminiter MP Nickie Aiken, to champion the need for individuals and couples undergoing fertility treatment to get statutory time off work.

Fertility treatment is on the increase – with around 1 in 6 couples (3.5 million people) affected by it each year. And yet, the bulk of employers don’t have a workplace policy providing the vital support employees going through fertility treatment need.

That can have costly implications for UK employers, as research shows that more than a third of employees undergoing fertility treatment have considered quitting their job. Having dedicated fertility support in the workplace policy is therefore good for business and employees.

Up until recently, there has been very little support available for employers to offer people on a fertility journey, but when one in six people in the UK are affected it’s very much needed.

Employers need to recognise that they must be on the front foot when it comes to supporting employees in this area.

Reap the rewards

For businesses already addressing fertility issues and offering help to staff the benefits are clear. In Peppy’s survey, 39% of employers reported having always had employee benefits in place that support staff with their reproductive health, or have put them in place in the past 12 months.

Employers who provide genuine family-friendly workplace fertility support from fertility through to birth and beyond, and help their staff feel confident and comfortable discussing these issues, will create a caring and inclusive environment – one in which staff are more likely to want to return to after starting their family.

But that still leaves a significant number of employees without adequate support for their fertility journey now.

Employees who are affected by fertility issues can find it hard to carry on as normal. Side effects of treatment, changes in lifestyle, a reluctance or inability to socialise, fatigue and anxiety can weigh heavily on staff, as can the relentless appointments in numerous healthcare settings.

Such is the overwhelming and all-consuming nature of many fertility issues that employees may feel they are unable to remain in the workplace: whether or not they choose to do so will often boil down to how supported they feel.

What can employers do to increase workplace fertility support?

Workplace fertility support can cover many areas, including IVF, family planning and adoption through to conditions such as endometriosis that can affect fertility. A workplace-based support scheme ensures employees are treated fairly and empathetically and feel fully supported.

With the help of healthcare experts well-versed in offering fertility support, employers can get a better understanding of the impact infertility can have upon couples and what fertility treatment is really like.

By providing information and healthcare expertise, workplace fertility support can reduce the levels of stress and anxiety associated with fertility treatment. The upshot of this is that employees are more likely to be productive and remain in work.

With specific support in place for couples or individuals going through IVF careers need not be damaged or jobs lost.

Francesca Steyn
Francesca Steyn
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Francesca Steyn is the Director of Fertility and Women's Health services at Peppy and Chair of the Royal College of Nursing Fertility Nurses Forum. Francesca has over 17 years experience as a fertility nurse specialist, both in the NHS and private sectors and has published Department of Health guidance on surrogacy best practice and care in surrogate births.