Around one in seven couples have difficulty conceiving1 and the majority of these are likely to be in employment2. Research shows that 19% of people facing infertility cut their hours or leave employment completely2, so it’s important for employers to consider how best to support employees.
What are the causes of infertility?
There are many causes of infertility and, while around a quarter of cases are unexplained, some include:
- lack of regular ovulation (the monthly release of an egg)
- poor quality semen
- blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
- endometriosis – where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb (the endometrium) is found outside the womb.
How can managers support their teams?
Infertility can have a devastating impact on people’s lives, with 90% reporting feelings of depression2. There are a number of things managers can do to support both men and women experiencing fertility concerns:
- Understand what employees are entitled to: employees aren’t by law allowed any additional time off for fertility treatment. But medical appointments or illness as a result of treatment should be treated the same as any other appointments or sickness absence according to your policies.
- Try to be flexible: not only can fertility concerns themselves be hugely stressful, IVF (in vitro fertilisation) can be all-consuming, both physically and mentally. Appointments may need to be frequent and can be unpredictable. Where possible, being understanding to your employees’ needs will help to alleviate any stress they may be feeling about how to manage the process alongside other commitments.
- Make sure you understand your company’s fertility policy: this will help you know how to approach the situation appropriately. By making sure all teams follow the same policy, you can help to ensure a consistent approach and encourage employees to talk more openly about any concerns they have.
- Mental impact: pay attention to your employees’ mental health and any indications that they may need extra support.
- Consider additional support: Encourage the use of your employee assistance programme (EAP), if you have one, and as manager consider using the service yourself to talk through any concerns and get guidance.