What fertility support can employers offer?

Answered by: Dr Mridula Pore, CEO of Peppy

Fertility support is not just for those who will experience fertility problems but it is also about providing support and resources for staff at this significant time in their lives when they are starting or expanding a family. As a growing number of employers are finding, it makes good business sense to provide fertility support for employees. If employers do not offer support, employees may need to take time off to get that support elsewhere or indeed may not reach out for any support and suffer in silence. This has potential consequences for their employer, including loss in engagement and productivity and the risk of increased absence.

Although the number of UK businesses offering fertility support to their staff is steadily increasing, new research* from Peppy shows that over a third (36%) of employers do not currently offer this type of support and have no plans to do so in the future.

However, the research also found that:

  • 22% of employers have always offered fertility support in the workplace
  • 15% have put fertility support in place in the past 12 months
  • 11% are in the process of arranging fertility support now
  • and 7% will do so in the next 12 months

Employers believe the most critical fertility issue with which employees need support is that of miscarriage and baby loss (33%). However, 30% of employers also recognise that fertility is a topic that employees simply find difficult to raise with HR, line managers and colleagues. Just under a third (30%) of companies stated that mental health issues associated with fertility struggles are a key area that requires support.

Twenty-nine per cent of employers were sensitive to the fact that it is not always obvious who needs support, particularly for men or those in non-traditional families.

Fertility can be seen as a very binary issue – employees and their partners either are or aren’t pregnant. This monthly cycle of hope and despair can be particularly difficult for employers to manage. Employers need to think about providing support that not only deals with the practicalities of fertility treatment but crucially also encompasses comprehensive emotional support too. Not only offering a source of trusted professional support, but also a sense of community. It’s also really important to ensure support is available to all staff, so that employers are not making assumptions based on age, gender or situation.

As most businesses simply do not have the resources or expertise to deliver fertility support directly or effectively, both the employer and employee can benefit from appointing specialist support. Employees are more likely to speak openly and can then benefit from personalised help. In addition, when the employer makes such support available, this also helps them build their brand and enhance their reputation.

Fertility issues can, unfortunately, last for many years and be all-consuming for those involved. It’s really important that employers provide comprehensive support for both the practical and emotional issues surrounding fertility or they really do risk losing their most valuable asset.

Thirty-seven per cent of employers agreed that supporting employee fertility issues is hard because of the reluctance amongst staff to discuss this topic. A third (30%) of employers find it difficult to manage how long employees need off work at this time but conversely, 19% said presenteeism (or working whilst not being fit to do so) was also an issue.

Nearly one in five (19%) said managing productivity and staff distraction was an issue and most alarmingly, 18% of employers had concerns about employees leaving work altogether when experiencing fertility issues.

Peppy’s experience in supporting employers with staff fertility issues concurs with this new research. Employees do not feel empowered to have these discussions with their employers, and employers are frustrated at not knowing how to better manage fertility issues in the workplace.