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20 Nov 2019
by Dawn Lewis

rebaLINK: fertility treatment policies

Each month we'll be taking a closer look at a topic raised on rebaLINK, REBA's online member-only forum to offer our own expertise and insight.




Question: We've had feedback that we should consider introducing a policy to support employees going through fertility treatment, so that we are consistent in how we respond to requests for time off etc. Does anyone have a formal policy in this area and, if so, any specific elements you offer such as a number of days' leave?

National Fertility Week ran from 28 October – 3 November and this year received a lot of attention. BBC Radio 2 planned a week of social-action related programming to mark the event, while LinkedIn launched its own campaign on fertility in the workplace. Given the national response to this issue, it’s no surprise that employees have raised questions about their employers’ policies.

Figures from Fertility Network UK show that 3.5 million people struggle to conceive naturally. Of those who undergo treatment, one in five people reduce their work hours or leave work during their treatment. LinkedIn’s own research revealed that 51% of employees going through fertility struggles needed to take time off work for medical reasons, but only 43% felt supported by their manager.

Many employers do have separate fertility treatment policies, while others use special leave policies to cover a range of medical and personal reasons to take time off work. Ensuring policies are in place to cover more unusual circumstances ensures consistency and flags to employees and managers alike what expectations the business has, not just for those undergoing treatment, but also for their partners.

However, those undergoing treatment may need more than simply time off to attend appointments. They may also need to reduce their hours due to the rigors of the treatment or be excused from business trips as they are unable to be away from home.

Our recent article five key ways to support employees undergoing fertility treatment highlights other ways that employers can support their staff, including financially and mentally. Fertility treatment, if not available on the NHS, can be very expensive leading to extra financial strain on employees; while the emotional toil of going through treatment with no guarantee of success is also an added pressure.

All of these factors highlight that employees need a great deal of support at this time, not just additional time off, but wider inclusive policies that take into consideration all of their needs.

Here are some additional resources and reading to help employers outline their own fertility treatment policies:

Broader women’s health considerations

Although fertility is an issue in itself, it can be categorised under women’s health. Our article, 10 workplace interventions to improve menstrual and menopausal health and wellbeing, written by Sally King, founder and research director of Menstrual Matters, highlights that workplaces don’t necessarily have to have separate policies to cater for women’s health needs. She argues that employers should instead create inclusive policies that cater for all.

This is a sentiment shared by Tony Bickerstaff, chief financial officer at Costain, who argues that there is a strong link between inclusivity and wellbeing. He believes that when organisations embed wellbeing and make it inclusive, the long-term returns will come.

The author is Dawn Lewis, content editor at REBA.

REBA Professional Members can access rebaLINK via our website. It is a confidential forum for industry peers to ask questions about policies, suppliers and wider reward practices both for the UK and internationally. It provides access to a collective body of industry professionals and their expert knowledge. 

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