Four in five (78 per cent) people say fertility support or a fertility policy are important factors in their job hunt, a new nationwide survey by Fertifa and Fertility Network UK has revealed.
The survey of 3,600 men and women also found that 75 per cent of those who had experienced fertility challenges said their productivity at work was strongly impacted.
More than a third (37 per cent) said they received very little or no support from their employer when going through fertility treatment.
Overall, 18 per cent said they had quit their jobs or ‘took a significant change in responsibilities’ because of the impact fertility treatment was having on their lives.
Holly Evans, head of HR at JourneyHR, told People Management: “Fertility treatment is often an unpredictable time for employees. It can present many challenges, from trying to balance work-life pressures with last-minute appointments to the need to administer medication at a specific time of day depending on hormone levels, not to mention the side effects that may come with these forms of medication.”
There can often be a “hidden impact” on productivity for workers struggling with fertility issues, said Lisa Ashworth, fertility coach, career coach and author of Fertility: Mindset and Meltdowns. “Often it is a very private challenge and people don’t always share what they’re going through with their boss or their colleagues,” she said.
“They may find their performance day to day is impacted by a variety of things, such as taking fertility drugs, dealing with the emotional pain of disappointments or even something simple like watching colleagues at work become pregnant around them.”
Of those who experienced fertility issues, one in three (32 per cent) said they were not at all financially prepared, according to Fertility UK’s report. However, when broken down by gender, the survey found that 95 per cent of women financially struggled.
Claire Ingle, co-founder of Fertility Matters at Work, highlighted the financial impact of fertility treatment: “More often than not, treatment is completed privately [because of] a lack of NHS funding and comes with an enormous financial burden that can be compounded if work days are missed and are unpaid.”
She said the effect these stresses have on the mental health of workers was significant and can often lead to a higher number of employees taking sick leave if there is a lack of management support, “with people feeling like they are left with no other choice”.
Nearly a third (30 per cent) of people took time off (including annual leave, sick leave and unpaid leave) without saying it was for fertility treatment. Ingle said workers often feel vulnerable disclosing their fertility challenges to their employer as a result of a lack of statutory provision.
She continued: “Anecdotally, people report that they are subsequently sidelined for projects, made redundant and even dismissed as a direct result of them having treatment and being upfront about it with their employer.”
HR should focus on “creating and fostering a dialogue where your employees feel it is acceptable to discuss their fertility challenges in a safe and confidential space”, Evans added.
Fertility policies also need to be “inclusive”, she said, and “should recognise individuals undergoing treatment, regardless of their relationship status, including both heterosexual and non-heterosexual couples”.
Evans said that a policy should be accompanied by “raising awareness” within the business and ensuring training managers were well informed and “feel confident supporting their team and bringing the policy to life in practice”.
She also recommended employers consider providing paid time off or more flexibility to workers who were undergoing fertility treatments.
To read the CIPD’s guidance on offering workplace support during fertility challenges, click here