INDUSTRY NEWS | 29th July 2021
7 Min Read
Fertility is not an easy topic to broach in the workplace: the sensitive and very private nature of the issue means it’s simpler to not talk about it at all.
Yet, around one in seven couples may have difficulty conceiving, according to the NHS, and the physical and emotional toll on individuals and couples can weigh heavily, potentially affecting mental health, absenteeism and performance at work, so it makes good sense for employers to start the conversation.
As such, fertility and family planning are now hot topics in employee benefits. Professional services giant, PwC, has become the latest large employer to incorporate fertility benefits into its employee package. The Big Four accountancy firm announced it will offer up to eight days of paid leave per year to attend fertility appointments, and two days off to support a partner going through treatment, as well as setting up an internal staff support network.
But fertility benefits can go further, with some companies such as LinkedIn, Google, Netflix and Spotify helping staff to become parents by contributing towards the cost of expensive private fertility treatments such as IVF, and egg, sperm and embryo freezing and storage.
While those trying to conceive in the UK may be eligible for between one and three cycles of IVF on the NHS, some will need to continue treatment privately, with each cycle costing up to £5,000 or more, plus additional costs for medicines, consultations and tests. The high cost can put private treatment out of reach.
Fertility benefits are likely to support more people than many might realise. Some journeys to parenthood are much more difficult than others, LGBTQ+ couples will need help to conceive, as well as those who may be concerned about their future fertility.
Employers who carefully negotiate the sensitive topic of family planning can help their people to feel less isolated and assuage any fears that speaking to their employers about family planning could affect their career progression and chances of promotion.
There’s also a strong business case for actively supporting family planning in the workplace, not least to avoid the loss of top talent. The charity Tommy’s reports that a staggering 60% of professional women will leave their organisation within a year of returning to the workplace after maternity leave. The most common reason? Feeling unsupported by their employers.
A well-judged package of benefits should, of course, be combined with good HR and training policies that help managers to negotiate how the company supports employees who are trying to become parents.
In a recent survey Tommy’s found that two thirds of parents felt their managers wanted to help them through their pregnancy journey, but only a third knew how to. In response, it has just launched its ‘Pregnancy and Parenting at Work’ service to help and advise employers on how to support their employees through pregnancy and parenting challenges, including fertility treatment.
Brighton-based HR expert Jessica Freeman advises companies to consider the practical and medical needs as well as the incredibly challenging emotional aspects that can have an enormous toll on a person's wellbeing. She also suggests that, when planning fertility benefits, policies take into consideration the needs of an employee supporting a partner through treatment.
She adds: “By addressing the issue of fertility in some form through their wellbeing policy, an employer is showing an enhanced awareness of something that affects a growing proportion of women and their partners. It also shows a willingness to address and support challenges for those wanting to start or grow their families while continuing with their careers, therefore promoting equality and diversity for the organisation.”
While it’s not an area to weigh in on without very careful consideration and planning, fertility benefits could be what sets you apart as a supportive and inclusive employer.
To see how fertility benefits could be incorporated into your existing employee benefits package, speak to the team at Connor Broadley.