In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and other fertility treatments are an often-gruelling process, with a huge impact both physically and emotionally on anyone involved in the process. This experience is further compounded for people going through fertility treatments by discrimination in the workplace, according to an MP who is campaigning for new employee protection for women undergoing IVF.
The Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster Nickie Aiken wants to make it illegal for employers to sideline or sack women who are trying to conceive through IVF and are having to take time off for fertility-related issues.
“Women are facing discrimination at work and even being forced out of their jobs because they haven’t got rights to take IVF treatment currently,” Aiken explains.
Currently, legal safeguards against pregnancy-related discrimination only begin after implantation has taken place. So people going through fertility treatments often find themselves having to ‘hide’ the fact that they are undergoing IVF. Many people also try to arrange appointments outside of working hours, undoubtedly adding to the stress levels experienced.
The growth in fertility benefits
Although there is evidently a need to protect people going through fertility treatment from IVF discrimination in the workplace, more and more companies are embracing the concept of extending fertility benefits to their employees.
Traditionally, employers have understood fertility through the concept of infertility, or the inability to achieve pregnancy as a heterosexual couple in a year. In that sense, “fertility benefits” is a new concept in the workplace.
Essentially, fertility benefits include a wide range of treatments and services that are covered by your employer. Some of the services include infertility diagnosis, in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), egg freezing, donor sperm or eggs, intrauterine insemination (IUI), and gestational carrier services, among others.
Why you need to support your employees with fertility in the workplace
There’s a huge misconception that young people don’t need or want to talk about issues like fertility or family planning. By 2025, younger generations are going to make up a majority of our workforce. In a survey carried out by Carrot Fertility, the leading global fertility benefits provider for employers, and The National Infertility Association, 88% of employees would even consider changing jobs for access to fertility benefits.
In February 2022, Virgin Management announced that it was introducing comprehensive fertility support for its UK and Ireland employees, with its sister organisation, Virgin Red, set to follow suit. The move means the 300 employees across the two business units will now have access to an education programme, unlimited free appointments with a dedicated fertility advisor, free home-testing kits, and discounts on treatments including IVF, intrauterine insemination, egg freezing, sperm freezing, frozen embryo transfer, genetic testing, and donor eggs and sperm.
Moreover, having access to holistic employer-sponsored health benefits is an opportunity for those starting out in their careers to learn about their fertility health, which is deeply intertwined with our overall health. For instance, our fertility hormones play an important role in regulating other health issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), irregular menstruation, insulin resistance, and diabetes. As a result of this, fertility benefits are not just limited to getting pregnant or wanting to start a family.
The other important aspect of fertility in the workplace is inclusion. Even if your employees are not accessing fertility benefits for themselves, a policy that prioritises fertility care and family planning shows that your company values inclusion and equality for all within the workplace.
How employers can support fertility in the workplace
When employers support fertility in the workplace, it not only offers their employees important resources, it also positions their workplace as an inclusive organisation. However, it can be difficult for employers to know how to support infertility in the workplace.
Employers can offer practical monetary support for employees struggling with infertility, or going through fertility treatments. This could include:
- Funding or partially funding fertility treatments for employees
- Offering discounts for employees for IVF
Employers could also offer emotional support to their employees, as well as resources and education about IVF and fertility treatments. By offering educational resources to employees, employers can help their staff to make more informed choices about their fertility journey. Such support could include:
- Organising talks from professionals to help educate employees.
- Providing access to healthcare professionals that employees can contact confidentially for advice and information.
- Engaging existing networks in your organisation to offer additional support for fertility treatments.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways that employers can support their employees with fertility in the workplace is to make workplace accommodations easy to access and available to all. This helps employees to feel confident in their organisation’s policies and practices. Some ways in which employers could make workplace accommodations include:
- Offering flexible working
- Allowing remote working
- Allowing additional time off for fertility treatments
Are you looking to offer fertility benefits to your employees and not sure where to start? Bloss gives employees direct access to experts in fertility, pregnancy and parenthood, allowing them to have a happier and more productive work life.
Our workshop from Aria Fertility Clinic will provide employees with expert guidance on all the challenges associated with trying to conceive. This article was written in collaboration with Aria Fertility Clinic.