If you’ve been following employee benefit news, you will have noticed how many companies are offering fertility benefits and coverage to their staff. However, those going through fertility treatment often find that those family-friendly policies often don’t provide much support for fertility treatment.
A Lack of Workplace Flexibility for IVF
In the past, those approaching their HR department would be pointed in the direction of ‘manager’s discretion,’ as companies didn’t recognise the need for clear policies. Even if workplaces have IVF policies, there is still a sense of stigma and taboo surrounding IVF and fertility treatments, consequently Individuals often struggle to talk about these topics freely.
Working while going through fertility treatments can be difficult, as this is a fraught time filled with a lot of anxiety and stress. Workplace flexibility can be a welcome help for those going through IVF, but most employers don’t have policies in place around paid or unpaid time off for treatments, appointments, and scans. This leads to unclear messaging and employees who are unsure about what they can ask for.
This problem affects as many as 1 in 7 individuals, all at working age and in the prime of their careers. Fertility Matters at Work, a Community Interest Company, conducted a 2020 survey of hundreds of people dealing with infertility at work. This problem affects as many as 1 in 7 individuals, all at working age and in the prime of their careers.
Employees feel worried about IVF at work
They found that most employers don’t grasp the extent of the problem, as workers don’t feel comfortable disclosing their fertility treatments. Instead, 69.5% of surveyed employees took sick leave rather than ask for specific time off for IVF.
Fears about being discriminated against for IVF combine with fears about being discriminated against for having a baby. One woman told the surveyors, “I was worried I wouldn’t be considered for the next promotion if they knew I was trying for a baby.” This fear of discrimination just adds to the stress of the entire situation.
Their survey also found that fertility treatments are often viewed as a ‘lifestyle choice’
One survey respondent reported, “my heart sank when I saw IVF listed alongside cosmetic surgery as an ‘elective’ procedure.” This goes against the World Health Organisation, who defines infertility as “a disease of the reproductive system.” Their guidance is that it should be treated by employers as any other illness or disease.”
Instead, hostile policies (or a lack of policies) result in a shocking 36% of those going through fertility treatment considering quitting their jobs altogether.
Fertility Matters at Work aims to help employers to become more fertility friendly. They encourage implementing robust policies, extensive education programmes, and guidance on how employers can support their employees during this trying process.
Did you feel supported by your workplace when going through IVF or other fertility treatments? What did they do well, and what could have been improved? Share your thoughts and let us know in the comment section.
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