1 in 7 couples struggle to conceive. Infertility is not a new thing, but recent studies suggest it's getting worse.
These are the facts (via Fertility Network)
There has been increased attention on companies offering money for employees going through fertility processes. According to FertilityIQ, the number of organisations offering newly-introduced or enhanced family-building (fertility, adoption, or fostering) monetary support is now approaching 800 large organisations globally.
Ultimately though, this number is a drop in the ocean, and not a policy that many companies can afford (LinkedIn offers £21,000 towards adoption or IVF per employee).
So what are the practical ways that companies can actually support their employees through these processes?
A recent Fertility Matters at Work study found that 61% of people do not feel comfortable talking to their employer about trying for a baby. Rosie Leverton - from pregnancy and baby charityTommy’s - explains, ‘There’s still a taboo generally in society around fertility and loss - in particular at work. And even if companies do have a specific policy, if it isn’t embedded culturally, employees will not feel comfortable asking about them. If you’re not in a workplace that clearly supports working parents and people having families, it can be an additional barrier to letting your employer know as people will be less likely to ask for a policy – even if they do need support – as it will disclose that they are trying for a baby.
This same study found that almost three-quarters of those going through fertility treatment said it was not recognised and valued as a topic in their organisation (72%) FMAW Co-Founder Claire Ingle tells me, ‘In terms of open understanding and conversations around fertility journeys, we’re where mental health was about 10 years ago, and where menopause was 5 years ago - we’ve got a long way to go but people are starting to learn more.'
What is the key to providing an environment where employees feel supported?
‘We did a study where 83% of people said COVID working changes made fertility journeys easier’, says Claire. Privacy, and the flexibility to go to all appointments as and when you need to is something companies have to provide proactively. ‘When it comes to IVF treatments it’s important to remember that appointments are dependent on your period, so timings are not something that you can be certain of.’
Putting things into place so that stress isn’t piled on top of an already stressful situation is important, Rosie explains, ‘Not letting work pile up, allowing people to go to (potentially lots of) appointments, arranging cover so they don’t feel guilty. Acknowledging that not every journey is going to look the same - one person might need lots of appointments, others might need less.’
There is also more work to do, particularly with recognising the support that partners of people in these processes need. ‘The workplace can actually be a really powerful place to reach men specifically, to say, ‘we think you need to take some time to acknowledge the grief.’’
Claire acknowledges that it’s crucial that partners are taken into account, ‘During my own IVF journey, if my husband hadn’t come to the embryo transfer, he wouldn’t have been there at the conception of our baby. People often don’t think about it on those terms.’
Looking for more information on supporting employees through fertility journeys?
Fertility Matters at Work - Becoming a Fertility Friendly Employer