The UK’s leading fertility charity, Fertility Network UK (FNUK) has said companies are failing employees having fertility treatment if they do not provide a supportive policy during treatment
FNUK this week (Feb 14) launched a new initiative to tackle the lack of support available to employees and educate employers, entitled Fertility in the Workplace.
The hope is that by introducing a set of guidelines and policies, employers will help employees to be treated fairly and feel fully supported in their job.
Speaking at the launch, chief executive Aileen Feeney said: “Fertility treatment is on the increase with approaching 68,000 treatment cycles carried out every year in the UK and one in six couples (3.5 million people) affected, yet the majority of employers do not have a workplace policy providing the vital support employees going through fertility treatment need.”
Aileen said research has shown that having a supportive fertility in the workplace policy is good for business and employees – levels of distress associated with fertility treatment are reduced and employees are more likely to be productive and remain in work, one of the reasons the charity has launched the initiative.
She said: “Careers need not be damaged or jobs lost if there is an appropriate fertility in the workplace policy identifying the specific support available for couples or individuals having IVF. The initiative provides a framework for employers to implement a fertility in the workplace policy and, crucially, provides guidance for both employees and for employers, who may have limited understanding of the impact of infertility and what fertility treatment is really like.”
A survey on the impact of fertility conducted by the charity, entitled Fertility Network’s Impact of Fertility Problems survey, in 2016 revealed 90 per cent of people were depressed and 42 per cent suicidal.
IVF is not only extremely distressing, it is also time-consuming and time-sensitive with multiple appointments at often distant clinics and a need for flexibility as last-minute adjustments to appointments are often required.
FNUK said this resulted in women and men having fertility treatment experience conflict between the demands of work and the time and emotional demands of treatment and workplace support is sadly lacking.
Fertility Network’s research highlights just 26 per cent of people having IVF reported their workplace had some policy relating to treatment (58 per cent said their employer did not, and 19 per cent were not sure). The lack of a fertility workplace policy was associated with even higher levels of distress.
Aileen said: “Companies are failing already distressed employees if they do not provide a supportive fertility in the workplace policy. Fertility Network’s survey underlines just how much the lack of workplace support affects people undergoing IVF.”
According to the survey, 50 per cent of respondents worried treatment would affect their career prospects; 35 per cent felt their career was damaged as a result of fertility treatment and one in five people (19 per cent) had to reduce their work hours or quit their job (13 per cent of respondents reduced their hours and 6 per cent left their job due to treatment).
Hannah Pettitt Malafaia 42, experienced the benefits of a fertility in the workplace policy. she said: “It is really important to have support and guidance for fertility treatment in the workplace. Having a supportive workplace really does help people. It gives them a positive and flexible environment to be in when they are going through such a difficult time as it can be both physically and mentally stressful. The nature of IVF treatment requires some flexibility in regards to timing and appointments so having this flexibility at work is really important.”
Berenice Smith, founder of Walk In Our Shoes and champion of World Childless Week, has experience of the difficulties of combining fertility treatment and work. She said: “Ignorance about fertility treatment can lead to isolation and stress. These feelings are increased if human resources teams and managers simply aren’t aware of how impactful infertility is on the performance and health of employees. Learning and sharing experiences is so important, so I thoroughly endorse this initiative.”
How supportive were your bosses when going through fertility treatment? We’d like to hear your experiences, email firstname.lastname@example.org