Support Needed For Family Professionals Undergoing Fertility Treatment

Support Needed For Family Professionals Undergoing Fertility Treatment

In the wake of National Fertility Week, a recent survey revealed that just two in five UK employees said they felt supported by their managers when experiencing fertility problems or undergoing fertility treatment.

In the poll of 4,000 UK employees, of approximately 1,000 staff who had endured fertility issues, 51% said they needed to take time off work for medical reasons but just 43% in the group said they felt supported by their managers.

Now in its 11th year, The Fertility Show is also returning to London’s Olympia from the 1st to 3rd November. The established event is the only live show that lets people, who need information and advice on their fertility, meet with so many top fertility experts, clinics and doctors in one discreet, safe place.

This one of its kind show has helped thousands of visitors on their fertility journey, which sadly, can go on for many years and can have lasting effects, both emotionally and physically.

From the poll, over half (53%) of UK workers said that their employers did have a policy in place which deals with fertility-related issues.

From a survey, conducted by LinkedIn and Censuswide, most of the 1,000 HR experts who were also questioned confirmed that they would welcome more education and support to understand staff fertility problems.

Two-thirds of HR professionals believe fertility support should be a legal right at work.

Gwenda Burns, head of operations at charity Fertility Network UK, said it was important businesses worked to lessen the stigma of talking about fertility problems in the workplace:

“so that everyone has the best chance of getting the support they need”.

Burns said:

“The decision to tell your employer you are having fertility struggles is a personal and difficult one but having someone to talk to either within or outside your workplace can go a long way to easing the stress and loneliness that people in this situation often feel.”

So, why is there such a stigma at work when it comes to discussing fertility problems?

Couples facing a battle against infertility and are undergoing fertility treatment often do not want to discuss such a personal issue as they feel shame and do not want anyone to know that they are having trouble conceiving naturally – and shy away from talking about it as sometimes it can be too painful.

However, if there was a clear policy in place for employees at work who are going through an infertility journey, this could open up a channel of communication between managers/HR staff and employees, so they receive the support they need.

It is estimated that 3.5 million people in the UK were affected by fertility problems, according to previous research conducted by Fertility Network UK. One in five who were struggling to get pregnant reduced their working hours or made a drastic decision to give up their job altogether while going through treatment.

Currently, employees have no statutory right to take time off work when going through IVF treatment.

Fertility Network UK has recommended to employers that they should treat fertility issues the same as any other medical issue by giving employees more flexibility during treatment.

From the LinkedIn Poll, of the HR professionals who were surveyed, less than half (45%) said they offered flexible working options for those undergoing fertility treatment.

Lisa Finnegan, Senior HR Director at LinkedIn, said:

“We need to raise awareness of the diverse fertility journeys that people undergo so they feel comfortable starting the conversation at the beginning of that journey.

“It’s so important that businesses build an environment of support for everyone in their workforce, and that HR professionals have the tools they need to approach these sensitive conversations in the right way.”

Fertility treatment affects partners greatly too as they equally suffer the stress of an infertility journey while having to watch their loved ones going through years of treatment and anguish of not being able to get pregnant.

Equally, the exhausting, stressful challenges of couples trying to conceive when all the odds are seemingly against them can affect their relationship and have an impact on someone’s mental health.

Working as a law professional can be very stressful, with never-ending workloads and emotionally complex cases, an added personal stress outside work could worsen someone’s mental state.

Every year in the UK, 70 million workdays are lost to mental illness – with mental illness being the leading cause of sickness and absence from work.

This year, a charity promoting and supporting good mental health for all in the legal community, LawCare launched a new advocacy scheme ‘LawCare Champions’ to coincide with World Mental Health Day. The programme aims to appoint legal professionals in the UK to act as mental health and wellbeing advocates within the legal community.

However, the stigma does not stop there as a ‘Women’s Risks In Life’ report, conducted by The Chartered Insurance Institute, exposes the stark reality about the risks of 21st century living and highlights how the particular life trajectory of women leaves them exposed to larger risks than men.

The interim report, which presents a snapshot of women’s and men’s risks in life in Britain today, shows that women are more at risk of discrimination when having children.

Although women are now outperforming men in education and entering the workplace equally, they subsequently suffer a ‘Motherhood Penalty’. This is a term claiming to describe working mothers who encounter systematic disadvantages in pay, perceived competence, and benefits relative to childless women.

It’s clear to see that IVF/fertility treatment and the mental stability of employees should be high on employer’s/HR department’s agenda and instrumental changes to policies and standards would go a long way to support the wellbeing of their staff.

As family professionals, does your workplace have a policy in place that supports staff going through fertility treatment? 

Want to have your say? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more stories

Join nearly 3,000 other family practitioners - Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our weekly round up every Thursday morning. 

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.