What is a fertility leave policy in the workplace?

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Fertility leave is rapidly becoming more normalised in the workplace, and rightly so. 

Starting a family is a right rather than a privilege, however, with at least 15% of the population experiencing fertility issues, this human right is not straightforward for all.

The stats suggest it’s highly likely that members of your workforce will experience fertility issues first hand, and a fertility leave policy will help to support them through an emotionally and physically challenging period. In order for staff to be happy and productive at work, other aspects of their lives need to be taken into consideration. 

Although more companies are now implementing fertility benefits, not all are on board. Mercer’s 2020 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans in the US found that 32% of small employers and 61% of larger employers currently cover some kind of infertility service.

While things are changing, there’s plenty of room for improvement – including here in Europe, and a fertility leave policy is a key place to begin.

How does fertility leave work?

In short, a fertility leave policy is a programme that allows staff to take time off work to help them undergo and cope with fertility treatment.

We’ll use IVF as an example: One round of IVF can take up to three weeks, but can be more like six to nine weeks when taking into account the time it takes to find out whether it has been successful. 

It’s a complex process involving suppressing the natural menstrual cycle, increasing egg supply, multiple ultrasound scans, egg collection, egg fertilisation and embryo transfer. The emotional and physical toll can be huge.

To undergo fertility treatment like IVF, it’s necessary to take time away from work. Whether it’s for appointments, treatment, and to recover both emotionally and physically from the various side effects, which can range from feeling anxious and drained, to PMS type symptoms like cramping and headaches.

Fertility leave for partners and same sex couples

Partners who may not be undergoing fertility treatment like IVF themselves also greatly benefit from fertility leave. 

Although they may not experience physical implications, they share the mental load and need to be on hand to support their partner.

And when it comes to same sex couples, it may even be that neither person is undergoing physical treatment, but fertility leave is still required for them to attend appointments and deal with the process on an emotional level.

Fertility treatment is a sensitive and personal subject, and it can be all consuming for those involved. Infertility is formally recognised as a disease by The World Health Organisation, so it’s totally reasonable for workers to expect to take time away from work without worrying about the negative implications this could have. 

What are the benefits of introducing a fertility leave policy? 

Employers need to understand that their workers expect and deserve more than just a paycheck. Where employees choose to commit their time and expertise is a big decision, and competition is hotter than ever.

Benefits are a key consideration of employees, and introducing a fertility leave policy will demonstrate your innovation, understanding and inclusivity. The figures speak for themselves – a huge 70% of millennials would look for another job if their employee doesn’t provide the benefits they require. 

If companies wish to retain their team, boost productivity and engagement and improve their overall reputation, they should make fertility and family forming benefits a top priority.

Making what once were taboo subjects more accessible and open only has advantages, too. It helps to improve communication between employee and employer, so that everyone is on the same page. For example, it may put employees at an unfair disadvantage if undisclosed fertility issues are causing them to take sick days and be less productive at work. 

Introducing a culture of openness around fertility issues makes it easier for employers to plan, and for employees to manage their personal lives alongside their work lives.

What’s the best way to implement a fertility leave policy?

Many employers believe they don’t need to implement a fertility leave policy as staff don’t ask for it. However, as we have just touched upon, infertility is a sensitive and stigmatised subject that many people feel uncomfortable broaching with their employer. 

A 2021 survey from Fertility Network UK found that 38% of employees undergoing fertility treatment consider leaving their jobs, 1 in 5 people did not reveal their fertility treatment to their employer, and nearly two-thirds felt it was necessary to hide the real reason they were taking time off work. 

Be the employer that takes initiative and implements a fertility leave policy before your staff either have to ask for it (or anonymously ask us to get in touch with their HR department), or before they move onto a company with fertility and family forming benefits already in place.

At Apryl, we help make fertility leave and benefits as accessible as possible for both employers and employees with smart tools and 360 degrees advice. But while we take care of the practical aspects of providing fertility leave and benefits to employers, there are tips to keep in mind when implementing a policy at work.

  • Forefront confidentiality alongside openness. You want your staff to be able to communicate with you freely about their fertility journey, but they should be assured that any information shared is 100% confidential. 
  • Let employees know how they can access fertility benefits. This one may sound obvious, but it’s a step that many companies miss. Once you’ve implemented fertility benefits, ensure your team knows how they can take advantage of them and keep them updated on any changes.
  • Educate managers on fertility issues. Although providers such as Apryl can take care of fertility benefits for your company, that doesn’t negate the need for managers to educate themselves on what kind of fertility leave and fertility benefits are necessary. You don’t need to be an expert, but a basic understanding of why fertility leave needs to be taken, for example, will encourage employers to be open with you.

Implementing a fertility leave policy is an effective and practical way to support your employees on their path to parenthood and boost employee engagement, retention and company culture.

Now is the time to introduce fertility benefits to your company and truly demonstrate your innovation and inclusivity. 

Get started and find out more about what our employer fertility benefits support could do for you and your employees.

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