Fawcett Society publishes employer’s guide on fertility at work

The Fawcett Society, in collaboration with TotalJobs, has published an employer’s guide on navigating fertility at work. It shows that women feel the impact of infertility at work more acutely than men do, with disadvantages compounded for women on a low income, in a single-parent household, or from an Asian or Asian-British background.

A survey of 2,000 workers who had undergone fertility treatment in the last five years found that 68% did not tell HR, 59% did not tell their manager, 43% said they experienced negative comments at work and 19% resigned.

The guide says that a ‘fertility-friendly’ workplace will be more attractive to candidates, can manage absence better (92% of surveyed staff who underwent treatment took time off work), and improve engagement and retention (74% of those surveyed who received fertility support said it strengthened their loyalty to their employer).

The recommendations for employers include:

  • A fertility policy or guide. This should be standalone, assure confidentiality, state workers’ entitlements (both those undergoing treatment or supporting a partner or family member) and outline the process for requesting fertility leave or support. The best practice is to offer paid leave for appointments, flexible working, sick leave (recorded separately so as not to trigger management processes) and mental health support. Employers should also consider extending their bereavement policy to cover loss or miscarriage at any stage of pregnancy (including embryo transfer loss).
  • Training for managers. It is important that managers feel empowered to have two-way, supportive conversations with team members, being aware of some of the reasons why an employee might be reluctant to disclose.
  • Wellbeing. Offer sensitive wellbeing initiatives that are specific to those experiencing infertility such as mental health first aiders, counselling services and employee assistance programmes.
  • Recruitment. Include fertility-friendly benefits in job adverts. Workers who have been through fertility treatment said flexibility was the second most useful benefit employers could offer (following paid compassionate leave).
  • Culture. There needs to be a cultural shift through organisation-wide awareness raising, manager training, sensitive story sharing and peer support, as part of ongoing wellbeing initiatives. Employers should support wider discussions around fertility at work, advertise their policies and support in this area, celebrate Fertility Awareness Week, and demonstrate commitment by signing up for the Fertility Workplace Pledge.

Source: Fawcett Society and TotalJobs: Paths to parenthood: Navigating fertility at work (14 September 2023).