To say there is a lot involved in an IVF journey would be an understatement. It’s an intense mix of practicalities and logistics combined with both emotional and physical health effects. Knowing what to expect when going through IVF is daunting, but can make you best prepared to help your employees navigate what lies ahead.
One area that is often difficult to manage is balancing work and IVF. At the very least, employees will probably need time off work for IVF appointments. Going through IVF treatment and working is complex. Here, we walk you through how to make your employees feel comfortable talking about IVF at work, and how to help them manage their IVF treatment in the context of working.
We are often asked questions from people going through fertility treatments such as “do I have to tell my employer about IVF?” or “should I tell my employer about IVF?” While one of these questions comes down to legal requirements and the other comes down to their personal choice, employees still need to know where they legally stand.
Infertility and work is a grey area when it comes to rights and responsibilities. There is no specific law or even employment guideline that tells organisations what they should do when an employee is going through IVF. For this reason, many employees worry about the support they might get, and the reception they might receive when telling you about their IVF treatment. Some employees even worry that the reception may come down to whether you have experienced infertility, or been close to someone who has.
This means that there is no legal requirement for you to give an employee time off work for IVF appointments, for example. Your company may treat these like other medical appointments, requiring employees to use annual or sickness leave or take time unpaid.
IVF treatment and work
However, while employees don’t have a legal responsibility to tell work about their IVF experience, there is a good argument for making your employees feel comfortable discussing fertility treatments.
It’s important to remember that balancing work and IVF is not easy for your employees. There’s always a conflict between their personal and professional life, but with IVF in the mix, it’s even more complex. Usually, they probably manage this conflict by only letting you as their employer know things on a need-to-know basis. This may be the approach they choose to take with IVF too.
However, with IVF treatment, your employees are facing additional health pressures – both physically and emotionally. These will impinge on work from needing time off for appointments, through to feeling fatigue or hormonally imbalanced during treatment itself. There’s also the emotional toll of such an unknown journey.
Many employees’ first issue is therefore deciding whether or not to tell their boss about IVF treatment – as well as when to tell you and how to tell you. There is no right or wrong to their decision: they need to make the decision that’s best for them, knowing that IVF is both mind-consuming and time-consuming, and may, unfortunately, affect their availability for work and their performance at work.
Because choosing to tell an employer about IVF is such a personal decision for an employee, a good starting point can be for them to consider how helpful they believe it will be to tell you. You should make it clear that you are open, and would love them to be honest about their IVF journey with you.
Some organisations, particularly larger ones, have dedicated policies about infertility and work. Indeed, more and more workplaces are offering fertility benefits. These policies should be used to establish the level of support you are able to provide an employee going through fertility treatments.
Even if your workplace doesn’t have established policies, you can still offer emotional and practical support.
How to help employees feel comfortable talking about IVF
Helping your employees feel comfortable talking about their fertility treatments at work isn’t as simple as implementing policies or fertility benefits. While these no doubt help the process, there’s much more involved in making your employees feel comfortable.
Unless you have had to go through the process of IVF yourself, it’s likely that you aren’t fully up to date with what it actually involves. Stay informed about the process of fertility treatments and IVF treatment. By walking a mile in your employees shoes, you can start to understand the intense emotions associated with fertility treatments, as well as the physical changes they may experience.
Always be aware of your employees’ legal rights surrounding IVF in the workplace, and be sure to implement policies if these change. Knowing that their employer is informed about the latest guidelines on IVF in the workplace can give your employees the confidence they need to confide in you.
It can be incredibly helpful to have Infertility and IVF workplace training to help all your employees – not only those going through IVF treatment – understand the impacts of IVF at work.
What to do when an employee tells you they’re going through fertility treatments
Once you have made your employees feel comfortable enough to tell you about their IVF treatments, you need to know where to go from there. For many, this is unknown territory. Here’s what you should do when an employee tells you they are undergoing fertility treatments.
Collaborate with them
Once your employee has told you that they are undergoing fertility treatments, you should work with them to figure out how you can give them the support they need. Each employee going through IVF treatment will have different expectations of you, and different needs in the workplace. Some employees will want to work from home on certain days, or make up the time they are missing in the office for an appointment.
It’s important for you to be clear about what you expect from them, and what your employee can expect from you in return. Discuss how you can make the process as easy as possible for them.
If you are unsure about any aspects of the fertility treatment process, ask your employee. The likelihood is they will be happy you are taking an active interest in their journey. By being as informed as possible, you can help make the process as easy as possible.
Infertility and IVF are immensely personal. However, it is still important for you to check in with your employee about where they are in their journey – if they don’t feel comfortable sharing, they won’t. However, this shows you genuinely care about their journey.
Balancing work and IVF is very complex. By making sure your employees feel like they can talk about IVF in the workplace, then you can help support them through this time.
Want to create a more supportive and inclusive workplace for your employees? Find out how Bloss can help.