Approximately one in seven people in the UK experience fertility problems, with the majority of these individuals in employment.

It's widely recognised that there can be significant impacts on the mental and physical health of employees experiencing difficulties conceiving. Managing these, alongside working, can often be extremely difficult.

The CIPD has recently published a detailed guide for employers on offering workplace support to staff experiencing fertility issues. This blog sets out the key aspects for employers to consider.

The guide comes off the back of the findings of two surveys, which assessed the support provided by employers and employees' experiences with fertility issues at work.

From the 2,023 senior HR professionals and decision-makers surveyed, around 24% said that their organisation encouraged an open and supportive climate to a great extent, where employees are able to talk about issues like fertility treatment.

However, 13% of those surveyed stated that they did not encourage this climate, and 40% confirmed that the organisation didn't have a formal policy on fertility treatment and didn't plan to introduce one.

From the 300 employees surveyed, who had experiences with fertility challenges, investigations or treatment, 47% confirmed that they don't tell their manager or HR, and 26% said that they were concerned about the possible impact on their career.

The survey asked employees how helpful they found the support received from their employers, and the majority confirmed that this was helpful.

When those who received no support were asked how beneficial support would have been, the majority of people stated that they deemed employer support to be the most beneficial, followed by line management support.

The aim of the guidance is to raise awareness about the need for effective workplace support and encourage employers to view fertility as an important workplace well-being issue.

The guidance is based on the following five core principles.

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1. Raising awareness across the organisation

Employees experiencing fertility challenges, investigations, or treatment may have to attend multiple clinic appointments, they may have to find time to take sensitive phone calls and they would likely need privacy to be able to do so and may need a place to store and take medication.

The cost of private treatment may put some employees under pressure to work additional hours or attend work even when they are not well enough to do so.

Raising awareness about such matters within the organisation can help to address these issues and ensure that employees experiencing fertility challenges, investigations or treatment are not treated unfairly.

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2. Creating an open, inclusive and supportive culture

By breaking down the stigma associated with fertility issues, employers can facilitate employees feeling supported in telling people about their experiences.

The key is for line managers and colleagues to be able to deal with matters empathetically and understandably and send a positive message to employees about the support available within the organisation.   

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3. Developing an organisational framework of support

This could be a policy or a plan to encourage consistency within the company, ensuring that time off, access to adjustments or any other treatment is managed in a supportive way.

Any policy or plan should be written in a way that all can understand and is fully inclusive to provide an equal level of support to all.

This includes same-sex relationships, employees pursuing parenthood as a single person and partners of those undergoing fertility treatment.

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4. Managing absence and leave with compassion and flexibility

No law currently entitles employees going through fertility investigations or treatment to any enhanced rights or paid leave.

Companies should consider how existing policies on paid leave or the amount of discretionary leave could be extended to support their employees who are undergoing fertility investigations or treatment.

Companies should consider the manner in which leave is taken to reflect that individual needs will vary.

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5. Promoting good people management

Line managers will often be an employee's first port of call, so it's important to ensure they have the capability and confidence to implement the company's policies.

It may also be helpful to signpost external specialist charities or other expert sources of help when needed.

Companies should ensure that training is provided to managers, and they should be provided with the information to help them broadly understand fertility treatment challenges, the effect such experiences can have on individuals and how this can impact their work.

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If you are an employee facing difficulties in your work due to fertility issues or a company looking to understand your obligations, don't hesitate to get in touch with our specialist employment team on:

0161 941 4000