Over 50 million people from across the globe experience issues with fertility. This equates to one in four couples in the developed world. Reproductive science has advanced significantly since the birth of the first IVF baby, over four decades ago, but emotionally we have faltered, and this historically taboo topic remains shrouded in secrecy.
World Fertility Day, held on 2 November, aims to increase communication, education and empowerment around the subject, to alleviate the taboo and encourage people to change perceptions and inspire others.
So, with one in four employees potentially grappling with fertility issues, what can your business do to help support your team? More and more companies are offering benefits that cover IVF, egg-freezing or surrogacy, and it is possible to Google lists of the top workplace fertility benefits providers. Are these (sometimes divisive) benefits the key to recruitment and retention? To help you decide, we have collated a list of what our clients tell us has helped them.
1. Create an open and supportive culture. Remember that fertility issues are not only debilitating for an individual but can affect their other relationships, as they try to navigate the emotional toll of external stressors from family and friends, to work and finances. Consider appointing a fertility officer or creating a social group or network where people can be supported to share their stories. Even without making any changes to your HR and benefits policies, simply providing the opportunity for individuals to be open about their fertility journey, without fear of repercussions, can reap dividends.
2. Raise Awareness. Ensure that your HR and leadership teams are not only aware of the potential physical and emotional impact on employees of trying to create a family but, also, the support and benefits that are already available to them. Train managers to approach the topic sensitively, consistently and fairly.
3. Be Flexible. Fertility appointments can be unpredictable. Where possible, allow flexible working to ensure that people can attend consultations, appointments and procedures around their working day and without using up annual leave or calling in sick.
4. Introduce a fertility policy. Fertility issues are notoriously private, and often a policy is the first-place employees will look to remove uncertainty and understand the way their employer approaches family creation without having to disclose anything directly to a team member. Ensure policies are regularly reviewed and updated and communicated to your employees. Also be mindful of where such a policy is stored, as it may be difficult for those trying to build their family to have to review it alongside a maternity or parental leave policy.
5. Review your benefits. Fertility treatments are notoriously expensive. Some employers may therefore wish to consider offering fertility treatment as part of a benefits package. Consider how your benefits can support not only women but men, transgender individuals and all those looking at creating a family through less conventional means.
6. Be inclusive. It is vital to consider your entire organisation and how policy issues and benefits affect and will be viewed by the entire workforce. Ensure that policies are flexible and relatable for all and be mindful of those who may choose not to have a family. Raising awareness will help remove any prejudice rooted in a lack of knowledge and understanding.
Ensuring that targeted and emotionally astute support is in place could help tackle the stigma around fertility issues and have a positive impact on culture and equality in your entire workplace. Our legally trained experts are all experienced in helping support our clients with building their families, whether through adoption, surrogacy, IVF or other means; get in touch today to find out how we can help support your team.
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